Thursday, October 16, 2008

End of quarter

The first quarter of the school year has ended. My relief at surviving the beginning is matched only by my astonishment at how quickly the time has passed. As is typical of starting any new job, it has taken me this long just to feel comfortable in my role as science teacher. It is only this week that I am able to plan ahead one week. At the beginning, it was by the hour!

It has been quite a struggle getting used to the strict schedule: No more leisurely strolls to the restroom whenever I feel the urge, or to linger at a colleague’s desk to discuss strategies. Generally, I’m running between classes just to show up on time.

Reflecting on the first nine weeks, I find that as usual, I am “behind” in at least one class, Biology, when compared to the other course teachers. I tend to take my time when involved in helping students understand key concepts, especially those that are complex, in this case evolution. I don’t like to hurry through them, just to be “on time.” This has caused some problems with colleagues in the past, and I’m sure that it is the same here. But, I can’t worry about that. Surprisingly, I am pretty much on schedule with my advanced Biology class, a two-year course, and with my ninth grade Physical Science classes.

The students are wonderful. They are inquisitive, energetic, and for the most part, respectful of the learning environment and of each other. I have no discipline problems, which is a blessing. I had expected that, however, as most are Asian, coming from a variety of cultures, all of which place great emphasis on respect for adults, especially teachers.

My greatest challenge has been the inability to communicate convincingly enough the unprofessional nature of my assignment. The school has one more science teacher than available rooms, and as the latest hire, I am the traveling teacher. They call me the “floating” teacher, and I refer to myself appropriately as the “floater,” which I feel adequately reflects the nature of the position. I have been a persistent, although respectful, thorny voice in the administration’s side. I have learned that there are at least four available classrooms in the school, and although none are equipped as a science facility, it would do nicely for consistency, not to mention time efficiency. I have yet to hear a reasonable answer as to why I cannot use one of them (Three are in the elementary building, one is in the English Intensive study building). To underscore the difficulty I have trying to work at my desk (I call it the “orifice”), which is in the noisy teacher's lounge, I recently plopped myself down in the administration office, ipod and all, to grade tests. No response (the avoidance was actually quite humorous to behold), so I will just have to visit often. I have a feeling that my gentle persuasion will pay off. Apparently, I am the first “new” science teacher to make a fuss. That’s what one gets when one hires a veteran educator: The others have been young and therefore hesitant to speak their minds about it. When I hear others rationalize the situation ("Other new science teachers have gone through it."), I reply that it doesn't require that it become a tradition, particularly an ill-conceived one.

I do remind myself that this is my “retirement” job, and I am happy to be in a quality school with good people surrounding me. I am also fortunate that Kat and I have found a wonderful house in an interesting Thai neighborhood, and that we have opportunity to explore this fascinating part of the world. For now, we will spend a quiet week on an island in the south of Thailand, and try to not spend too much time thinking about work.

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