Saturday, September 02, 2006

Last year vs. This year

Last year: Big class sizes, including 48 freshmen in one class for the first two days of school
This year: Big class sizes, including 33 freshmen in one class for the entire year

Last year: Administration told me they would work to correct my schedule: they did
This year: Administration told me they would work to correct my schedule: they didn't

Last year: I have to teach three different classes (English I and II, Learning Strategies)
This year: I have to teach four different classes (English I, II, and III, Learning Strategies)

Last year: Kids constantly testing me, calling me Mr. Gay-bear
This year: Kids know me/know of me, respect me, adore me

Last year: Only white guy on the block
This year: One of three white male English teachers in the school (I get called Mr. Weimer a lot)

Last year: Across the hall from Special Ed, down the hall from Lilly Chang
This year: Across the hall from Jess Wysopal, down the hall from Mr. Weimer

Last year: Broke up a fight every week
This year: Haven't broken up a fight yet

Last year: Lots of detentions and demerits
This year: Fewer major consequences, more copying lines

Last year: I tell my students I am old, late twenties
This year: I tell my students the truth: I'm 24 and beautiful

Inefficient Scheduling

Scheduling is not my school administration’s strongsuit.

This year the schedules of students were still being pieced together into the wee hours of the morning on the first day of school. In the past, the schedules of teachers have not always been determined by the second week of school. I should know: last year I added a section of English I and dropped a section of English II during the third week of the school year. So this year, when my school’s guidance counselor and principal handed me a schedule with four preps and a class of 34 freshmen, I did not panic right away.

Instead, I went to the principal and talked to him rationally. As it turned out, there had been a mistake: there were only 3 sections of English I to accommodate 80 freshmen, but there were 4 sections of English III to accommodate 64 juniors. My principal told me he would tell the counselor to fix the schedule. Reasoning triumphs over stupidity, right. Not quite.

This schedule change was not made. My guidance counselor was so overwhelmed during the first week of school that he asked me to speak with him on Thursday of the second week. He was so full of anxiety that I agreed to wait until next week. After all, I thought, I can handle classes of 30 freshmen, and I can teach four preps for a couple weeks. This proved to be wishful thinking.

When I met with my guidance counselor and principal the next week, they explained that it would be difficult to change the schedule because there were more freshman this year than they had anticipated (they told me they had only expected 75, and there were 79 currently enrolled). This would make adding a fourth section of English I difficult since other classes that were already at capacity could not absorb any more freshman. They also could not eliminate English III, a class I did not teach last year, from my schedule because it would be difficult to move my kids. I told my administrators it would be pretty difficult to teach four different classes, and it would be pretty difficult to have 34 freshmen in a room together. They informed me that technically I was only teaching 3 classes because Learning Strategies, a class designed to help students in need of remediation for the state test, was supposedly a lot like English II. That was news to me. His idea of improving my situation was moving the Learning Strategies students into English II classes and having them learn the same lessons they passed last year. I told him no thanks.

This is going to be a challenging school year. I am teaching English I, II, III, and remedial English. I have huge freshman classes. The good news is that I have better management than last year, and this year’s freshmen are much more mature than last year’s freshman/this year’s sophomores. I was hoping that my second year of teaching would be much easier than my first. Classroom management wise, it will be. But lesson planning will continue to eat up days and hours of my “free time.” This annoys me most because it is completely unnecessary for me to teach English III. I look forward to the day when I work at a school that tries harder to take care of student and teacher schedules in the springtime or summer, rather than during the first weeks of school. Efficiency is something our students need to learn, and our scheduling system does not model anything approximating efficiency.