Mar 9, 2009

Pink Slips, just another reason why teaching is so tough.

Among many reasons why teaching is so tough, an undeniably huge one: staff turnover. It takes at least a year to become fully acquainted with a campus: routines, staff, dynamic, procedures, etc. An entire department is affected at the onset of a new teacher's arrival. We must reacquaint ourselves with the newcomer's work ethic and teaching methods. The same communication sets we have for one teacher are not transferable to the new one.

As a new teacher, the first year is taking baby steps. You cast a net and hope to create as many allies w/ colleagues, students and staff... a year later, you note how much of a difference it makes to actually KNOW the place. I'm still learning this place.

Exhibit A: Last year I had a student, JB. Upon my arrival to the school, I attempted to call as many parents as possible - simple quick intros. One parent, JB's mother acted kinda funny on the phone: "Alright Mr. G, I'll see you tomorrow." "Huh?" Further into the conversation, I find out my JB's mother is the school secretary. Embarrassed and apologetic, I said my farewell. But the brief phone call paid countless dividends for the remainder of the year. Ms. B was a huge ally to me - always havin' my back whenever I needed assistance. Emergency sick day, I got you covered. Out of whiteboard markers, here you go. Stopping by the office, 'why hello? how are you!?' Ms. B made school feel like home.

Exhibit B: My principal, Ms. G, reached out to me during my first year. Nothing major. She interviewed me, so she knew what I was about from the start. She observed my class a few times. And we had conversations in the hallway; they were fleeting conversations, yes, but it was comforting to know the top administrator cared about my well-being. Ms. G made school feel like home.

Exhibit C:
Last summer I taught at an Algebra Academy. 5 weeks teaching rising 9th graders algebra full-time. All day, Algebra. At the academy, opportunities for collaboration and professional development were abound - unsurpassed by any teaching opportunity I've had in my young career. One teacher, Ms. J, whom I worked with is at MY school during the school year. Ms. J's become the sole colleague in my math department who I enjoy working with. She understands my working style. I understand hers. We know how great collaboration can be. We're both extremely frustrated with the "collaboration" in our department. It's nice to know there's someone there who shares my sentiment. Ms. J makes school feel like home.


Ms. B passed away earlier this year. It was a difficult time for our school community. A few months later, the entire front office staff has been replaced.

Ms. G left the school at the end of the school year, and was replaced by a new principal. My few attempts to speak with him have been unsuccessful. He's mistaken me for another teacher more than once, forgetting my name. In addition, the rest of our AP's (aside from one) have been replaced.

Ms. J shared news w/ me today that she received a pink slip.


In the end, it's all about the kids. And you know consistency in the staff will only benefit them. To see the same teachers and same administrators at your graduation that were there during your freshmen year is something too many of us took for granted. As a beginning teacher, witnessing this high staff turnover occur before me so quickly is discomforting. Rather than giving me reasons to stay, it highlights reasons to leave.

It's come to the point where you can make only one of two choices:

-To leave out of frustration, contributing to the problem

or to

-Stay out of frustration, and take on roles to change the tide and help fix the problem.

I love this job. I do. But I also hate it. I hate how you get so emotionally attached to the pressing issues. (The MANY pressing issues). What should be a mere personal decision about my immediate future has become a moral one, one that could potentially haunt me for life.

No comments: