Monday, September 1, 2014

The School Year Begins Tomorrow

The goal of my teaching year is to be open and curious.

I have not been in love with my public school teaching job for some time. The last two years I have been ranked "ineffective" and "developing." I'm nineteen years in, work with a tough at-risk population in two struggling schools, and the teacher rating system is especially flawed in programs such as mine. Beyond that, I've bemoaned my administration's moves to align with the Common Core, treat alternative ed as traditional, and knuckle under to every so-called reform. My morale has been so low I've dreamed of leaving teaching. If the health care worked out, I'd pull espresso at Recess Coffee rather than work my teaching job.

Tomorrow begins a new school year. I've already begun teaching at a local college and that work has reminded me what I love about teaching. Of course those students choose to attend whereas few of my public school students ever would. The differences are striking and I've been enjoying teaching college.

In the public school the problems have less to do with kids and are all about the school itself and my place in it. My place in the school is that I'm a speck, a small cog in a machine. I don't matter much. This has bothered me. I'm a powerful voice for how to do things well. That's why I want to get into education consulting. Yet, at my school, I have not made my voice heard.

Except to scream and complain.

I went through bad times over the last eight years. Some was brought on by the transformation of my school system, but a lot of it was my own transformations and resistance. I'm in a slightly better place and want to make things better. And there is reason to hope. Such as this:

We aren't having a pep rally this year.

For the last few years I have had to attend first-day rallies of the entire teaching population, enduring presentations by the administration about top-down programs that take teachers out of the equation. This year we're being sent to our schools to get ready for the year. Wow.

I'm being given time to figure things out and craft learning.

I never would have thought. All summer I've been bracing for the pep-rally, telling myself to keep calm and use the time to write. The administration stole my thunder, providing just what I wanted.

We aren't returning to the good old days. There's likely no shift toward trusting teachers. It is unlikely that I have seen the last of top-down reform. But tomorrow I'll go to my classroom and design instruction suited to the kids I teach and my own methods. I won't have wasted a day at some conference center. This is a good start.

I'm curious about this year. I'm open to possibility that my administration and I might be on the same side. It's a beautiful dream and a better way to start the school year than with some damn pep rally and the feeling that all is lost.

Ring the bell. Let's get started.