I’ve been asked this a lot lately, and it’s a tricky question to answer.
What I can say with confidence is that I’m still sure that changing schools was the right move. I miss the kids and some of my colleagues at my old school, but holy crap is it wonderful to be home in under 20 minutes. Still, it’s not all balloons and popsicles on this side of the fence.
- No lunch duty! I cannot even describe how exhausting it was for me to have days where I was around people the entire time I was at work without a break. Since I had TAs during my plan period, lunch is the only time I could have the room to myself and breathe. Every Monday, though, I had to grab my tupperware and run to the cafeteria to monitor the students and chat with the other teachers on duty. Mondays were really hard to find energy for.
- Becca’s awesome. I figured I would like her, but I’ve really lucked out on the choir teacher front. First Janelle, who became an incredibly close friend; then Jesse, who I got along splendidly with; and now Becca. The kids keep asking if we’re best friends and more than one colleague has called us clones. She’s smart, gregarious, a good teacher, super helpful in the right kind of way, and very much someone I enjoy working with.
- Two plan periods. It was brutal when my plan period was reduced by half two years ago at my old school. Apparently the recommendation is to have 15 minutes of plan per day per prep (“prep” being the different classes you teach). At Platte, I had 45 minutes to plan for 6 preps. Here, I have 90 minutes to plan for three preps.
- Three preps. Dude. I can’t even remember the last time I had that few preps. I’ve been teaching five different subjects every day the last several years, and now I’m teaching two different theater classes and a homeroom class? It’s crazy.
- One building. Even though later this week I’ll have to start holding rehearsals for one of my classes on the school stage, which is in the cafeteria, I’ll still be in the same building. It really was fracturing to teach in one building and run the theater in another building across the parking lot.
- In-Class Productions. We’re working on the calendar for the musical and the only after school student contact time will be the week of auditions, the two weeks of tech/dress, and the week of show. That’s one month of the school year where I’ll have after school work, verses the 7.5 out of 9 months at Platte.
- Boy, do I miss having an administration who very clearly and forcefully state that their priority is the students who want to learn. “If a kid’s behavior is keeping other students from learning or you from teaching, send them out. We’ll deal with them.” And they kept their word. I didn’t often have issues, but I think part of the reason why is because I knew Mike and Mark had my back. I don’t feel that way here.
- Middle Schoolers. As much as their enthusiasm can be fun, they WONT. STOP. TALKING. I swear I spend half the day shushing. I can honestly say without hyperbole that I spend half of each class period dealing with classroom management. Johnny, get to work. Johnny, sit down. No, Johnny, you cannot change seats. Johnny, keep your hands to yourself. Johnny, stop doing crunches. Johnny, stop touching your neighbor. Johnny, it’s not your turn to talk. Johnny, put away your cell phone. Johnny, get to work. Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.
You get the idea. And while some of the classes have two or three “Johnnies,” there are classes where it really feels like I’m spending 80% of my time and energy trying to get 5% of the students to just sit down, shut up, and do their stinkin’ work.
Except I’m not thinking the word “stinkin’.” I’m thinking a lot worse swear words than I usually do with these kids, and with one student in particular who is truly, fully, unabashedly a bitch.
Rachel suggested that I might just need to retone my middle school muscles again. I hope so, because this is exhausting.
- Consistent school policies. The admin keep touting the “teacher-centric” philosophy as a huge bonus, and I do generally appreciate the freedom to run my classroom my way, but there are some basic things like dress code and cell phone policies that really should be consistent school-wide just to save all of us from having to fight the exact same fight over and over again.
- Knowing how to do things. I know it’s a new job and that time will fix this, but I miss knowing how to do things like booking a field trip or where to get more paper when the copier runs out.
- Cred with the students. This might come later, but I did have a solid reputation at my old school that solved a lot of problems before they even walked in the door.
- My relationship with students. While I absolutely do not want to go back to spending my weekends at hotels in various rural parts of Colorado, there is something to be said for the kind of relationship I could build with students when I spent that much time with them outside of the school building.
So I don’t know. I spent the last three weeks utterly exhausted (a large part of which was thanks to the cold I caught almost immediately at the start of the school year and didn’t take any time off to recover from since I was hosting a traveling production at the school and since I didn’t exactly know how to put in for a sub). But so are all of the teachers. Everyone’s exhausted, so I don’t think it’s just the nature of a new job. On Friday the principal got on the PA after the students left and said, “Things will slow down! I swear!” I’d like to believe her, but I’m just not sure how that is going to happen.