Saturday, August 25, 2007

before it's all moved in: views of the classroom

View: from the entry of the classroom.

I mentioned yesterday that I have had a wonderful first impression of my new principal. I want to add that I don't dislike the one I had the previous two years; he was just much more businesslike, and I think he had to be at a school so large and in the position of opening a brand new, huge school with a very opinionated community at his heels. This principal is funny and passionate--she got me to laugh, even though I was grumpy and still on Alaskan time, with her stories--she allowed us to see exactly how passionate she is about teaching and education, and I believed her, it wasn't just a line to get us pumped up--and she reminded us of exactly what is the most important thing about educators, those relationships we build with those students, inciting them to be lifelong learners and positive members of the community. We were talking about procedures for crisis situations, and at one point she said something along the lines of, "Listen, we can talk about what to do after all we want, but the point is, it's more important that we build relationships with these kids, let them know we care about them, that we're invested in them, before any of this becomes a problem."

View: back of the classroom

The building itself is thirteen years old. Last year, they had three days in a row of bomb threats (during MCA testing, no less). Five years ago, the teachers went on strike. We are considered a below average school. Our principal's goal is to have a School of Excellence banner in the front, and I can see by her drive that she just might get it. The principal is new; I think this is her second year now. She's forty six years old; she loves her boat. She's not a time tracker, but she does expect you to put your heart and soul into this job too. She said that some of the people there should be selling shoes at Kmart, and we were her big hope.

This school is not a lot like This High School, my last job. Local High School is in a very different situation, with their test scores largely below This High School's, with next to nothing in funding (I realize the irony here when I am speaking of my rich former school that cut me due to budget constraints, but it's true--they still are rolling in money in comparison). But the arts are put at the forefront here, which is vastly different from This High School, whose football team went to state last year. Instead, we have an auditorium designed for band and choir concerts, impossible to stage anything as there is no fly system or lighting system, but instead, a permanent shell, a structure that probably has a more sophisticated name, but does remind me of the home of the Minnesota Orchestra on a smaller scale. The acoustics must be really great in that space. There is a black box theatre in which all the plays are performed and the musical is put on at the local Sheldon Theatre. The cafeteria's walls are lined with prize winning art. There is an area outside the cafeteria, a peace circle of sorts, where kids can go to center themselves, and there was a ground breaking ceremony that brought people in from all kinds of countries and from Minneapolis as well.

View: front of classroom

I am entering a school that I see is in the midst of change, of continual improvement. There is a liason to the Dakota community on Prairie Island; we had a Hmong liason at the school in which I student taught. There is a strong Latino/a and Chicano/a population in town, growing at an incredible pace.

View: from beneath the corner television in the front of the room

I am starting a literary magazine at this school--something the interviewers said was strongly desired at the school but lacking. I'm looking forward to that, to focusing on the one activity (in which I won't get paid, but I wouldn't have this year at This High School either, due to budget cuts) and really pouring the attention it deserves into it, not being distracted by a needy musical or reserving a truck for a one act competition. I love the theatre, but I wore too many hats at the last school; I tried and burned out from too many roles and pressures. Here, I can find balance. I can not feel like I'm neglecting any one thing quite as much.

You can see some things have been left behind. I will spend care trying to maintain myself in this room; I did request he leave what he wanted on the walls, especially if it's related to content that I would be teaching. I will make it my own, even amidst his lingering ghost. I will give hope that this will be a good year and that I can maintain a connection to that something good after. I will hope even more for graduate school, for an MFA and a Ph.D and maybe, at the other end, a return to this place, with even more to offer. Who knows?

I do know it's not so scary now, not so frustrating, not a depressing idea that school is starting again. I loved my department, for the most part, at my old high school and even made a friend for life, but I didn't like the sterility of that place, everything so stiff and plastic. Everything that I felt passionate about was neglected--the library, the arts, etc. Here's to change. It can be good.

PS: Any suggestions for desk arrangements? He originally had them in two tight horseshoes around his music stand for discussion, but he only had AP and pre-AP type classes. I have the pre-AP still, but I also have ALC freshmen, which are two lovely ends of the spectrum. (I have the honors juniors, is what I essentially found out! And the kids that are in more need than the juniors I taught at This High School.) I don't like the rows, that's for certain. I've never tried pods, as I was too afraid my regular 9's would be too chatty. Maybe it's time.


EWH said...

I count approximately 40 desks...the rows may be your only choice. I arranged and rearranged the table desks in my classroom the first year every way from here to Sunday. It was not only complicated, but I was never satisfied. Last year, I picked a row structure that alllowed me maximum access to maximum students. Save the days when the discussion class needed fishbowl status, it was in those rows all the time. It provided continuity and sanity for both me and mine. Of course, that's just me :-)

I'm so glad you're excited for this new adventure. I'm curious how different it is knowing you'll only be there for 9 months...thoughts to share?

lizardek said...

40 students in one class?? That seems crazy large! I don't think I know...what subject are you teaching? (did I miss that somewhere? It's late) It all looks so big and shiny and READY. Makes me want to play school! :D

ck said...

I'm intimidated looking at that throng of BIG desks soon to be FULL with freshmen?!?!? Aack. I'm pretty scared of the small classrooms of elementary school students who will be my guinea pigs this year. EEEK! Small panic.

KeLL said...

This is very exciting!

Throw out the desks and have them sit on rugs. Well, maybe not.
Remember, we met sitting in rows.