This post has been a long time coming.
I’ve obviously dropped off on posting for a while. I’ve been blocked. As you can tell, from reading back a bit, a big part of that has been due to my frustrations and feelings of failure. I’ve been thinking of how to express those, how to evaluate my contributions to that, and how to learn from it.
A big part of the problem is that I signed up to do more than I should. I had two preps that I’d never taught before, and I was department chair, a learning groups facilitator, and the new teacher coordinator.
The only one of those things I did well was the new teacher thing. We only had one official meeting, and the rest was either managed by emailing them instructions, or making rounds visiting them during lunch & nutrition. Being a new teacher is outrageously time intensive, and I didn’t want to make them sit through another time suck when they felt they could be doing something else. Based on the feedback I got from them, this was the right approach – they all still felt supported rather than burdened by my interactions.
So much for the good stuff.
I should have known the department chair thing was going to suck when everyone, and I mean everyone, ducked the nominations. It wasn’t until halfway through second semester that I found out just how many people who were still there had done it before, and how many refused to talk to each other. It was a big part of the reason that the 6th grade teachers lobbied (and succeeded) in breaking off to develop their own department. The amount of passive aggressive sabotage was amazing.
Here’s the stupid part, though – nothing that happened was anything worse than what students have done to try to upset my classrooms. I’ve learned to win over intentionally hostile and disruptive students – I should be able to do the same with teachers. I’ve sat through enough faculty meetings to know that teachers, as a rule, don’t behave very well as professionals1. If I had known what to expect, if I had been comfortable with all the different archetypes, I could have created an environment where something got done. Instead, like so many of the chairs before me, I burned out.
One of the useful books I read this year was If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. It’s written for administrators, and I read it to get an idea of what I should expect from a decent administration. The both surprising, and completely obvious take away from this is that a lot of the things that make you a good teacher (Provide structure, provide empowerment within that structure, eliminate distractions, and make the work its own reward) are exactly the same things that make a good administrator. I certainly didn’t pull that off, but should I ever be in that situation again2, I think I’ll have some ways of approaching my job.
1 There were two other teachers that I interacted with regularly who had corporate lives before becoming teachers. We would often commiserate on the difference between corporate expectations, and those at schools.
2 I’ve jumped ship. Details to follow in a later post.