It’s Over

The 2005-06 school year: 180 teaching days, three major anti-district rallies, an 11th hour deal to avoid a strike, the completion of my masters degree, the diagnosis of my son with celiac disease, four sections of AP World History, and one out-of-control section of CP World History. It has been quite a year.

I usually have two types of emotions at the end of the school year. Either I am totally done and want out or I am sad because I am so comfortable with my classes, I don’t want to start over. This year is different; I’m satisfied with the end of the school. The time is right for it to be over.

I have no more looming graduate classes (as much as I loved the program, it added a certain amount of stress to my life). Teaching AP World History was an incredible challenge and I look forward to going through it again. Building upon what I started and making it even better. Next year, I will teach more then one section of college prep, which will make my investment in that class greater. That class felt very stale to me this year, I will be doing some major reinventing next year.

My students this year were great. They challenged me. I worked harder for this class, because I felt I owed it to them. I only wish I could have done more. The dynamic in each of the AP classes brought out the best in me and, I think, them. I won’t say I was burnt out, but I am refreshed.

When I said my parting words to them on Wednesday and Thursday, I was not emotional. We were done. We had a good run. But it is time for them to move on. To other AP classes, other challenges. I told them thank you, they returned the gesture. In two years, I will gladly shake their hands or give them a hug as they graduate and go on to do something else.

Tentative Agreement!

After two years, four before-school pickets, four major rallies, two work to the rule sessions, numerous meetings, at least ten posts, strike planning on both sides, and a sense of dread, it looks like this round might be over. Have to wait until 3:30 to find out. Apparently the session with the fact finder went until 2:00 am this morning when they final reached some sort of agreement.

Holding my breath.

Standing Up

In my last post, I discussed working to the rule (working only our contracted hours). Since then I have spent a lot of energy hashing out what my stance would be. I decided that I would work no more then an hour on any given afternoon/evening so that my actual work day hoovers around eight hours. Our contract states this, so I will abide. Will I get the next set of essays back in a timely manner? No. I’ll do my best, but I will not spend a weekend grading like I have done in the past. The only exception will be for paid meetings, including AP review sessions.

On a school level, we had a meeting today that was defining. Our WASC (accreditation) visit is next week. The same days as the fact finding hearing between the union and the district. With almost half of the staff represented at a meeting, we decided to work to rule through next week (as originally planned) and not attend any meetings after 2:45 pm when our contracted day ends. While we might be forcing the visiting commitee to give us a 3 year instead of a 6 year accreditation, we thought the timing was too important. Our immediate need to settle this contract makes WASC trivial. We are a good school, there is no chance we will not be given some level of accreditation.

Throughout all of this process (going on two years!) there have been only a few powerful moments. Today was one of them. After a 25 minute discussion of the pros and cons of this action, an overwhelming majority voted to work to the rule. I love my department, they have been at the core of this movement since the beginning and are one of the primary reasons I have not moved on to a different school. However, I have mixed feelings about the school as a whole. I feel there is very little sense of community and a constant opposition to change and moving away from our “traditional” model.

But, today was different. I saw our potential. It is the teachers that make the school and we simply have not had consistent leadership (3 principals in 4 years, 4 in my 10 years) to bring us together.

Work to the Rule

The stakes just got higher. Union leadership has decided that between now and spring break (March 31) that we should be working to the rule. Essentially, we should work only our contractual day (7:30 am to 2:45 pm). The idea is to show the district and the community how much extra time we actually spend outside of our day doing our jobs. As a school we have a different situation then the rest of the district. Our WASC review is during that time. There are after school meetings for various groups and individuals, in addition to two whole staff meetings. We are not getting paid for this time. If we don’t go, it could hurt our evaluation, however, by not going we could show our dedication to our cause and make a very strong statement.

I am also having a personal dilemma. I just assigned another essay in my AP World classes. I do almost all of my grading at home. Do I not grade it? I usually use my prep period to figure out my lesson plans for the next day, write quizzes, communicate with parents, and do any other smaller tasks. If I do grade these essays (and the next set), I am essentially undermining myself. If I don’t, I am hurting my students’ chances of passing the AP exam.

We have already started debating the effectiveness of working to the rule. If a strike is imminent (which it is) shouldn’t we be at 100+% before it occurs to show our professionalism and to make an even greater impact when do actually leave the classroom? It seems like the public relations aspect could swing either way. Parents and students might appreciate our dedication more if they realize how much we do outside of the contracted day. OR they might side with the district because we are withdrawing our services, while we are still being paid.

Teaching Advanced Placement classes also puts a new perspective on all of this. These students and these parents care. My students are stressed that I may be on strike in the weeks before the AP exam (as am I).

Time to make some big decisions. I wish the district would stop this ideological battle and treat me fairly. I want to do my job. I want to spend extra time teaching my students. But, I will stand up for my self. I will take a stand. I demand respect because I have earned it – don’t believe me, look around at my web site.

Is anybody who matters listening?

I Love My Job, But…

Throw out all of the political drama my district is currently going through, the occasional wacky parent, a handful of disruptive kids, and the low pay – I love my job. Interacting with a 150 kids a day, discussing topics that I find interesting, developing curriculum, getting to read more about these topics, and getting to guide my own curriculum make me want to keep coming to work. You’ll notice grading is not on that list. Grading is the part of the job that I actually despise at times. I know evaluation is one of the keys of education and do my best to make sure that I give my students a fair shake, but when I collect a big project or an set of essays, a feeling of dread circles over my head and doesn’t disappear until I have finished.

I just finished grading 109 AP World History essays on the Haitian Revolution in the last week. This set easily took me 25 hours to finish. I usually take 2-3 weeks to get back essays, but I wanted them done well before the grading period ends next week. This is on top of writing a couple lectures (2-3 hours) and revising a lesson for my AP class. I have friends who have said it must be nice to be done with work at 2:30. But, as my wife will attest to, I am always working. I always have a paper to grade, a lesson to work on, a meeting to attend, or a book to read. When I have nothing to do for tomorrow, I think about the next day or even the next school year. Something always needs revising.

Then there is all that time off in the summer. Yeah right.

Anyone else ever get comments that teachers “have it easy”?