Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hey, Leave It Alone!

Apparently someone in the Philippines is trying to gain control of this blog. Well, whoever you are, I may not post here very often, but it's still my blog, and I plan to keep posting to it. So back off! If you want to blog about teaching, go start your own blog. If you want to change my settings to allow unmoderated comments so you can start spamming here, why in the world are you trying that with a blog with so few updates and not a lot of readers? Sheesh!

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Latest Update

Yup, it's been a while, again, hasn't it? I think it's fair to say that this blog is not a big priority, so I hope my few regular readers can be forgiving. But my, is there a lot to tell you this time around!

So, the new job started, and man, was it interesting. Like I said, small classes, nice kids, but not always with their heads in the game, if you know what I mean. I thought I was doing well teaching math, struggled but made do teaching science, and couldn't teach the Compass class because the school didn't have the contract yet and it wasn't set up. (I turned it into a study hall, with a few self-contained math lessons so that it wasn't too easy. But since it was a second, and in some cases third, math class for some of the students, I ramped it back from some of my initial plans.) I went huckleberry picking up on tribal lands that few whites ever get to see, I was there for an assembly when a native artist added a mural in the lobby, and I was in a circle dance at the tribal health fair.

And then they fired me. It came out from left field so fast and so hard that my head is still ringing, nearly two months later. I'd been having a bad week, and I'll admit that there were a couple of incidents that did not do me a lot of good. However, rather than try to work with me and help me out, they decided that I wasn't the right teacher for them, and took advantage of my six month probationary period to let me go.

And to be honest, now that I've had a little time to reflect, I think they were right. The school needs a lot of help from an experienced teacher who can handle problem students, and I doubt I could have succeeded in the end. I'm glad for the experience, and I wish everyone there well, but I just wish there could have been a better way to handle it.

The good news is that my local district was extremely happy to have me back as a substitute. Almost immediately, I got jobs. I've worked just about every day at one of the middle schools, in fact, where the principal even took me aside one morning to find out what happened and that I was all right. The kids were happy to see me, too. Dang, I like working in this district.

And it could happen some more. Not long after I got back to work there, I found out that the high school had an opening for a math teacher for the rest of the year. I sent my letter of interest to human resources, and promptly heard nothing back. So a couple of weeks later, I decided to do something I'd never done before: I went to the source. I e-mailed a copy of my letter and resume to the principal, vice-principals, and math coach at the high school. A few days later, I heard back from the principal, who wants to talk to me next week (today's the last day of winter break in the district, and school starts again on Monday). I have no idea what all is involved, whether or not I'd actually be a good fit, and if they really want me or they're just desperate for anybody. I do plan to be very honest with him about my history, and what I need to be successful. But I really like what this district is doing with math reform and student support, and I've already had a taste of it subbing for one math teacher for two weeks last year. Plus, I know a lot of the kids already. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm also realistic enough to know that it could blow up in my face again. But I'm still in the one-ste-at-a-time phase, in that we need to have that conversation first. I will, of course, let you know what happens, but I can't guarantee it being in a timely manner.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The First Day

The first day of my new job with my students was supposed to be today. However, one of the tribal elders passed away yesterday, and so most tribal activities are on hold for the funeral and burial. And this is a big deal in the tribe, because (from what I'm hearing from the other teachers) everyone is so interconnected. It's basically one big family, and if I do things right, I will be welcomed into that family before very long.

The school was open for a few hours this morning, however, which was fine with me. I had a few more things I wanted to take care of before the first classes, and since this would be my only chance before classes start on Friday, then I figured I'd better go in and take care of things. So, I'm all ready for the first day, and have a head start on next week as well. I also brought home my teacher editions so I can get an even further jump on next week's plans while I have the day off.

There will be some new things to get used to. I'm not working for a school district, but it's not a private school, either. I am actually an employee of the tribe, and therefore I have to follow all tribal government rules. This means filling out a time sheet daily — no, from what I gather, I don't get a set salary like I used to get teaching in a public school. Instead, I basically get paid for the days I work. However, that includes holidays and paid administrative days, such as today and tomorrow. (No, I don't know about summer yet. Good grief, stop asking so many questions, I haven't even met my students yet!) In other words, it's a lot more like working in the corporate world. But no, I don't think I get paid overtime if I work more than eight hours a day, nor for anything I do at home. I also have to pass drug tests! In fact, it's a good thing I went in today, because I had my first one today.

I also don't have to answer to the state education office, since I'm not, technically, working in a state school. Instead, I will get to deal with the Bureau of Indian Education. But I sure hope I can keep my state certification up anyway. If nothing else, that will keep me current. I also want to finally finish my master's degree, and from what I've been hearing, I may get a lot of support for that. Yes, the tribe has funds to help out its teachers and support them. Heck, they already paid for my fingerprints to get this job. No district has ever done that for me before.

I have six classes spread out over seven periods, and I think I'll have to actually teach them for a little bit before I can tell you exactly what I'm teaching. But I know I have:

  • Middle school (eighth grade) pre-algebra
  • Middle school (eighth grade) life science
  • High school earth science
  • High school applied math
  • Compass math (individually paced on computers)
  • 21st century math, a program I'll be teaching with the other math teacher where students will apply what they've been learning to a project
I also know that my classes will be small. So far I've heard that only four eighth graders have enrolled, but they expect that to go up once school starts. I have seating for fourteen in my room, but it's possible that I'll need more. One reason they hired me is because of some large classes last year of over twenty! (If only classes were that small in the public schools!)

To be honest, I'm really nervous. I'm worried that I'll blow it like I have in my last two contracted jobs by letting students get out of control and letting my emotions get in the way of good teaching and good management. On the other hand, I've had two years now to reflect on what went wrong in my last job and figure out what I need to do differently, and I think I have a much better handle on things. Despite the nerves, I also feel a lot more confident that I'm going into this with my eyes wide open (despite the very different situation), and that I will get the support I need to succeed. I also have a better idea of what to look out for before they become bigger problems, and that I need to do something.

On a final note, another district contacted me and asked about lining up an interview. And for the first time, I got to turn them down, because I already had a job! It would be in one of the biggest high schools in this part of the state, and would mean a lot longer commute, so to be honest, I think I'm glad where I am already.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Hunt Is Over; Now the REAL Work Begins!

I must have done or said something right this time around, because I got a job. This was the second job I interviewed for last week, and it is certainly going to be different. If my last contracted job was a shock because if its small size, this one will be a complete and total headspin, because it only has about a hundred students. It's not exactly a public school, and there may be some cultural shift there, too. Okay, I'll come out and tell you that it's a tribal school. Yes, all of my students will be Native American. I'm mostly going to teach math, but I know I'll get at least one section of science (probably biology), too. Everyone is also telling me that I'll have to wear lots of hats, so we'll see what other duties I'll have. But since two of the four sports offered by the school are cross-country and track, which were the two I did in high school, I think I can help out there some. The school gets a lot of funding from both the tribe and the federal government, so it's well wired, another part of the job I think I'll like. (I'll even get my own iPad!) Something this school does that ought to be interesting is that it segregates the classes. A lot of them are either all boys or all girls. I've heard about the studies done in such situations, and how successful they've been, so I'm eager to see it in practice.

Two things worry me. One is that school starts next week, I'm already a little behind in getting things set up, and I still have lots of paperwork and stuff to deal with. I already have an appointment to get my fingerprints taken tomorrow afternoon, just as a for instance. I think it's safe to say that my summer is over, and I must now devote myself to getting ready to hit the ground running.

The other worry is that, in the past, whenever I've gotten a contract, my attitude has pretty much been, "Well, I've got the job, now I can relax." Why, yes, I can hear the rest of you giggling out there, now that you ask. Hey, you don't have to hit me over the head with a clue-by-four too many times before I figure things out. So yes, this year I'm going in with the attitude of, "Okay, now I've got the job, what do I have to do to keep it?" I think that is going to help me a lot more. Fortunately, I have experience, I have colleagues, and I'm going in with my eyes wide open. So I hope it goes well, and I can hang onto this job for a while until one opens up in my local district. Yes, I do still want to teach here in town, partly because it's where I live now, and after subbing here for two years, I've become impressed with how things work. I'd like to be a part of that — but not as a substitute if I can help it!

One more thing that excites me about this job is that they have smartboards. In fact, they're having smartboard training tomorrow morning, and I'm going to go in and find out what they're all about, and work with my new colleagues. Hey, I have to start building up clock hours for my certificate renewal and get the lay of the land, right?

I can't guarantee that I'll blog terribly often during the school year, but I'll do what I can to at least keep everyone up to date.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

When it rains, it pours!

I still have a few more hours to go before my interview — and I already have another one lined up tomorrow morning. Also, an inside source tells me that the administrators in the district I'm currently subbing in have gotten back to work just this week, and will be making hiring decisions soon. So possibly there will be more coming soon. Hey, after getting no interviews last year, this is a big improvement. Now let's just see if I can actually succeed in one this year!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Wish me luck!

Job interview tomorrow! It's math at the high school two towns down the road. So now I have to iron a shirt and figure out what I can about the school in the next twenty-four hours.

Friday, June 15, 2012

And now the waiting

I had the interview this morning, and I know I didn't hit it out of the park. However, I don't think I totally struck out, either, so we'll just have to wait and see. It's a .8 and quite a ways out of town, so at this time last year I might have taken a pass on it purely for economical reasons. But now that Laura's working, I can afford it. But wait (as they say in certain TV ads), there's more! I also got an e-mail today from one of the local elementary schools (the only one out in the boondocks that I don't sub in, because I can't walk to it) asking if I'd be interested in interviewing for an ELL specialist position. I'm not sure exactly what that would entail, but the ELL part makes me suspect that I'll have to brush up on my rudimentary Spanish this summer! I responded that I'd at least be interested in finding out more, and I'd be happy to come in and interview, so that's now two more interviews than I had last year, and I have barely begun to fill out applications. I hope this bodes well!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Okay, wow!

I'm already ahead on my count from last year. I have an interview tomorrow for a part-time (but more than half-time) middle school math job in a nearby district. Since I'm also still working at middle school up the street tomorrow, I'm doing a little juggling, but the school I'm at said, "No, don't worry, your interview is more important. We'll cover for you." (They'd better, as I've covered for them enough times!) Fingers crossed, and I'll let you know more when there's more to know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Here's something that doesn't happen very often

I actually have sub work for the last three days of school — all for the same teacher, a math teacher at one of the middle schools. So at least my bank account will get a slightly larger than expected boost over the summer. I'll ask if they also need me for the last teacher day (which, thanks to the snow day this year, will be next Monday).

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Did you miss me?

I seem to have caught a nasty head cold at the best of times, because work seems to have temporarily dried up for the moment. I suspect it has something to do with all that high-stakes testing going on in the district this week. Fortunately, the work picks up again tomorrow, so perhaps it's just as well that I don't have anything going on right now, and can rest and get over this thing.

So, yes, I'm ashamed to say that this is my first entry of 2012. But what can I say, I've been busy. That two and a half week job at the start of January didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped — lots of issues of students not quite getting the connection between "teacher talking" and "I should listen" — and I never did get that observation. Oh, well.

While you're here, do you mind if I vent a bit? Thanks. First off, what is up with all of these teachers who can't give me a letter of reference? Back in November, I lined up several teachers I've worked for before and who know my work to write letters of reference to help in my job hunt. All were enthusiastic and said they would, but now that the job hunt is on and I've asked for those letters — repeatedly — they're not available. I've had some personal run-ins with some of them who then say, "Oh, yeah, I'll write that for you soon," and then silence again. It's pretty frustrating!

The other gripe is the lack of subs at the high school. This results in me having to fill in subbing for other teachers during what should be my prep period, or even during another period where I'm scheduled to be somewhere else but can be covered by someone else. I understand that this can happen once in a while, and I don't mind doing that, but it happens just about every day now. What's even worse, however, is that the regular teachers have to fill in, too, even though they really need that period off for grading, planning, and such. From what I gather, the problem starts when some substitute teachers come in, have to fill in during their planning, decide they don't want to do that, and therefore don't accept another job at the high school. The trouble is, that just makes it more likely that the rest of us who are there will have to fill in somewhere because there's one less substitute teacher to take up the slack. I also think that the teachers at the high school need to do a better job of coordinating days off and accommodating sports, field trips, and the like. This does not appear to be an issue, I will add, at the middle or elementary schools, although I've had to fill in once in a while at the middle schools. I don't mind doing my part, and the extra money helps, but there's got to be a better way.

The job hunt has started, and there are a few openings so far, but things are going slow. To be honest, after not even getting an interview all last summer, I'm not terribly hopeful. But I'm not sure what else to do at this stage.