Monday, September 22, 2014

Reorganization & New Opportunities

Say the word "reorganization" at my school lately, and you'll hear a lot of groans. Last spring, we lost 4.5 fantastic teachers. We were able to reclaim one back due to a continued central assignment, and then we were allowed to hire a new person because of an extended leave of absence.(By the time we discovered the news about the open position, all our surplussed people had found new jobs.) Due to our insanely large groups in the junior intermediate classes and the fact that we exceeded the primary division cap in all our Grade 1-3 rooms, we recently learned that we will be permitted to hire two new teachers. On one hand, we are happy to reduce the numbers in the overcrowded classrooms, but on the other hand, there's a lot of discontentment as everything from Curriculum Night to Photo Day gets moved and shuffled. We have to conduct interviews, send letters to all the students affected, and teachers and students are anxious to make the transition as soon as possible. There is also a tiny bit of resentment that we had to release some awesome educators (that you've seen me mention here and here and here and here on this blog). The students themselves even suggested (quite loudly) when they heard about the new classes that Ms. Hong and Mr. Ngo should be hired back. In my conversations, I explained to the students that they already had teaching spots at other schools - they had some very creative and defiant responses to that answer! It is most likely that, at this time of year, we will get a brand new teacher or two.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Irony of ironies - today, my former principal from Churchill Heights Jr. P.S. came to my current school as part of the Kindness Club program! Maggie Mee still remembers me (although not the advice she gave way back when) and agreed to pose for a photo sometime this week.