This year will be my fourth in the classroom. What I can say is that I've never been so excited to teach children in my classroom, while at the same time, for a variety of reasons, I've never been so frustrated with a school system. While my banking issues with the DOE leave me as a teacher entirely without a paycheck, I've dug in over the past few weeks to prepare for the following groups of students:
- The AVID students: 30 of the greatest students in our school, these kids give us hope for the children coming out of our community. They're bright, good-humored, and they support one another with a deft sense of community I've never seen in an group of students- including those in the Midwest and in a military community abroad. I couldn't be luckier to have taken this group onto my schedule.
- The 8th Grade History Students: A supposed motley crew, the few I know are from the in-school suspension room, are the children of members of our faculty, or are siblings of my former students (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors by now). They have been reported to be the worst group of kids in the school, "little angels", "entirely manageable", and "oh, dear god help us". So it goes with class after class of our kids. Luckily our team provides a lot of structure for them, so many of them will find a way to control themselves amid the chaos.
- The Germans: Hysterical and unmanageable, I'm trying again to restart with this crowd. This will be their third year under my tutelage and I expect they will be as hysterical and witty as ever, while hoping that they commit to academics more than last year and at least as much as they did with me in the eighth grade. The promise that their German course would be placed within the regular school day was kept, though their class is only forty minutes. I have no idea how it will go, but I can guarantee I'll enjoy it.
My Dear 8-Team
My immediate team consists of the English, Math, and Science teachers, me, our Learning Specialist (Special Education teacher) for the eighth/ninth grades, and our guidance counselor. There are other influential figures, such as our parent coordinator, assistant principal and principal, but that initial core of individuals is what I see as my team on a daily basis.
New York Turnover
Our team, is one of the most effective in our school and, from what I can tell, one of the more effective in the area. That said, we've experienced a great deal of turnover in what will soon be four school years I've been on it. Consider the following positions:
- Learning Specialist- This will be our third in four years. Our Learning Specialist from last year moved on to a position within the Department of Education's upper structure, implementing online learning for under-accredited, over-aged students via an online learning platform. She's an incredible teacher, but wanted out of the K-12 classroom and found a way to affect more students with her new job while be rewarded more accordingly. The Learning Specialist from my first year became a principal and took over a failing school.
- English- We're now on number five in four years. In the first year I taught we went through three. Our English teacher from last year and the year before, a very solid one, moved to our 9-Team (ninth grade), where there is no high-stakes test and she can do what she's always dreamed of doing- teach English.
- Math- Tomorrow, the day before school, we'll be interviewing a candidate to fill this position. The man we finished with last spring was our fifth math teacher in three years, so we'll start year four with our sixth. We lost him this morning to an assistant principalship in Brooklyn. Two year ago we had two math teachers due to maternity leave and last year our first math teacher around Christmas chased a dream of teaching in Hawaii.
- Science- A cornerstone of our team, our science teacher and I started teaching together three years ago and have developed a rather healthy, collaborative relationship in spite of our team's apparent revolving door policy. We serve effectively as two heads of the same team that produces fairly decent results considering we're just now entering our fourth year in the classroom.
- History- That's me. This year I hope to solidify the curriculum for our eighth grade social studies course and effectively instruct the groups listed above.
Couple this large teacher turnover and lack of stability with students' low reading levels and a community that is not largely vested in the school system and you can imagine the outlook for us this year.
Basically, we, the students and teachers, are going to kick ass and get our asses kicked all around. Our team has developed the reputation for leaving it all out on the field and, the new hire pending, we intend to for another ten months this year. The students won't know what hit them and neither will we until next July.
And that goes for the AVID kids and the Germans as well.