So I took the summer off from blogging.
Truth be told, I took the summer off from teaching. Other than two planning days at my new school, a couple of planning days with my last Resident (who's got my old job), a couple of furtive glances at first grade teaching manuals, and several classroom purchases, I spent the summer doing other things.
(Sadly, these were neither pleasant or exciting things, and I really must write a successful Fund for Teachers grant for next summer to ensure a delightful adventure from which I return rested, revived, and in possession of a wide variety of commemorative cocktail swizzle sticks.)
Anyway, I've been back in the thick of it since the last week in July, during which I moved into my new classroom. Moving in has taken up the bulk of the last couple of weeks; in addition to figuring out how to make my stuff fit, I've been throwing out bales of teaching materials left in my new room. (For the morally superior record, I left my old room not only in considerably better shape than I inherited it, with all the materials it was supposed to have and only useful things like double copies of picture books and hand soap extra.) Mostly I enjoy the process. My room will be in the best possible shape to withstand my lack of organizational skill and I have cleared out a lot of things I don't use/was keeping for sentimental value/are great but broken. Still, it's crunch time now and I have a mountain of stuff to trash, not to mention eight thousand things on which to write names, a new set of standards to internalize, and all kinds of questions (where's the copier? Can I throw out the classroom computer with the not-entirely-but-mostly-broken-and-migraine-inducing monitor? Who on earth keeps six dirty terrariums in a closet?) left to be answered.
(Wow, 'tis the season of the run-on sentence.)
Anyway, I have two full teacher work days next week; the other three are a mix of District and site professional development. It could be worse: the teachers I know at the Zone schools get exactly one work day. It could also be better: my colleagues on the west side report that they have three or even four days to dedicate to their classrooms.
This is an example of reverse equity, I think. The reality of SFUSD is that the teachers at Zone schools are less experienced overall and more likely to be new to their sites (or to teaching entirely). These are the people who need more time to set up their rooms, but they get less. Instead, they attend all-day data sessions of arguable utility: K-1 teachers have limited data to analyze (if any), and these data days have been popular for years but don't seem to have done much to improve test scores. They also attend site professional development. I speak from experience when I say that this PD is hard to digest when you're thinking about whether you have enough Bordette and if there's any real fadeless paper left and if the school supplies the school ordered will actually be there on the first day of school and if anyone knows how to replace the laminate and is it true BOTH copiers are broken?
Because of the turnover at high-needs schools, I've found there's often a lot of community building at these site development days, and while community is important, the end result is that the teachers at the school are going to begin the year less prepared and more stressed. Their classrooms will be less ready; they will already be tired out from spending Saturday and Sunday at school.
And the reality of SFUSD is that west side teachers are veterans, likely teaching the same grade level, with little turnover at the site. The teachers spend paid time getting their rooms ready; the PTA may even be able to organize parents to hang that fadeless paper and make copies (not to mention purchase any supplies not yet on site). These teachers begin the year more prepared and less stressed, and can spend the Saturday and Sunday before school starts with their families or at the gym or cooking a week's worth of meals - you know, things that will help them keep their stress down over the year to come.
Preparation for the first day matters. It matters a lot. In our need to make sure those high-needs teachers are ready for the first day, we're leaving them with less time to be ready. That doesn't seem right or wise.