Friday, September 21, 2007

Freaky Fridays

On Fridays, all of my classes are really, really challenging behaviorally. I see a mixed general ed and special ed kindergarten class, a chatty first grade class that includes a student who by rights should be in a 12:1:1 self-contained special ed class, and two second grade classes that are, well, a little out of control. One of them is more than a little out of control, and if I were their teacher (who is also new), possibly I would have actually quit by now instead of just thinking about it every time I end up crying in the school bathroom. (See the list of ten things I was worried about before school started.)

I was pondering my situation the other day, and I came to the realization that the best schools have two pieces that fit together when it comes to how they treat their teachers: accountability and guidance. With accountability, they hold teachers responsible for what they teach; they make sure each teacher goes through her mandatory observations; they expect teachers to collect data and perform assessments on their students. With guidance, they provide their teachers with the tools that are necessary to do their jobs: New teachers have mentors; there are people who can answer questions; there are supports in place, and there are curriculum resources at teachers' disposal.

My school has plenty of accountability; I know this because the most common refrain I hear when I scrounge for advice is, "You should find out _____ before you get observed" -- this last part always dropped to an ominous whisper. But the one thing no one has been able to tell me is: Well, who do I ask? Who's supposed to be guiding me? Where is my mentor? (The teacher who was supposed to be my mentor is leaving her classroom to become the school's literacy coach and announced, "I'm not going to be your mentor; someone else will." But who? I'm still waiting to find out.)

My position is new, so I'm pretty much forging my own path. My thoughts at the end of the day range from "I wish I could quit right now" to "maybe at the end of the year I'll be glad I had this experience" -- but so far I haven't thought, "I think I'll want to do this again next year." I know it's my responsibility to take initiative and reach out -- but when I see 17 different classes and I feel like there's nobody in the world checking in with me to see how things are going...I get a little overwhelmed.

At the end of the day today I walked into the office and another teacher said to me, "Your job isn't changing, is it?" And I said, "Uhhhhh...I don't think so..." but I was thinking, Well, nobody tells me anything, so who knows?

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