Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stressed backwards spells desserts

Or in my case, a speedy jog and half a bag of Sour Patch Kids.

So, today was my first day of staff development at my new school. It's hard to sum up the experience in words, so thank goodness the Yiddish language can do it for me: Oy.

It was good, and also bad. It was reassuring, and also nerveracking. It was...challenging, and also rewarding? (As that seems to be the catch-all description of teaching in general, mayhaps I can work it into every entry!)

Here's a rundown of the good and the uncertain (I'm not going to say bad):

The good: There are heaps of new teachers (I think it would have been so much more challenging to be the only new person), and everyone seems friendly. There's a good vibe at the school, and several people have told me how great it is and how lucky I am to be working there. I know where my (shared) office is, and the teacher I share it with even found me a desk and a chair. My commute wasn't terrible at all (in fact, I got to the school 40 minutes early).

The uncertain: My, um, job? Here's the rub: As far as I know, the school has never had a writing cluster before...and I'm the only writing cluster teacher in the school (as opposed to, say, Academic Intervention Services teachers, where there's one for different subject in every grade), and I'm new. And no one so far has been able to give me a clear picture of what I'm actually supposed to do. These kids get Writing Workshop in their classrooms every day. And I haven't been given their Writing Workshop curriculum. Am I supposed to ignore what they're doing in writing with their classroom teachers and implement an entirely separate curriculum? Of course not. Am I supposed to adhere closely to the general Writing Workshop curriculum and teach Writing Workshop lessons as if I were the classroom teacher? Probably not, because why would they hire an extra staff person to teach something that's usually handled by the classroom teacher? Or am I supposed to consult with each individual classroom teacher and plan lessons that complement their Writing Workshop curriculum? This seems the most likely to me, and I was vaguely told over the summer something about working on the "mechanics of writing," which probably would complement Writing Workshop lessons, but then...should my lessons follow the workshop model?


I know this is all extremely typical of schools at the beginning of the school year. I just wish I knew, one way or the other, so I could get started on my own planning. This afternoon, the teacher with whom I share my office asked me if I was getting much support. I said, "Not yet." And she said: "Don't hold your breath." She may have even added something about "sink or swim," but if she did, I blocked it from my memory because those words bring back horrifying memories of my disastrous student teaching experience. I mean: I don't have a problem planning a curriculum. If I were the social studies teacher, and there was no social studies curriculum, and I had to invent one, I would. But there is already a very clearly outlined writing curriculum for classroom teachers. I'm just not sure yet where I fit into it, and I'm desperate to corner my principal or my assistant principal and find out.

In addition, I'm a little concerned that being a cluster teacher will be a little bit lonely. Already the teachers are bonding across grades, and I don't have anyone to turn to for advice or support. I'm reasonably sure that by October or so, I'll be settled in, I'll obviously know what kind of lessons I'm supposed to be teaching, and hopefully I'll be friendly with everyone and particularly the K-2 teachers. It's just those first day of school jitters I guess even teachers don't outgrow.

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