I had my first meetings at my new school today. I had been visiting friends in Massachusetts, so I drove down through Hartford this morning, and made it to school in plenty of time. A lot of people came in early for coffee and chat about the end of the year. It was a rather more relaxed “end of the year” meeting schedule than I’m used to. Some of my readers know that graduation is usually only barely over before some teachers head for the hills. Their graduation was Friday, and here it is Monday, and they’re already back at work.
Unlike my old school, comments on students aren’t due in early May; they’re due after the end of the term, but before the following Wednesday. This is an improvement.
My first major meeting of the morning was a discussion of the daily schedule at the school, advisory groups, and general management of the middle school. Being such a small institution, they can implement substantial changes to the day’s schedule every year, based on the number of sections that they have in each grade. They have passing time between classes, and a much more powerful general environment. Core classes meet only four days a week but for longer blocks, it seems, which is a bit of a change, but one I can adapt to. I’ll be teaching two sections of 6th grade (ancient) history, and two of 7th grade (American, colonization to Reconstruction), and I’m asked to include a major section on the constitution. This is not quite the impression I was originally given, but I can definitely make it work.
The next meeting I went to was the fifth grade teachers giving a “rising report” on each of the fifth graders that will be moving into sixth grade. It was great to sit in on this kind of meeting, and realize that the same conversations I had at my old school are (in truth) happening at every school in America. Fancy that! Apparently we’re all facing the same kids of issues… kids acting out, not reading at grade level, not functioning to their full potential, organization issues, spelling, handwriting…. sounds familiar, no?
Then we had a technology meeting. The school is moving towards the iWork suite for student use, with the option to use Google Docs for student and teacher materials alike. This seems like a good combination. There are apparently a lot of students who are still not allowed to use the internet at home — potentially cause for concern. However, there’s a range of in-school opportunities for them to use internet services there. AND, to my surprise, there is no filter on the school’s Internet service. All of the computers in all of the rooms are arranged to allow full view of the screens, and the expectation is that we, the teachers, will be the filter service. This is both sensible and slightly scary. It means that the teachers here are much more used to being vigilant about what is on computer screens. I’ll have to learn.
Almost none of today’s discussion centered around athletics or dormitory activities, and something went “pang” in my heart, as I realized I wouldn’t have that kind of deep connection with my students any more, or at least I wouldn’t have it in the same way as before. I might develop that kind of deep connection, but it won’t happen in conversations on dorm or during sports.
Shortly after 3:30, I walked out of school with a pile of papers to fill out for my new contract, new health plan, new background checks, new insurance, and all the rest of it. I also have a stack of books and articles on design process that I’m definitely supposed to read by the time school comes back into session. They expect great things from me, and I hope I can deliver. They’re clearly startled to have me around, but excited.
I’m excited too.