As much as I miss my former colleagues (and I do, I do-iPado-bee-do-bee-do), I'll be happy to welcome in those new teachers, because 18 years ago, it was because of reorganization that I obtained my first permanent teaching position.
I searched my blog to see if I've already told the story before - there's nothing quite as irritating as the older relative that insists on bending your ear about a tale that you've already heard countless times before - but I couldn't find evidence of it in writing, so here's my recount of being an October hire.
In September 1997, I was teaching a Grade 3 class at Churchill Heights Jr. P.S. as their LTO (long term occasional teacher) - and I loved it! I spent a lot of time that summer setting up the classroom, preparing bulletin boards and centres and establishing routines. The students felt like MY students. I supply taught the previous year for many different boards (City of York, MSSB, East York, and Scarborough) but it was a whole new experience to stay with one group of students and build a class community together. Then, reorganization time occurred and the principal of Warden Avenue Jr. P.S. contacted me. She had interviewed me previously for a kindergarten LTO that she gave to someone else, but she remembered that I had just completed my Library AQ and they had an opening for a 1/2 Library, 1/2 Grade 4-5 teacher, and asked if I would be interested. I really hated the idea of leaving "my" class at Churchill, but as the principal there reassured me, this was too good of an opportunity to miss. I applied and I was hired.
|Me at my LTO job with a student who is now probably 26 years old!|
I was so young! And thin! And look at those glasses!
October 1997 was incredibly challenging. The Grade 4-5 class "lost" their morning teacher, who had been split between two schools but was able to go full time at her other school. The students loved their former morning teacher, which meant they weren't initially too happy to be with me. Sharing a classroom with another teacher is never a simple task. Warden Avenue Jr. P.S. is an inner city school and so classroom management was top priority. I'd stay at school until late at night, making index cards for the library's card catalogue (remember those?) and every night for many weeks, I'd stumble home, exhausted, drink a glass of wine, and cry. It was so hard and I felt like I was making no progress at all! It was almost a relief when the teachers protested Bill 160 (the "Education Quality Improvement Act of 1997") by withdrawing services for a couple of weeks. Here's a brief synopsis of the issue, in case you are too young to remember it.
After the political protest, when we returned to the classroom, I had an easier time of it. Nothing substantial changed - I had the same students and the same timetable. Looking back, I wonder if it was because, with the protest, it was a chance to "start anew" at the same time as the rest of the staff. Walking the picket line let me get to know my staff better. When I started in October, I had to hit the ground running, without the same amount of time to prepare my room, my students, and myself. My support network prior to the protest was my brand-new husband - we married July 5, 1997; my support network enlarged tremendously within and beyond the school afterwards.
I'd encourage any LTOs to consider applying for those positions that appear in October because it's a golden opportunity for them to secure a permanent place in a school board. I'm also going to make sure that I give a ton of emotional and pedagogical support to our newest staff members, to make them feel welcome and less overwhelmed with their new class and next stage of their professional journey. After all, 18 years ago, I was them.