Friday, April 6, 2007

The "Holy Week" from Hell

In a meeting today a colleague described this week as "the Holy Week from Hell." I'm willing to risk blaspheme to agree with her. In fact, I am currently skipping the Good Friday service I had planned to attend tonight because I couldn't stand the thought of doing anything except for getting my kids and heading home to curl up on my bed and relax.

I haven't posted for several days because I absolutely have not had time. It's not unusual for me not to have time to post from work, though I do sometimes take time after hours to do so. It is unusual for me not to have any time at home in the evenings. Wednesday night I had a Junior League board meeting that lasted until after 10:30 p.m. Yesterday I was out of town recruiting at a job fair, and when I got back I went straight to watch the All-American High soccer teams in action. I am pleased to announce that both teams were victorious.

Today was simply "one of those days" at work. I didn't have all that much on my calendar, but I ended up being out of the office most of the day dealing with one issue or another. We have now entered the dreaded "state-mandated testing window," preparing to give over 3,000 tests between April 17th and April 25th. My first meeting this morning was with my guidance office staff to review preparations. They are already on edge about getting everything done in an environment where the state sets some fairly unreasonable requirements about the number of days ahead of time in which we can receive testing materials and the time frame in which the tests must be administered. I assured them that they were on track and that I appreciated their hard work and then let them get back to the preparation process.

I then moved on to lunch duty, where I learned it was snowing outside. The latest snow I can remember in the ten years I've lived here was on March 30th, so this is quite unusual. Of course, it's just in time for Easter, and it's not projected to be any warmer by Sunday. My kids are supposed to go to an egg hunt at the country club tomorrow, and I'm not sure that is going to happen. Actually, it likely will happen, but it will be moved inside. And this is also the year I broke down and bought something new to wear after last year's question from the kids, "Mom, why do you always wear that same dress every year for Easter?" I won't be wearing the same old dress this year, but I won't be wearing the new outfit either since it would look best with bare legs and sandals.

After lunch I met with my boss to go over projected class sizes for next year. I'll be sending out the number of sections we've determined we need to the department chairs next week so that they can begin working on creating teaching schedules. Once that's set, I create it all electronically in our master scheduling software so that we can begin creating class schedules for students. That brings me to the recruiting I was doing yesterday. Part of the process we're completing right now is determining our staffing needs for next year. We need to add two positions, but we've already been told that we are not likely to have any additional staffing approved because of the amount of funding we're projected to receive from the state. We're looking to see if we can find a way to reduce in other areas so that we can still hire for the needed teaching positions. What makes this so frustrating is that the legislature is in the midst of approving additional tax cuts that will guarantee that our funding will remain low. All in order to allow each taxpayer to keep an additional $20 in his pocket. Most people won't notice the $20, but they'll notice when their kids have larger classes next year.

We adjourned our meeting to go to another meeting with some of the district administration. We were asked to share our thoughts on a proposal and did so. However, our opinions differed from those of some of the key leadership. It's challenging at times to feel confident speaking out, but I believe it was important to do so in this situation. Eventually, our position carried the day, but, in observing the reaction to the legitimate "restraining forces" we brought up, I was reminded of the Aldous Huxley quote, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." Oh well, my hope is that I will continue to be respected for being willing to be thoughtful in my response to such issues and to bring up concerns when necessary. It's just never a comfortable situation to disagree with the senior leadership.

Next it was on to an IEP meeting which lasted from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The team was generating ideas to help a student who is not succeeding academically. Unfortunately, this is a situation where the academic struggles are only a small part of the overall problems. The family circumstances are heartbreaking, and it's one of the times when I find myself searching for the best course of action. I wanted to cry when they left the room because I was filled with such a feeling of helplessness. We can change many of the things that are adding to his difficulties in school, but we can't bring back the mother he lost a few years ago or solve the problems he's having with his father.

At the end of the day, I reflected on all the bright, enthusiastic young teacher candidates I met yesterday at the job fair I attended. The format allowed us to meet all the candidates who came by our table during the opening hours and then set up twenty-minute interviews with those whom we were most interested in, primarily those who were certified in areas we know we will need because of upcoming retirements. I was impressed with several of the people I interviewed, but after today, I'm left with the nagging thought that they are not prepared for the realities of meeting the needs of the students who will enter their classrooms next year. They've been studying how to teach English, or math, or science, but have they been studying how to teach kids? The kids who come to school feeling unaccepted at home or socially isolated at school. The kids who come to school hungry but are unwilling to risk the embarrassment of receiving free or reduced lunch. The kids who need more attention in order to learn. The kids who have been drawn in to drug use, alcoholism, or promiscuity. That's my job, each and every day. Making sure that every student who walks through the All-American High doors is met by a teacher who wants to take the time and make the effort to truly teach them. It's my job to be sure that every teacher knows that the leadership team will back them up in these efforts, creating a safe, respectful environment for them as they venture out to do such important work.

That's my job. But for now, I'm just going to sit back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the few hours I have this weekend to spend focusing on myself and my kids. Today, I'm just too exhausted to spend more time fixating on the societal problems that are reflected in the microcosm that is All-American High. I'm just glad that tomorrow is another day, a day where I'm sure things will look a bit brighter.

1 comment:

Rambling Mom said...

I always appreciate that I have the ability to read about the challenges of different jobs ... whether it be you, or waiterrant. It helps me to remember that no matter what we're doing - we're all "working for a livin"