Thursday, August 27, 2015

The first week or so

I've been in my new job for 8 days.  It's been a huge adjustment and I am most definitely not in love with the new job yet. 

The first four days back were just for staff.  I spent that time trying to make inroads with the teachers I'll be supporting this year.  I visited classrooms, offered my help, and was asked a barrage of questions that I mostly couldn't answer.  Thursday night was back to school night, though it was really more of a meet-and-greet because we didn't run a mock schedule.  I stood outside my office and greeted lots of former students, most of whom asked me, "What are you doing here?" to which I answered, "Working!"  I briefly explained my job, told them what a good schedule they had, and wished them well.  The highlight was a particular former student who exclaimed with absolute sincerity, "This is my dream come true!" when he saw that I was now working at his high school.  By Friday afternoon, I still didn't entirely know my way around the building and I knew few staff members' names outside of my department.  I stuffed small "welcome back" gifts in the mailboxes of the teachers I'm working with and headed home for the weekend.

I was NOT stressed the weekend before school started for the first time in my career.  That was so weird.  I actually taught myself arm knitting and made scarves for my church's fall bazaar in my downtime. 

School started this past Monday.  I decided that the best way to help teachers that day was to circulate in the morning to wish them a happy first day and then pop in on their planning period for assistance if they needed anything, but to otherwise let them be.  There's always too much to say and do that first day and I didn't want to be an interruption. 

The rest of this week, I've been working at the Board of Education.  It's a miracle my eyes can manage to stare at the screen long enough to type this post.  I've been writing benchmark tests with the other high school specialist and entering them into our online testing platform since Tuesday.  Oh my goodness!  One more day tomorrow and then I get back to school.  I miss kids already! 

My big victory of the day was getting an e-mail from a teacher inviting me in to see class today.  Unfortunately, I wasn't there, but I'm happy to hear that this teacher is eager to work with me! 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Newbie Perspective

Today was my first official work day for my new job.  I'm a math teacher specialist (more commonly known around the country as an instructional coach) at a high school with an enrollment of around 1000 students and with 9 math teachers. 

I stayed in the same school system and because it's a relatively small system, all the teaching staff fits in either high school's auditorium.  As we loaded into the auditorium today, I wasn't sitting among the people clad in orange and black but rather blue and white. We had our typical BTS meeting- quick speeches from the teacher of the year, superintendent, assistant superintendents, school board president, and union reps. A new touch this year was a song from the marching band.  We were done in under 2 hours, and I think we were all rejoicing in the efficiency and budgetary savings of not having a guest speaker. 

I headed home to grab my lunch and items I needed for my desk, went to school, unpacked, ate lunch, and started to greet the teachers I'll be working with and offer help. I know all of the teachers to some degree, some slightly better than others but none well.  I helped load pencils in compasses and set up a document camera and LCD projector but mostly just talked and asked lots of questions.  My goal for today was to get to know people and/or talk instruction if that's what they wanted to talk about.  They brought a few issues to my attention, and I'm happy to already have this feedback as we're moving forward.  I also identified some strengths right away: organization, empathy, willingness to ask questions, etc.  I talked to 6/9 teachers today and will make it to see the others tomorrow. 

The surprises of the day:
1. Our faculty meeting was 20 minutes.  :)  There will be another longer one, but still. 
2. The hall that my office is on is QUIET.  I heard nary a whisper while people were setting up, let alone blasting rock music like at my former school.  Is it just because my office is on the English hall or is that how high school is?
3. A lovely 3/4 sleeve fitted t-shirt with the school logo arrived on my desk this afternoon.  Someone even guessed my size correctly.
4. There was an Uncrustable sandwich dated June in the fridge in my office.  Didn't anyone empty it in June?
5. I now have a gigantic bulldog parking pass hanging from my rearview mirror.  Just another one of those high school things I never had to worry about at a middle school. 

Not a surprise:
1. I miss my old colleagues dearly.
2. I miss decorating and organizing a classroom.
3. People were friendly today and I think I'm going to like it. 

What's new with you for #BTS2015?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

This week marked the end of a chapter of my life- my time as an 8th grade math and French teacher at an amazing middle school where my teaching career began.  On Tuesday, my e-mail and message board access switched over to my new school.  I spent all day Wednesday and half of Thursday finishing the gargantuan task of cleaning out my classroom.  It's been a sad week for me. 

Going through my files I found the school map from my first year of teaching.  More than half of those colleagues have since moved on to other things- many retired, several were promoted to administration or other positions in the school district, a few moved away, two opened their own small businesses, and two passed away.  Other than the two who opened their own businesses and a few who are taking some time at home to raise their children, no one has left teaching.  When I shared the map on Facebook, my colleagues overwhelmingly had the same response: we feel blessed to have taught together. 

I owe a debt of gratitude to the veteran teachers who welcomed me to their team and identified the areas of expertise that they could exploit.  I mean this in the most positive of ways.  I became the team's "little math nerd" and tech guru.  If there was a content question, teachers knew they could come to me for a clarification.  If someone needed to send an e-mail with an attachment or make a table in MS Word, they called me.  I benefited from this arrangement, too.  The veteran teachers seemingly knew all the tricks about getting students to behave and did their best to impart that wisdom.  They taught me how to break down content for middle school students, since I was new to middle school and had spent most of my student teaching interning in a trig class.  As the years passed and we said goodbye to two team members and welcomed two new members, roles shifted in some ways.  I wish I could say I spent time in the past couple years actively seeking out the strengths of my newer teammates.  I didn't.  What a missed opportunity.  Some strengths naturally surfaced; A is great at scaffolding discovery lessons and B is a whiz at holding students accountable for the actions.  I just wish I'd probed further to see what other talents could have benefited all of our students. 

In my new job, one of the things I want to keep in mind is that a great team functions when each member is essential to the team's mission.  This positive interdependence is a principle of cooperative learning that also applies to adult teams.  I'll be the only new person on my team this year; the other teachers have all worked together for quite some time with the exception of one teacher who just completed his first year.  I expect to spend some time asking the teachers who the experts are in the team for various skills so I can use their gifts to benefit the whole team.

What teaching gift do you admire in a colleague?  What teaching gift do others admire in you?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B