If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it

Several friends, inspired by my minimalism, have just read Mari Kondo’s book.  Someone posted an article and it just fit. 

If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.

I was hired at a new school and the change this has had on my life in just one week is immeasurable.  I have energy and I feel happy again! 

Normally on Friday I would crash on the couch and relax. Tonight I moved book cases, organized kids books, and cleaned out two overflowing closets. I haven’t even read the book yet. But I know my old job was not bringing me joy. And so I left it. 

My husband culled the basement and garage this week. I did the basement entry closet and hall closet. The living room and gall book shelves. My son’s book shelves. My daughter’s surfaces to her dresser and desk. My own desk. The kitchen. It is much improved. Now the worst spots in the house for sucking joy are where my shoes and bags are. But so far, shoes and bags do bring me joy. Maybe I’ll part with them in a few weeks. 

Maybe I should buy that book. 

Just spread the word, I’m looking…

When my friend got hired at a new enviable job, I was green with jealousy. When I saw her a week later, she seemed sad. She said she didn’t have friends at the new school. And she missed us. We are close. Misery loves company! 

But still, I told people I know who know people that I was looking for a job. And then I got an email from an old mentor saying she recommended me for a position at a local high school. And then I saw a middle school job pop up on the web and applied. 

Two days later my friend said her principal had just asked about me. Moments later me phone rang and it was him, setting up an interview. When I returned the call, he asked me if things worked out, how soon could I start? 

Remember when a few days ago o wished for something like this. Then my wish came true and I don’t know what to do!

It’s middle school.  Earth science. Not something I know anything about. I know nothing about earth science or weather! No resources, no ideas… But I need something fresh and new. And there is how reality isn’t as green as we imagined the grass to be. They don’t make that much money. And I would have to pay more for childcare since my daughter was free at my school while I was working. That works out to $300/month. 

And the principal wants me to start immediately. And I think he means Monday when I cannot start until Wednesday, to be sure I get home from Chicago and Becca’s shower. It would be wisest not to go to Chicago but I cannot let my eight-year-old down. She has been looking forward to this for weeks. 

My interview is Monday. All my current friends and colleagues know I am interviewing. I hope it goes well and that I can make a change. 

But it won’t be without tears and heartache. I will be abandoning my students and I really care about them. My seniors have a lot of work to do and they will want me there and I cannot help them if I leave. But I think I am done sacrificing myself for this school. No one is appreciating how I martyr myself. It is unstable. I just hope I am given the opportunity to walk away.

It seems serendipitous. My husband just transferred to a different department at work. My son just started a new daycare. A new job for me would be nice. We are even considering a new house in the woods. All these changes, keep it fresh. 

Turns out my mentor went to high school with the hiring principal and his wife. When he called she gave a glowing recommendation. Turns out he is a graduate of the same teachers college that I am. And when he called they gave him a glowing recommendation. Turns out the teacher who subbed for me when I had maternity leave is the teacher creating the vacancy. She is moving onto the high school but she and my friend recently hired there have given me great insight into the school. It seems as if this is my chance to get out. I don’t have many connections. I might be using my only connections right now. 

I hope he can wait for me to get back from Chicago! 

She got out

A friend got out.  She got a new job. At a “real” district school.  She is getting a raise and a contract.  More days off.  And getting out of all hallway and bus duties for life.  Those of us left at our school are sick with envy.

Today I taught a class of eleventh graders about science using creation stories from different cultures.  They loved it.

And when I got done teaching, I sat in the hallway on my prep for my duty. And at the faculty meeting, three weeks into the school year, the administration attempted to explain the new-fangled way we are grading things this year.  But no one understands.  Then we were threatened to get more grades in out grade books in three days, or else.

I have no time to grade things nor to enter them into the slower than death new computer system.  I want to teach.  Is there any room for that in this school?

I am looking and looking and praying for something else to come along. For this situation to change.  It just keeps changing for the worse.

But today my kids learned and they liked it. And tonight I will be up all night trying to make sure they do the same tomorrow because I have no planning time during school hours.

When do we get to the teaching and learning part of this?

Today I finished my first week of my ninth year of teaching.  This morning I was happy to go to work.  I received my annual salary letter yesterday and for the first time since I began teaching, I felt like my pay reflects the fact that I am a professional.  I had a lot to accomplish at work today but I was ready for the challenge.

But it seems those moments of pride in what we do never last for long.  An administrative email was sent school-wide which announced for the first time that it would be mentioned to us, that our grades this year would be weighted 35% for homework and 65% for tests.  This was especially puzzling because we had just spent the first two days distributing syllabi to students. Although we were told of a new grading policy the policy we were instructed to include in our syllabi did not include this weighting at all.  The policy in my syllabi is two or three convoluted paragraphs about how late work won’t be docked points and how if formative work is not completed that summative work will only be attempted once.  (So no test retakes if you are missing assignments for example.)

Like so many moments in my teaching career, I was furious.  We had just spent and entire WEEK in meetings and this new grading system was not mentioned to us ONCE!  65% for summative assessments seems pretty high.  We weren’t given much instruction on this just that we had to do it.

Additionally, in the very same email, we were told that we needed to spend a third to half of our prep time each day sitting in the halls as hallway monitors.  I was not being treated as a professional.  And my principal, who in the past I supported and defended in that email had lost my support completely.  She didn’t even write the email!  But her silence implied consent.

Usually, I can count on my principal to be forward thinking and open minded.  She is typically thoughtful of teachers and students. And open to criticism.  When I emailed her telling her I was confused about the new policy and how to follow through with implementation (and maybe I also mentioned how hall duty sucked the joy from my soul like a dementor) I expected her usual quip “It won’t be so bad. Please stop by my office tomorrow.”  Instead I was greeted with radio silence.

I want to teach.  I like my subject.  I want kids to be passionate about their subjects.  I want that awesome energy.  But I felt like the floor was swept out from under me.  I don’t even know how I am grading things. I have already collected student work!  I have no idea how to enter that into my new weighted gradebook.  I am sure that I can adjust to any system but that is the problem.  I am spending time adjusting and adapting to a new system that I don’t understand, when I should be time planning lessons and thinking of great new ways to enhance student learning.

The teachers at my school often hear, “Thanks for being flexible” which always points out that for whatever reason our administration wasn’t prepared for something that occurred. But now it is the phrase that identifies my abuse because that phrase is used when someone is destroying my well planned lesson because they didn’t plan ahead and now have to ruin my day for something that was never scheduled but that they think is more important than the student learning I have carefully designed.

I hope that next time I can reach the teaching.  Today I was weighted down with hall duties and constantly changing expectations.  I was distracted by my own frustrations and the struggle to keep those frustrations hidden from my perceptive students.

There is a push for educational reform but I can’t understand why this reform has to be implemented by teachers.  We were teaching.  Students were learning.  The push to have solid data of that teaching and learning by people who don’t understand the first thing about what I do each day has led to a great amount of my time being spent writing down curriculum, completing SLO forms, and figuring out a new discipline and grading system every year for nine years.

I would love to spend my time teaching.  Will we ever reach that?

Today, alumni visited to say goodbye before they go to college next week.  I taught them something because they came back to say “thank you”.  Those visits, these students, are the only reason that I can’t just walk out the door and tell my administration that I am tired of being flexible.  I am a professional and I want to be treated like one.

Just let me teach.

Of my colleagues, only I will speak up.  We have no union protection because we are a charter school.  Most people know nothing of labor laws and their right to unionize and so are fearful to say a negative word towards new policies. I am so angry and disappointed in my administrators, who I trusted and defended for so long, that all I can do is start this blog.