I feel like a space shuttle about ready to burst into flames on reentry. Or like I’m trying to hold a handful of water. Or like I’m driving a car and just woke up on the wrong side of the interstate. I feel like the 19th mile of a marathon. Why am I here?
The process of getting one’s self back into this program continues to be difficult. I don’t know about you, but my schedule and all of my habits and patterns are drastically different in the summer. I stay up way late in the summer. I eat too much. I get a lot of exercise, but of a different kind and it’s more sporadic. I do big projects or go camping…lots of exercise all at once…then a week of sloth. Sweet, sweet sloth…
During the school year I have an 8 o’clock meeting 4 days a week, I stand and walk around all day, I don’t eat breakfast or lunch, and I had better get to bed by midnight. This sudden readjustment in the middle of fucking August plays hell with the internal systems.
Thankfully, I have done this before. I know this period of intense systems-realignment is temporary. Maybe one benefit, very loosely interpreted, of starting two weeks before Labor Day is that after the first two weeks you get a nice three-day weekend. That’s pretty positive, I think.
But, again, my thoughts turn to the new people. They are all a mess. I’ve been making it a point to check in with them. They are not feeling good. One woman I have never seen before grabbed my arm in the middle of the hallway this morning at 8:02 and was terrified that she was late for some bullshit meeting and could I please tell her where it was. I told her that the good news was that there was no 8:00 meeting today and the bad news was that the meeting was during her planning period. She was so grateful. That was probably the happiest moment of her fucked-up, exasperated day.
This would be ok if it was like a hazing period and they would all emerge stronger and carry the school forward, bravely into the future. But the truth is that they won’t. Most of them will get fed up and they’ll leave in the next 4 to 24 months. That’s our problem.
They get overwhelmed. They look like zombies right about now. And I know exactly how they feel.
Here’s the paradox. Everything our school wants teachers to do could arguably be justified. Just taking the requirements as they are written on paper, it could well be argued that they are difficult, but reasonable and our student population would benefit from these structures…or some version of most of them. The problem is this: 1) They change all the time; 2) A new teacher cannot be expected to pay attention to all of these things at once, right away; and 3) The vast majority of our teachers are new (1-3 years).
This is what drives people out. They can’t possibly comply with or even fully understand what is “required” of them. They get criticized severely for this. They get frustrated. They realize that, strictly speaking, they cannot succeed. They talk to people at other schools. They quit.
I pray to whoever might be listening that my administration would give these folks a break; that they would focus on maybe three things that they really want all teachers to get better at in the next year and stick to them. That wouldn’t be overwhelming. Then more people would stay because they wouldn’t be made, artificially, to feel like failures. Then you could pick some other things for next year; and you would have mostly the same people to work with who are now good at the first three things. Instead we spend ridiculous amounts of energy doing an ineffective job of teaching brand new people the same shit every year. Can you even imagine what it would be like to have 60-70% of your teaching staff to have wanted to stay with you for 5-7 years? I know you can’t. But that’s what you need.
You need to make choices. That’s what being a leader is. You can’t have everything, as should be obvious by now. Our test scores TANKED last year and 40 or so TEACHERS QUIT.
YOU have to do something different and start to build something that you care about beyond next spring. Something that your teachers will care about and want to stick around for.