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?