Change and Challenge
There’s a quote I know about preparation. It goes something like, “It's important to know when to prepare and when to stop preparing. We will never be fully prepared and we must prepare for that.” Something along those lines. I dunno, I’m pretty wiped and didn’t feel like looking it up. At any rate, the sentiment of unreadiness is what I’m headed towards.
In the months of preparation and planning and visioning for this new school, I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for the week I just had. I believe this was quite possibly the most difficult week of teaching I think I’ve ever had.
I have never been a quickly adaptable human being. I find success in building systems and processes. When change happens it is struggle for me because I work really hard to make sure my systems can shift with the new. It takes me awhile to settle in because I want to make sure my process fits in. I don’t think this is a particularly unique to me scenario, but I’m trying to call it out for awareness’ sake.
It became clear very quickly Tuesday morning that I was grossly unprepared for the week ahead. I had only made it up to my English room Monday afternoon and that was just to setup the desks (of which, to my surprise, a good deal more had been added in a pile in the middle of the room). I realized I wanted to make copies of my Ice Breaker activity and had literally no idea how to print or make copies in my new building. I was stalling out on lesson planning because everything felt so new I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I was paralyzed by so many unknowns. It dawned on me that I was trying to recreate a wheel that I had been rolling on for the last three years, so I opted to go ahead and run with an ice breaker I’ve done since my first year. When in doubt, trust that I know what I’m doing once in awhile.
By the end of Tuesday (a late finish at 4:35) I came to the realization that this week was going to be the longest short week of my life. There was a little comfort in hearing from my colleagues, which I’m making a point to reach out to often and with candor, that they too were struggling and feeling like first-year teachers all over again. The sheer number of systems and habits we are all trying to settle into is overwhelming. Several of us have multiple classrooms to contend with, none of which are without flexible seating options (a beast in its own right). Copiers and printers and their locations and functions. Where do we eat lunch? What is the days schedule (I was mid-lunch on Wednesday when my 4th period showed up ready to start class!)?
The biggest challenge though has been the sudden and pervasive appearance of technology. All of our students were given their own Chromebooks for their work this year. There are new resources (textbooks) for the district, all of which are digital versions for us at Riverdale Ridge. We’ve got a new digital classroom platform to learn in a shift from Google Classroom to Schoology. All of these new elements are definitely positives. I love technology and am rarely hesitant in my tackling of a new tool.
The amount of new has shaken me a bit. The shift to this new technology has essentially wiped a major chunk of pedagogical knowledge from my toolbox. From classroom management systems to personal touches I could make to things have disappeared and I’m drowning trying to find my way. The most frustrating part of this has been the fact that in the first three days of school our internet has been down and the English department has still not been able to regularly and with confidence use our digital texts for whatever unanswered reason. Every time I’ve had the time to sit down and attempt to lesson plan with the new resource, it hasn’t worked for me. I didn’t realize just how inconvenient this was until I had just finished another 10 hour day and exhaustedly sat down to figure out what would be happening the next day. Though my many years of chronic procrastination have made me an excellent punter, I was admittedly a little nervous to wake up for the next day.
Beyond my English classroom, I am having a serious crisis of confidence in myself as a theatre teacher. After four days of attempting to run a theatre classroom, it’s become very obvious that I’ve got a lot of work to do. Thursday morning I was up at 3am combing through my old student teacher documents for what the hell I did to start my theatre classes way back in 2013. Oh yeah, expectations of performance. Oh yeah, beginning, middle, and end. Oh yeah making the room a safe space by talking about expectations. I literally had a moment this week where it dawned on me that I was more than a little rusty in my theatre pedagogy. Wake up, Judd.
This four-day workweek business doesn’t allow for much in the way of after work planning. It’s insane just how exhausted and worn out we’ve all been by the end of these long days. We’ve all noted the sheer inability to do much else after the day is done. Usually when you’re done at 2:30, you’ve got a bit of energy to stay until 4:30 or 5 wrapping up one day and prepping for the next. Now, if you want to stay there longer, you’re hitting 6:30 or 7 before you leave. That is a brutally long day and an even longer week.
I’m also working really hard to find my people. I love my co-workers and we hired a crack team of teachers to open a school. I know it is the adjustment period of a new school year in a new place and we will eventually settle in, but the long days are packed full and this has proved more than isolating for me right now. I go and go and go and at the end of the day I don’t feel like I’ve built a stronger relationship with anyone. My students from Brighton have been emailing me this week. Reaching out to say they miss me. These notes haven’t made things any easier to adjust at RRHS, but they have certainly helped remind me that I do know what I’m doing and that I will find my people. Building is hard.
These are all kinks and I’ve been telling myself they were to be expected in the pursuit of change. A new building and a new community will come with these types of kinks and through the pursuit of our clear purpose, I trust that we’ll get there. Last night was our first football game at the new stadium and I was on the fence about going because I was so tired, but as the energy built I was swept into the fun and the community of the event and ended up staying for the whole game. It was so much fun to play with the student section and get them doing some chants and cheers. I loved seeing students from my classes and their excitement to see me. It was reaffirming and a little bit of a boost. I know that it’s just my adjustment period and I will find my way, but in the meantime, it’s been tough. I hope it settles in soon.