The end of the year is looming, and much has happened. Probably the biggest “thing” was that I have changed positions at work and I am no longer in a classroom. I was asked to apply as the Campus Academic Specialist, a position that was granted to my campus for the first time this year and had been given to a teacher at the end of last school year, but she resigned the week before school started. I applied, interviewed, and won the position. It was a difficult time of year to change positions, because school had already started and finding a qualified, certified teacher to take my place was a nightmare. Added to that was the complication that several other teachers on campus also interviewed for the specialist job. They had interviewed the year before and had not gotten the position then, so I’m not sure what would make them think they would get it this time, either. But interview, they did, and they did not get it. Again. Making me enemy #1 in their books, and since they had strong influence over their friends on campus, the transition was not made easy.
A specialist does different things on different campuses and the job varies depending on what the district defines it as being. In most cases in my district, you are an Instructional Specialist, and you focus your energies and talents on one content area. So, most junior campuses have Math Specialists and Reading Specialists. One campus even has a Science Specialist, because their science scores have been in the gutter for many, many years. In my case, I am the Academic Specialist, and work with all content areas. Considering we have the largest student body, and therefore the largest faculty, this makes my job particularly challenging. Half of my job is to be a coach and support for any new teachers we have on campus. Not just new to teaching, but new to the campus and/or district. This is new for me, and I have found that I really enjoy this aspect of the position. I am still learning how to organize this part of my job, so I only expect this part to get better and better as I understand how to do it and find the resources needed to share with new teachers. The other half of my job would be data. Every time a content area takes a district or state test, I organize and interpret the data for the school and for individual teachers. This has been the biggest source of conflict for me this year. I understand data. I understand it and have been analyzing my own since my first year of teaching. I have done independent research to make sure my analysis methods are valid, and then I have researched how to allow this analysis to impact my teaching for the betterment of my students. I did this as a natural extension of learning how to teach and out of a desire to make sense of this new world. Unfortunately, not everyone understands data the way I do. They have outdated impressions of what the numbers mean, or they have made assumptions that are incorrect. Because I have a tendency to shelter myself in my classroom and do the work I need to do, ignoring the world outside my door, I had the false impression that all of these “college educated” individuals understood how to interpret basic percentages. They did not. And I paid the price for my assumptions. Trust me, I will never assume that teachers understand basic math again.
Even though I have accounted for all “halves” of my job, there is yet more. I have other tasks given to me, as my principal finds the need. For example, lately, I have been put in charge of creating the master class schedule for next school year. I have zero experience doing this, but I DO have experience in scheduling. Thankfully, scheduling employees to work isn’t hugely different than scheduling classes. I am positive I will have teachers royally pissed off when their schedule is given to them next year, but I honestly did not target anyone for the “shit duty.” I deleted the teacher’s names from the drafts I created so that I wouldn’t be influenced by what I thought they might want, or what they’ve done in the past. The class schedule should ultimately benefit students, and the teachers just need to come in, work their schedule, and go home. I know that’s not what is going to happen, and I’ve had a revolving door on my office for the past two weeks because of it. I’ve listened politely, patiently, and even with a smile on my face. But the reality is that the principal, not me, makes the final decision on what needs to happen. She had ideas of how she wanted the schedule to look, and I made it happen that way. Regardless, it will be me who shoulders the flack for any unhappy teachers next year. I know it and I don’t give a damn.
I have discovered, by being in a position outside of the classroom, that my campus is hugely cliquey. I know most campuses are, but mine is ridiculous. We are notorious in the district for it. There’s no teamwork anywhere, everyone is working to accomplish their own agenda (or their best friend’s agenda), and I am regularly shocked that we make the kind of testing gains that we do because of the internal drama that is constant. Sure, we had management changes, but the drama-feeders made the changeover so much worse than it needed to be, constantly stirring up negativity and spreading it as quickly as they could. OH, if my faculty could only SEE what these people are! They are unhappy individuals – unhappy at home, unhappy with their careers, and hellbent to make sure as many around them share in their misery! A few of them are well-known in the district for applying for any and every job that will get them out of a classroom. And, since they don’t do the inside of a classroom particularly well, no one wants them outside of it either! The reality is that these individuals are the ones who are looking for an ever-higher paycheck, with less work to do. They actually think that a principal’s job is less work than a teacher’s! Unfortunately, if they were ever given the job of principal, they WOULD do less than they do as a teacher. They would be a disaster as a principal or assistant principal, and most that interview them can see that. Getting turned down for job after job after job just makes these people even more miserable, adding to what they have to spread to the campus. They are like a festering disease, and fortunately many of them dislike the new principal so much, that they have finally found transfers off of my campus. Not to principal positions, certainly, but at least off MY campus!
One of the things I had to weigh when accepting this job was whether I was willing to give up the daily contact with students that I had as a classroom teacher. I was worried until I realized that I never even teared up about it. I worried, but only briefly. It was a true relief to me to be out for a while. So, in that aspect, I completely understand those misery-makers for wanting out of a classroom. I am blessed that this job is one that has helped me to crystallize my future plans, and has not been a burden or detrimental to my school. Since I don’t have the discipline, lesson planning, assignment grading, parent phone calls, and tutorials that a regular classroom teacher has, my afternoons are freer than they used to be. My tendency to be a workaholic still keeps me at school working, but I don’t HAVE to. Oh sure, there are certain times of the year that require more of my time, but it is not daily like before. It was this that motivated me to take the job, because I really am ready to start graduate school. So, I applied to Lamar University, was accepted for this coming fall, and have most of the financial aid requirements completed. I should be getting enough in loans to cover all but about $200 of my tuition for next fall, spring, and summer. I have applied for the Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It is a very long program, requiring two internships, and two residencies, plus more coursework than most of the other education degrees available. I could have signed on for the School Counselor degree, but chose this route because I have ideas for what I would like to start a doctoral program in.
Yes, doctoral. I’ve been on the fence for YEARS about whether I wanted to put myself through what it takes for a doctorate, and I’ve finally decided that I do. First, I am finding more and more that I really don’t have the temperament for public school teaching. I have a very short fuse for stupid people. And when my fuse runs out, my mouth works before my brain can stop it. I’ve been working on better control, and I have gotten better over the years, but I can see myself getting fired, written up, or even sued someday for my mouth. Plus, I’ve discovered that, as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching kids, I enjoy research and data analysis so much more. When I was running numbers after a test, and I had several days in a row of being in my office with no interruptions except the ones I allowed, I went home truly buoyant and happy. Even when I knew that I would have teachers angry, whining, and going to the principal with complaints about the data they were shown, I was a happier person. I do not require the constant contact of coworkers, and find it to be annoyingly distracting more than anything. I like them there when I seek them out, but I do not need continual contact. This is my introverted personality at work, and I’m okay with that. I will never be allowed to do research at the level I want, as long as I’m working in public schools. I need to shift careers to do it, and I’m okay with that, too.
So, I discovered the field of psychometrics in my research forays this year, and have become enamored. I don’t know for sure that I will seek a doctorate in this field, but I know that I am leaning in that direction. I have the math background, but I have nothing in the way of psychology. Hence, the master’s degree I am seeking. The School Counselor degree just didn’t have enough of the clinical psychology that I think will be needed for the doctoral direction I am looking. With a lot of focus and prayer, I will juggle both this new program, plus the job. Hopefully, I will be able to remind my principal from time to time that I AM taking classes, and can’t afford to stay at school until 8pm every night anymore!
We’ll see how well that works.