The third week has been a bit rocky and has given me second thoughts about whether or not I’m right for the school and it for me.
A couple of teachers serve as instructional coaches and pop in to observe classes, taking notes and then arrange a meeting with the teacher. I’m fine with all that, having worked as a consultant, I’m used to people coming and going. While a distraction to the students, I usually can ignore visitors. What they see, they see.
On Monday, I met with the principal to review use of the computer. Since we are former colleagues, she asked me also how things were going. She’s worked hard to provide instructional support for my two classes—paraprofessionals who assist in keeping students on task and with management, time keeping, etc. Frankly I believe no teacher from pre-K to college, should be alone in a classroom. We’re too litigious as a society. With middle schoolers, who are physically strong and emotionally volatile, I believe two adults can keep order better than one and keep everyone safer.
The principal asked me if I’d heard about the son of another former colleague, who I’ve kept in touch with and consider a friend. I knew immediately that bad news ensued as this young man had struggled with alcohol for years. He had died the previous Friday. I burst into tears, shocked and saddened for my friend and her husband who had worked so hard to help their son.
Regardless, I pulled myself together and managed to work the computer and begin my class with the 8th graders, yet this news didn’t stray from my thoughts.
A few minutes after class began, one of the coaches appeared, clipboard in hand and sat in the back to observe and take notes. And she returned again the next day.
I had students engaged in a small group activity using literature books to find examples of narrative leads, or story hooks. They were chatting yet on task and eager to share the leads they found with the class. Apparently in the coach’s eyes, the class was out of hand and she called in the curriculum director. Neither of them interfered with class activities and the coach emailed me to arrange a time to meet later in the week. I suggested Thursday after my 2nd class ended, at 12:30.
I took Wednesday off for Yom Kippur and visited my parents.
I left a lesson for the substitute that involved imitating list writing using commas and a colon and suggested students could do it alphabetically. From what I could tell in their notebooks, the assignment went well.
On Thursday, prior to my 8th grade class, a woman unknown to me appears and informs me she’s an English/Language Arts consultant and will be observing my class. I hadn’t been informed about her and while annoyed that yet another person would be causing a distraction, I figured go along with it. The students line up outside the class and are supposed to be at what the school calls Level 0, completely silent. They take their seats, a couple students distribute the notebooks and they’re expected to write the “Do Now” that’s written on the board. That is the ideal scenario. In reality, the students are chatty, don’t take their seats directly, and fool around. I refuse to yell or clap my hands to get attention so stand silently and wait, noting on my clipboard behaviors. They eventually settle in and focus.
However this consultant didn’t like it and decided to redirect them, telling them to leave and re-enter. This made the students angry and off-task, and undermined my authority in the classroom as the teacher. I decided then and there that I was leaving.
I made it through the period and the next. While the majority of the 7th graders are working and sweet kids, a few are disrespectful and lazy. And being young teens, they tease each other. One girl’s notebook was missing, I think hidden by another student and eventually given to her later in the class. This poor girl became so enraged, at one point, she stood, came to the front of the class and screamed as loud as she could and ran from the room. I had to call the office for someone to find her.
I packed up my things and found the principal, head of school, and curriculum director together in a meeting. The door was open so I went in and relayed the day’s experiences, particularly my frustration with the consultant, and notified them I was resigning, citing my misgivings about the strict rules and the unprofessional and humiliating cycle of observations so early in the school year.
I never made the meeting with the instructional coach.
The curriculum director apologized for not informing me about the visit, saying she must have forgotten to send the email. The principal and head of school appreciated that I brought things to their attention and requested I stay.
I agreed to give it another couple weeks and then will meet to assess.