Thursday, August 09, 2007

Inauspicious Beginnings

Nobody understood a word that he said,
but we had fun filling out the forms
and playing with the pencils on the bench there
--Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"

It's been a week of meetings and lunches and filling out forms. In many ways not much different than the last time I had to attend new teacher meetings, except that when the superintendent (who is apparently a REALLY BAD public speaker) says, "__________ is the best school district," you can insert the name of the old and insert the name of the new. And, when the human resources director says, "_______________ only hires the best, and you are the best," you can do the same thing. One neat difference is that for the new teacher breakfast, the mayor showed up and spoke. I thought that was a nice touch. The he wandered down to City Hall and presided over a council meeting that resulted in a cut to the fire department's budget. Said one city council member (this is a paraphrase from the paper this morning, which I do not have before me), "The fire department has really become just a glorified ambulance corps that puts out fires every once in a while." I hope he remembers that should the once in a while become that one time when HIS house caught on fire. Dumb ass.

Anyway, after our breakfast meeting of bad speeches and platitudes (with a few good ones thrown in--speeches, that is--all platitudes are bad ), we headed to a local middle school for some instruction from a videotape of Harry K. Wong giving us the lowdown on how to have successful first days of schools. I tried to remain positive and pay attention, but it was old news to me. I did my best to be engaged.

Then it was off to lunch, so the local education association could shill for themselves and the Horace Mann insurance group. Thanks for the Blimpie boxed lunch. I know you care about me, local education association, but I was going to join you anyway, so can I leave? No, of course not. Anyway, I signed up and they gave me two pencils and a five dollar bill. High point of the day--truly.

After lunch, an intro to PLCs (professional learning communities). This was rushed through, and redundant (since we did these at the old school), but this district really seems to understand that they are still figuring these things out (each step--including what data to focus on (by the way, I have only heard the word data ONE TIME so far this week)), and they seem to have a better focus on the goals and purpose of the PLCs (unlike my old district).

End of day one. Home, tired and frustrated, with forty pounds of forms, handbooks, power point printouts, and brochures in my pack. And I didn't even mention the previous day's demoralizing two hour meeting in which I filled out my tax forms, gave up some ID and a cancelled check for direct deposit and was told I would not get paid until 9/31 (what--that's two months between my last check from my old district and my first check from my new district!) and I would not be insured until 10/1 (huh?!). So, I filled out a cash advance form, and I have to get some other form from my soon to be ex-insurance company to send to my new company so I can get coverage on 9/1. I love it when things are easy for the consumer.

Today was better. I had a curriculum meeting for English 10, and I worked in my school for the afternoon. And I'm getting paid at a daily rate for these non-contract days. But, having eight days of meeting and such before the first day of school is tough. I've done it before, but I feel like much of this is remedial for me. And, there are two more sessions (8am-4pm) tomorrow. I'd rather be home or at school figuring out what I am going to teach in 11 days. Again, some of it is useful, but, I get easily frustrated when the material is review or I feel like the presentation is disorganized or pointless (which many of them are). And, yes, I know, that this is just how my kids feel. Were I being presented with a host of clever people on a daily basis, I might think they did this stuff on purpose, to give us a sense of our kiddos' potential frustration, but I doubt it.

Monkey's parents come in tomorrow morning. They are here until Monday afternoon. I'll get back to you when I can.


Anonymous said...

You know, I think that our cumulative experiences that can provide a helpful perspective as we reach a certain point in life also can contribute to feelings of pessimism and jadedness. I feel for you with bearing the admin bs as it were. It's hard not to be extremely cynical and to maintain a more youthful optimism. But hey, maybe that's one reason you work with adolescents and young adults!

And on a more pragmatic note, the first pay date and the start of your insurance (which I mistyped as unsurance = more appropriate) are completely terrible. Not a way to value you as a teacher. I hope you don't ever hear some government somebody refer to teachers as glorified babysitters and cut what little funding trickles to education to begin with. Again, a terrible way to treat people who are serving the community in a vital role.

It seems that the admin bs tends to be pretty meaningless at best and a medium for mistreating ordinary good people at worst. May you continue to hold on to how you're highly valued by students, parents, friends, family, and others in the community.

I'm so tired that I don't know if any of this makes sense. Hang in and keep breathing, ATR!

Pulling for you as always, my brotha.


comoprozac said...

I think new teacher orientation is the way that schools try to retain their staff. Who wants to go through that crap again?

The pay situation is unfortunate. That must mean that you'll get paychecks through September. That could possibly be 1-2 months of double pay if and when you and the Monkey decide to relocate.

Jami Wade said...

WTF do you mean you are not getting paid until October 1st. What kind of crazy ass logic is that? Why is this the first you heard of it? One would think a person would need to have time to sort out their finances and save up for that month with no pay.

Sorry to hear about this - everything else sounds like standard issue. We go back for meetings on Thursday and I will let you know how it goes. I just got back from Manhattan so I am in no frame of mind to think about school. Hello to Mary Meghan and enjoy the second round a 'rents.