Sunday, April 21, 2013

We Make it Look Easy

For the past two years I have been blessed to work with some amazing and talented colleagues. When I went to my new hire training last year, I sat next to a woman named +Sheila Monger, not knowing we'd become teaching partners, collaborators and friends. We ended up in adjacent classrooms and because my previous SpEd team had trained me so well ( thank you +Julie Paolini), and because my parents raised me right, I fully embrace an inclusive model of education.
From Day 1, Monger ( as she is known) and I collaborated and integrated our classrooms. We joined the iPad Academy, and worked with students across the school to film and edit content for CreaTV. Our students have been exposed to new ideas, new technologies and new ways of thinking.

This school year, I was asked to teach a combo - a combination of 4th and 5th graders. Due to space and budget constraints, our school, has a combo at every grade level split this year, my 5/4, a 4/3, 3/2, 2/1 and a 1/K. It is a lot to ask from teachers and students. We try to place independent learners (read: not behavior problems) into combos, which tends to place a disproportionate disciplinary, and sometimes an academic, burden on the non-combo classes. Nonetheless, combos are still a lot of extra work. We have twice the curriculum to teach, twice the grade level meetings to attend, and yes, we do have behavior issues in the classroom as well.
Since Monger teaches a 2/4/5 combo this year, we decided to team up and make it work the best we can. Sometimes we have all of our 4th and 5th graders in the same room. Sometimes, she takes one grade level and I take the other. Our kids fluidly move from one room to the other, from one teacher to the other. If you walked into our rooms, you would see all of our students working together, learning together, teaching each other. They make it look easy.
It looks easy because of the hours of planning Monger and I put in, like a calm duck on the surface, we are paddling like hell underneath. It looks easy because we have instilled in our students a sense of responsibility, compassion and accountability. It looks easy because we communicate regularly with our parents and administration, and have built a community of trust. It looks easy because we choose to be positive and happy and optimistic.

A Unique Year

Usually at this time of year I am fighting to keep my emotions in check while still presenting a compassionate, engaged teacher face to my students. Because every year that I have been a teacher, I have been laid off. For seven years. This year was different. March 15, the Ides of March, the day lay off notices to go out, came and went without much ado. I didn't even realize I HADN'T been laid off until three days later when I received notice from our Director of HR that I was being 'promoted' from temporary status to probationary status, the first step to tenure. Now, I have an odd bias against tenure, but it is the game that education plays, so I'm in it. I was thrilled to hear about my new status.

Does it make me a better teacher? Or more complacent? No, I still do my best everyday. The good news is, this year, my best does not have to include worry filled sleepless night, fighting back tears, misdirecting responses to the "will you be my teacher next year?" questions and packing my room back into storage for the summer. The comments of tenured teachers worrying about next year's class size or make up won't seem so insensitive. I hope to even know what my position is next year before too long. Who knows, I may actually get to teach the same thing two years in a row!

But I'm not quite ready to give up my storage unit.