Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Not in Kansas anymore...

Ever moved to a new city? If you’ve not been through this, it’s quite an experience. Originally from the coast, moving to this area about ten years ago turned my whole world upside down. The interstates are much more complex here than they are down South, so it was difficult to navigate. Well before GPSs and Google maps, I literally could not even make it to the grocery store without calling for help. I didn’t know the tornado culture of Birmingham at all, and had an all-out panic attack when suddenly one Wednesday morning sirens erupted in our neighborhood. Another aspect that made the move difficult was starting over again on friends. It was hard to know who to trust and who could be counted on. These are things that only time could help.    

Transitioning to a new school this year has been very similar to a geographic move. Having spent the past five or so years at a quaint little elementary school (and the five or so years before that at another heftier elementary school), middle school has been a new adventure for me in more ways than one!

The first order of business has been figuring out the people. Who works here and where are their classrooms? The school website has been a great resource for determining who is in which department and which grade level. Using this information, I created email groups in my contact lists to ease communication with them. This has helped me begin to memorize who teaches what and in what grade levels they belong.

I believe that one of the single most powerful indicators of becoming successful in a new environment is learning the culture. The “hidden curriculum,” so to speak. When I’ve been accustomed to working with one administrator and now there are three, who do I go to about what? How does the copier work and what are the rules? Where is the faculty restroom? When do I have bus duty and what are the procedures? How does the financial secretary prefer me to submit paperwork and book fair money? I’ve never had to submit grades or attendance before, so how do I log in to iNow, set up my grade book, and post grades and attendance? What is a department meeting and in which department do I belong? These are only a few from the eternal list of questions that have flown around my brain this year.

Next, because I know that understanding what the teachers teach is the springboard to collaboration, I began reading and reviewing the curriculum for each grade level. I miss being able to know exactly when the 4th grade teachers are going to cover certain objectives in their social studies curriculum, and exactly when the 2nd grade teachers cover the life cycle of a butterfly. My first attempt to fix that has been to print courses of study from ALEX and organize them into a nice, neat binder. I read and reread those standards every chance I get, in hopes to know it like the back of my hand like I did the K-5 curriculum. It is helping to initiate some dialogue with the faculty about teaching lessons with them.   

Also important has been adjusting to the library facility itself. At first I was frustrated because I could not print (all devices were disabled as we were setting up 21 new desktops) and couldn’t find scissors, paper, pens, tape, etc. An abundance of basic supplies were HERE, I just couldn't find them. It has taken some time to discover and reorganize to suit my own style and preferences. I also have several maps scribbled out as a guide for rearranging the main library space. That will take some time for sure, but I would like to accomplish minor renovations as I settle in and make the place my own.

Other differences for me this year have been learning the quirks of the equipment at this school, how to manage student aides, and dealing with the incredibly destructive nature of middle school students. (Seriously, why do they break everything?!) A few months into my move, everything seems so incredibly difficult that I kept wondering if I had made a mistake. The kids were great, the teachers were great, the administrators were great…it just didn’t feel like home yet.

With all these adjustments, though, over time I have grown to really love my new school. I’m still learning and trying to figure things out, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come. But…it is beginning to feel like I just might belong here after all. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Michelle! I had the opposite experience of moving from a high school 12th grade English teacher to middle school. No one can really imagine all of the changes. You should post again on this topic sometime and give us an update!