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.

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