I'm not sure how to break this news, but, um...
I might be coming back next year.
The worst thing about being a cluster teacher in my first year was that I was totally alone. I shared my office with another cluster teacher, who has been very kind to me, in the library with the librarian, who is also very nice, but I was still the only one of my kind. I didn't have common preps or lunch with other teachers on my grade because I didn't have a grade. Planning meetings about math or reading at faculty meetings and grade conferences weren't relevant to me because I didn't teach math or reading. My mentor never mentored me, and there was no one I could ask for advice about my position because it had never existed before and no one thought to tell me what to do with it.
But since I've been assigned to second grade AIS, I've felt more like I'm potentially part of a team. The other AIS teachers have welcomed me ("I hear you're joining us next year!") and so have the second grade teachers ("Hello, fellow second grade teacher!"). In my mailbox today I found a 2008-2009 TCRWP (Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project) curriculum calendar for second grade, addressed to "All Classroom and AIS Teachers," something I never would have gotten my hands on as a writing cluster teacher. Suddenly I felt the warmth of recognition: Someone actually thought to put a relevant document in my mailbox! I exist!
I already know the vast majority of kids I'd be servicing next year, and on the whole they're a good group. I would work with a group of no more than eight students at a time, and as a push-in teacher I would rarely be in the classroom alone (no more getting in the middle of fights between eight-year-olds). I would get really, really good at teaching reading (is there a better story in the world than the daughter of a librarian growing up to be a reading teacher?). I would, for the first time, get to go to all the professional development sessions that all the other teachers always get to attend (not that they're necessarily so fantastic, but at least they would give me some idea of what on earth I'm supposed to be teaching). I would get to see my students from this year -- all 425 of them -- grow and learn and change. And I might finally feel like part of a team: the second grade team.
And the truth is, I have gotten better at my job; I've gotten calmer, I've gotten smoother, and I've gotten stronger. Everyone does say that the first year is the hardest, that you have to stick with it. Maybe...I should stick with it.