Sunday, January 23, 2011

Time to change, time to rearrange

There are some major differences in the culture at my former school, where I taught for the first three years of my teaching career, and the school I'm at now.  One reason I was so happy to be hired at my current school was that the differences were so apparent: my current school is helmed by a principal who knows most (if not all) of our students by name and whose presence is obvious throughout the school.  At my former school, the majority of my students literally could not identify the principal when they saw her.  Also at my former school, all of our decisions as teachers were rigidly controlled by the administration.  We didn't even write our own teaching points; they were handed to us by our literacy coach.  By necessity, because we had so many push-in teachers, our schedules were arranged for us (and heaven help you if you were "caught" teaching a different subject than the one your posted schedule said you would be teaching).  Everyone took conference notes in exactly the same way (a way that was changed so frequently you could get whiplash trying to keep up with which format to use).  At my current school, there is a lot more -- dare I say it? -- trust that the administration puts in teachers.

There are other differences, though, that are more subtle, and they've made the transition rockier than I may have originally thought.  I've blamed a lot of my unease this year on my co-teacher, but I'm sure that part of it is just adjusting to a new school.  I started out doing things the way I'd always done them, just because that was the way it was done at my former school, only to find out that I'd missed the memo on my new school's way of doing things.

At my former school, for example, it was common practice to plaster every square inch of one's classroom with charts and examples of student work.  You name it, I had it up on the wall in my classroom.  Now, for my first two years I was a push-in teacher, and I got around to a lot of classrooms.  All that stuff up on the walls?  It was totally overstimulating.  It was colorful, and it completely screamed "LOOK HOW MUCH LEARNING WE ARE GETTING DONE!", which is probably why we all did it, but it was extremely distracting and I'm not entirely sure whether it was for the benefit of our students or our visitors (I suspect it was the latter). 

So when I got to my current school, I followed suit.  Every chart we made went up on the wall somewhere.  And it stayed there, because we were proud of them.  The more stuff you have up, the more you must be teaching, right?

Then one day my principal gently informed us that he was going to help us "de-clutter" our classroom.  He suggested we peek into other classrooms to see what was going on in them.  And it wasn't that other classrooms didn't have anything up on their walls; it was just streamlined better, and not as overwhelming. 

Case in point: We have a gigantic calendar in our room.  It is so big that it literally eats up an entire bulletin board, so the only place we could stick it was behind the door, aka very far from the meeting area where calendars should live.  We have this gigantic calendar because I used it last year when a teacher at my former school loaned it to me, and I loved it so much I went out and bought it for my new classroom, even though it was ridiculously expensive.

We recently rearranged, reorganized and relabeled our entire room, as part of our kumbaya efforts to work together more effectively.  Our reorganization entailed carrying a dozen heavy tables back and forth down the hall (during which I stabbed myself in the ankle with a table leg, and it still hurts), wrapping every single basket in our library with packing tape, and countless hours of literal blood, sweat and tears.  And then last week Ms. Halpert glumly reported that our principal had pointedly noted that our overlarge, inappropriately located calendar was still up.

And that's how it came to pass that we are replacing my beloved $100 calendar with a $13 one from Staples.  If any teacher out there would like to purchase a very gently used, practically brand new gigantic classroom pocket chart me!

1 comment:

NYC Private Schools said...

It can be difficult to switch from school to school; not just the culture of the students, but the nature of the staff and presiding figures can be much different as well. Kudos to you for finding hilarity in the little (I guess a giant wall poster isn't little) things...