When it comes to teaching, I suppose you could say I've had my share of ups and downs. The ups are what keep me in the career, and yes, there have been enough of them that I keep on fighting to do what I do because I know I'm meant to do it. The downs have included some hair-raising situations, like a principal in Stockton or a school owner at Brookfield who both felt I couldn't do anything right. The downs, of course, don't make me all that confident in my abilities.
I woke up last Monday with some dread. A last-minute call from transportation on Friday afternoon had me thinking I might have to cancel my April choir tour. How would I face my kids and tell them, "There are no buses. We can't go"? What would the bosses think? How incompetent does someone have to be to completely screw up planning a choir tour to Anaheim?
On top of that, I had my second formal observation happening this week, which entails two lesson observations and a post-evaluation meeting a couple of days later. So The Bossman would be in my room on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I'd be in his office on Friday, rehashing.
My fall eval went very, very well. He had basically no negative feedback and only a few small suggestions to help me grow as a teacher. But still, I have had those previously-mentioned downs, and I have a hard time--often--believing that any boss can find what I'm doing satisfactory.
So yes, on Monday, I was mentally putting on my suit of armor to face the week down, expecting drama, insanity, and endless stress. But I forgot one very important thing:
I'm not working in Stockton anymore, and I'm certainly not dealing with the owners of Brookfield.
After Friday's panic-inducing call from Transportation, I sent a Facebook message to my colleague, Lynn. Lynn is the band teacher, and we've developed a nice friendship over the last six months. I value her opinion and advice, as well as her humor and camaraderie. She immediately responded, talking me down from the ledge of cancellation and telling me, "We will put our heads together on Monday. Do NOT cancel your tour." And it was that--not the initial call from Transportation--that had me bursting into tears as I realized I'm surrounded by a lot of really awesome people these days.
So Monday dawned. I did my usual trip to the gym, hoping a blast of endorphins would keep me from bursting into messy sobs when I got to school.
Once there, I talked to a couple of people about options, then sought out one of the assistant principals who is in charge of the transportation stuff on our site. As I approached the desk of the A.P.s' secretary, tears were forming in my eyes. She took one look at me and practically threw her tissue box at me, so by the time the A.P. got back to his office, I was nearly in full-blown Hot Mess mode. Thankfully, not quite.
He took one look at me and ushered me into his office, where I told him what happened and how I was terrified I'd have to cancel my tour. I figured he'd just smile kindly and say, "Oh...I don't know what we can do..." but, again, I forget sometimes where I work these days.
Ten minutes later, I left his office, still sniffling but smiling hugely at his confidence that this is not the death of my choir tour, only a cause to rearrange our transportation options. "We will make this work," he told me. And we will.
With all of this going on, when Tuesday rolled around I was nearly hyperactive with nerves as The Bossman walked into my room to watch my lesson. I'm a (mostly) high-energy kind of teacher anyway, always moving, even when I am stuck at the piano teaching notes, talking rapidly, talking loudly, being funny. I never know if an administrator will love that or hate that about me, but it turns out that The Bossman loves it. Later in the day, I'd receive and email from him telling me that he absolutely loved what he saw in my lesson, how engaged my students were in the lesson, and that he looked forward to coming to Wednesday's class, though, "I won't stay the whole period." It turns out that playing a wrong note, rolling my eyes and saying, "Someone please remind me that there's a G-sharp in this song," then receiving half a dozen giggles and, "There's a G-sharp in this song, Ms. Cooper" in reply, doesn't count against a teacher at this school.
I love that.
I woke up on Monday thinking it would be A Very Bad Week, indeed, and it just...wasn't. It wasn't an easy week by any means--I still have to sort out transportation for my tour and I don't care how awesome The Bossman is, I'm still going to be nervous in a formal observation. It was a busy week, with a lot of stuff needing to get done, and a lot of piano lessons to teach. I don't have a lot of "me" time on weekdays, which can be exhausting to me.
But it simply wasn't anywhere near as trying as I feared it would be. And that's how I know I'm in the right place.
On Friday, I met with The Bossman for our post-eval meeting. His feedback was positive, encouraging. He recommends me for continued employment, and the formal paperwork that will go in my personnel file at the district office is glowing. He praised my rapport with my students, and the way I ask for their feedback.
"Some of their ideas are a little out there, but you always consider them, and that's good."
"Believe me, they come up with some ideas that I know will sound awful, but I always let them try it and learn that for themselves."
My status at GB is still temporary--the previous teacher never resigned her position, but rather took a leave of absence. She wants to continue it for one more year (she teaches at another school in the district), leaving me still on temporary status rather than the tenure track. It sucks, but there's not much I can do except keep growing the program and making it my own so that she won't want to come back.
As I stood up to leave The Bossman's office, we addressed a conversation we'd had about this a few days before. I told him, "You know, after we spoke on Tuesday, my immediate reaction was to feel stressed and a little upset."
"I know, and I'm sorry to throw that on you."
"No, I need to know, and I'm glad you are keeping me informed. Here's the thing. After I let myself get a little upset, I looked around that room, and I realized something. This program is mine."
The Bossman barked out a laugh. "I like your attitude."
I just smiled at him. "It's mine. I'm working so hard to build this, and give me another year, and if she tries to take it back, there will be drama from the community. I will fight for it."
And this, my friends, is exactly why The Bossman wants me to stay.