Monday, February 25, 2008

One month later: how the new job is going.

My last blog post was a month ago today. Back then I was still working at Yorkdale Adult Learning Centre, working part-time with no benefits teaching motivated adult learners grade 11 university-preparation-level chemistry. Today I am working full-time with full benefits (and Toronto District School Board benefits, at that) teaching grade 9 applied math, grade 9 applied science and grade 10 applied science to teenagers at Central Technical School...teenagers who, let's face it, have to be in those classes because those courses are mandatory requirements for a high school diploma in Ontario, and who aren't necessarily happy about having to learn anything about math and science (although there are some motivated students in there, don't get me wrong). At Yorkdale, I had a coop student teaching assistant in the two classes I taught (and remember it's an adult school, so the coop student was an adult--and one with many years of teaching experience from her home country); at Central Tech, I have a wonderful educational assistant in both of my grade 9 classes, though I am on my own with my grade 10 class (which is, unfortunately, the one I find the greater challenge...probably partly because it's the only one in which I'm on my own, but also because it's larger and I find the grade 10s more jaded than the grade 9s). At Yorkdale, I only had to prepare and mark assignments for one course; at Central Tech, I have 3 courses to prep for, and since it's a semestered school, that prep has to happen every single day. At Yorkdale, all the teachers in the academic department shared one very large office, whether they taught math or science or English or business; at Yorkdale, I share an office with only one other teacher (also in his first year), although I can go and hang out in a larger office with more people in it if I'm not too busy doing prep (which I usually am). At Yorkdale, I worked on the second floor of a building with no elevator; at Central Tech, I work on the 4th floor of a building that has no working, regularly-accessible elevator (since the passenger elevator is broken and the freight elevator generally isn't available to me, plus I don't have the key needed to call it). It's been interesting watching my body get stronger over the past few weeks because of the workout I get lugging my stuff and myself up and down the stairs several times a day, heh :).

Overall, I'd have to say that despite the challenges that come with working with teenagers, and despite the challenges that come with being a first-year teacher (and new to a school halfway through the school year, at that), and despite the challenge of having 3 different courses to prep for every day, things are going pretty well. Yes, I am overwhelmed. Yes, I am exhausted. Yes, I'm not doing as good a job as I'd like. Yes, I still have to find out where this, that and the other thing is in the school, and how to go about doing this, that, and something else again. However, I have still been getting positive feedback from other teachers I've interacted with as well as from my educational assistant, and when I mark my students' work, I do get a sense that at least some of them are learning something. There have been "moments" with some students that were very positive to make up for some of the "moments" that were less so. On at least one occasion, I successfully showed myself to be a "reflective practitioner" (one of the edubabble buzzwords these days) by picking up on a misunderstanding several people had in one class and designing a lesson that successfully corrected that misunderstanding for most of those students. While I sometimes feel isolated and alone as the new teacher having to deal with classroom management issues I haven't had to deal with before (plus not wanting to look incompetent by advertising my problems to the more experienced teachers), I have made connections with some staff members that encourage me and do give me the chance to vent that I need sometimes (and give them that chance in turn :)). I also get to benefit from the use of workbooks that have been put together for the grade 9 and 10 science classes to keep all the classes consistent regardless of who teaches the course, and even in my math class I am able to pull liberally from a binder and CD of stuff left behind by a teacher currently on a leave of absence, which really helps my prep situation. It also helps when I get a chance to chat with other teachers who are teaching my course and find out that we do seem to be going through the material at the same pace--this helps allay my fears of looking like an inexperienced first-year teacher who takes forever to get through the curriculum. So, yeah, overall there is a lot going well in this new job, though there is still a lot for me to learn and get organized yet.

It also seems that the other staff do trust in my ability as a teacher (whether with basis or not), because today I was asked by the assistant department head whether I'd be interested in teaching night school there as well. This came up basically because he is no longer able to teach his night school class and they are looking for someone to take on a particular course; apparently one of the vice principals suggested I be approached to fill that gap. While part of me would like to take advantage of the opportunity (especially to impress and not disappoint the senior staff), and also knows that I am much more of an evening person than a morning person, and let's face it, also would not mind the extra cash, the more realistic part of me says y'know what, I'm already exhausted without taking on a fourth course to prep. The plan for now is to turn down this offer and focus on doing the best I can with the courses I've already got. Teaching night school would also mean I would be out late on Tuesday and Thursday nights, which are two of the only three evenings Martin and I currently have together as-is (since he works the night shift Friday to Monday). I do want to be able to see my husband sometime, strange as that might sound!

Methinks I have babbled on long enough about how the start of my career is going; if you have questions, please feel free to use the comments to ask them. For now, back I go to planning and marking and such!