Since my teacher of the year nomination, I've had the opportunity to not only host a tour of my school district, but to visit other districts here in Oz as well with KTOY nominees from our region. Earlier this week our team visited two districts in towns only fifteen or so miles apart from one another. As a kindergarten teacher, I greatly enjoyed sneaking peeks into other early elementary classrooms, but also experienced some revelatory and emotional moments in the middle and high schools we toured as well.
In my career I know I've been fortunate to teach students with the help of not only experienced and highly qualified colleagues, but with the involved support and encouragement of my Stars' families. No, not every year was ideal. Inexperience was a problem. Horrific "parenting" made for long sleepless weekends and holiday breaks as I worried about whether or not my students were eating or escaping abuse or neglect. Budget considerations always seemed to be the bottom line, no matter how much of a PR spin was fed to parents and other community members. Like many teachers, I learned how to beg, borrow, steal, reuse, recycle, and creatively problem-solve to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear for the benefit of my students. I've been rewarded for my efforts, being hired in each state we've moved to every time Uncle Sam had our family relocate.
For the past three and a half years I've worked in a district often referred to as "La-La Land." I'm partnered with experienced colleagues and supportive administrators, and though we don't see eye to eye one hundred percent of the time, we can agree to disagree and try to compromise in the best possible way for our students. Additional grade level colleagues or specialists are only a phone call, email, text, or two minute car drive away. My classroom is equipped with most of the materials my students need each year for math, reading, science, social studies, music and movement and other creative explorations and constructions. I have a SMART Board, iPad, laptop, five desktop computers, and share twenty four iPads for students. Technical assistance is readily available when needed and professional development regarding technology happens regularly. Our district has its own planetarium housed at my school.
The grass isn't just greener on our side of the fence, it's saturated technicolor GREEN in our neck of the woods.
We're not sipping lattes on lawn furniture for recess duty though. We're often caught in a whirlwind of change not only because of our exceptionally high student turnover rate (over half of our population relocates after one year) but because our district is always looking for the newest learning tool, effective/efficient program, or paradigm shift that will continue to give our students an edge. Doing what we can to stay abreast of best practices, while well-intentioned can be exhausting. Re-evaluating curriculum materials and curriculum-delivery-tools annually, mapping, flexing, PLC'ing, grade level planning, intervening, preparing and attending professional development, learning new SOP's for technology integration and usage and constantly updating those SOP's as we go along makes for a dynamic environment full of fast-paced evolution and change. Toss in the shift to the Common Core and it's safe to say it's been difficult to find time to stop and smell the roses, much less maintain a regular family schedule.
Visiting other schools in the state, I've seen and been told about each district's issues, concerns, and strengths. Visits will continue through May, as our team observes how each district interprets today's public school requirements for data, intervention and instruction, and how their resources, pace, and pedagogies compare to one another. While inspired by the creativity and caring for students that I've seen, I have to remind myself to bring my bottle of Exedrin. Seeing the struggles, hearing the concerns, and witnessing the cost to students and teachers as many schools struggle to stay afloat is migraine and even guilt-inducing. I remember being in the thick of a constant battle zone when I taught in districts elsewhere.
Though grateful for my job, it's still difficult when I realize I'm feeling like some sort of survivor who made it out alive and intact, on parade in front of fellow educators still down in the trenches.