Slowly, the details are dribbling in. Today after our workshop, several of the math teachers had a brief get-together to look at the evolving department schedule. First off, I'll be teaching nothing but the regular eighth grade curriculum. That's cool. And it's presented as a series of small books (think of each book as a chapter of a traditional math book), so if I want a little variety, I can mix things up a bit and teach two or three different things to different classes. But here's the most interesting part: MJHS has a block schedule, which means four periods one day, four different periods the second, and they keep swapping back and forth. And I will get four classes each day. "But wait," I can hear those of you who read yesterday's entry saying, "how can that be if you also have two prep periods?" One of those periods is split in two, so there can be short English and math classes on "off" days. A normal class is about eighty minutes, but these "labs" are only forty. One day I will have two classes for eighty minutes each and two for forty each, then switch the next day. This way, everyone gets the benefit of block classes and also gets English and math instruction every day. Technically, students are in five classes each day, but two of those classes are only half as long as the other three. Clear? (Yeah, it took me a few moments as well. At least I'm the only one who has to know it!)
I'm also getting a decent idea of where I'll be teaching, and while I'm not wild about it, at least I'm in no worse shape than anyone else. Because of the split blocks, what the department co-chairs are trying to do is have each teacher in a room one day, and traveling to other rooms the other day -- and the day that teachers move, they don't have to move more than once. This is for every teacher in the department, not just the new ones (yes, there is a fellow rookie math teacher with me).
After our workshop, there was also a building-wide union meeting about contract negotiations and the threat of a strike. I'm going to not talk about things here, I don't want to spread anything that I don't know much about or shouldn't say otherwise. But at least we all have a better idea of what's going on now, and it doesn't sound as bad or dire as it's being made out in some news articles I've read. I figure there's still almost two weeks before school starts, a lot can happen in that time, so I'm not going to worry about it yet.