Saturday, August 21, 2010

"We're Going to the Institute."

Institute Day was on Monday. The powers-at-be decided to go the route of "entertain" instead of "bore and annoy." For this I was grateful. They hired a comedian who can be seen on a local news show in our area. She was not only funny, but poignant. She talked about laughter as the best medicine, learning to laugh at yourself, and killing them with kindness. As someone who was way-too-stressed about starting a new school year for reasons-still-to-be-determined, they were lessons that I heartily needed.

Many bad things happened on our institute day. According to the comedian, how could they not, we call it an "INSTITUTE day." She made an unflattering voice meant to indicate that there was something wrong with us (probably not too far off) and said, "Bye honey! I going off to the INSTITUTE." A fair point.

Some good things happened on the institute day too, but they were all done by my own will and hard work, and only to counteract all of the bad that kept creeping up. In fact, I took a page from the comedian's book and spent the afternoon proactively killing them with kindness.

I came to school knowing that I was unprepared and that my heart wasn't in it this year. I also came to school with my game face on and I don't think anyone around me pays close enough attention to think that I was anything other than positive about the impending doom (I I can't pinpoint for you why I'm not ready to be Suzy-Sunshine this year. I had a whole summer to figure it out and I'm still sitting her stewing about how I'd rather that things turn out and where I'd rather be. But enough of the that.

The point is that I walked into school and disaster after disaster started to strike. Heck, things that could have been prevented if anyone was LISTENING at the end of last year were all of a sudden major issues again. Instead of just sitting in my room and crying, I kept walking out and communicating with people. Even the people who shut me down got some extra visits and some positive problem solving. It was the biggest success of the day that something in me motivated me to keep walking into coworkers room and trying to rectify situations.

The one thing that I kept saying in order to present a positive front was the word "get" instead of the word "have." I asked when I GET to start my reading groups and when we GET to see our revised student lists and whether I would GET to teach my student again who was supposed to be moving at the end of last year. The difference? "When do I HAVE to start up my reading groups? When do I HAVE to look at that awful list full of extra students I didn't plan for? When do I HAVE to find out that I'm teaching that kid again instead of sending him packing and knowing that my workload will be one person lighter?" Even if you're faking it (and I seriously do ADORE that student that came back to me) you start to sound better, and then I think you start to feel better. It's a crazy thing but our mind is very malleable that way.

I guess it comes down to attitude. The bad things that seem to continuously throw us off our game? They're gonna happen! It's how you choose to deal with them that sets the pace for how your year is going to shape up to be.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tenure...dun dun duhhhh

When thinking about going back to school, I have a horrible time NOT making negative predictions about how things might go. Obviously some of my projections for the future are rooted in past experience, i.e. how it always goes. But some of the crazy stuff that my mind concocts both in dreams and waking hours is just pure nerve-inspired BS.

Or is it?

I was having the dreaded "tenure" conversation with a friend/coworker the other day. The teachers I know personally are all in various stages of the tenure game. Some have been tenured forever and have started to take liberties whenever it moves them. Another of my friends is spending her first year in tenure after successfully completing her first day of the new school year. Another is halfway there. And then there's me. Starting at the bottom. Again.

I tend to be kind of nonchalant about the fact that the illusive concept of tenure won't be gracing my doorstep anytime soon. I mean if I do my job and work hard, what will it matter if I'm not tenured? Right?


That's just it, the very reason the conversation of tenure is dreaded. The truth is, the climate amongst your peers and administration can be almost suffocating when you are a non-tenured teacher. (I always assumed that some of the tension might ease up once you're not being observed so constantly and your job is not in continual peril, but maybe those of you teachers who are tenured can correct me.) You walk around feeling genuine feelings and carrying genuine opinions and you are TOLD on a consistent basis to shut you mouth, smile pretty, and fly under the radar. And it happens all of the time.

But oh my gosh who is holding the radar gun and why is it so low to the ground that it is almost impossible to fly under?!?! The idea that teachers would be hired to be professionals, the experts in their field, and then told to keep their mouths closed for 4 years (while their great fresh-from-college techniques fly straight out the window and their naive love/excitement for the children slowly burns out) is just insane to me!

Going back to my intro, part of my delusional fear for the upcoming year has to do with that eerie feeling of being watched and judged rather than admired and congratulated. Now I'm not saying I want a parade for every success (ok I secretly do, but I don't expect them or anything). I just want to feel like I can do something unique without peoples' hearts palpitating with worry about innovative/independent ideas that many seem so threatened by. I want to feel like I can fail with an authority figure IN THE ROOM and they'll write it off to a bad day because everyone has them. I know and am fulling accepting of the fact that someone needs to keep me accountable because what I do is vitally important. But after knowing me, watching me, understanding that I live out that comprehension through word and deed, it shouldn't be something that I'm afraid is constantly in question.