by Brook Lyn, special education teacher
A teacher’s life can be measured by a long chain of plans. We plan our days, our lessons, even our free time. Teachers spend their lives helping young people plan theirs. I find myself making plans only for them to be altered.
I walked into my District 75 school in Brooklyn on September 3 planning to build my classroom. I planned on entering the building, seeing my roster, seeing my colleagues, and finally designing the room eight students and I will call home for 7 hours a day. I had to re-assemble the furniture, do the bulletin boards, put up posters, and organize my files and the students’ IEP binders.
As I entered the freshly painted red doors, the principal handed me a folder containing an agenda. I visualized the monkey wrench being hurled at my plans, shattering them. The agenda had the usual welcome back presentation and meetings with assistant principals. But after lunch, I expected to see classroom setup on the schedule. All of my careful planning and lists on my Notes app couldn’t prepare me for this… an afternoon filled with a 3-hour meeting.
I had forgotten about the MoSL meeting. I had been selected for the school’s Measures of Student Learning committee, along with four other teachers, to discuss the local measure of Advance [the new teacher evaluation system]. How could I have forgotten about this meeting? I had taken a course given by Charlotte Danielson on Knowledge Delivery Systems in preparation for this team.
After the shock dissipated, my mind wandered to my classroom planning to-do lists. I immediately began thinking about the late nights I would have to work in order to make up for the time I’d be spending in the MoSL committee meeting.
I was anxious throughout the morning sessions and even during lunch. I envisioned the rest of the school having brightly colored bulletin boards and perfect classrooms that were ready for students to explore, while my bulletin boards showed only exposed corkboard. However, my work on the MoSL committee was more important.
Ten minutes before the MoSL meeting, I met my staff. I had one para educator I worked with the previous year and the other two were new to the 8:1:1 setting. I quickly welcomed my paras to the classroom. We briefly chatted about our summers, or rather the two weeks between Chapter 683 and the first day of school. Then, I raced to my meeting.
At 2:50, I made my way back to what I was expecting to be a dreary, bare classroom. I looked through the door’s windowpanes and was shocked to see one para standing on a chair hanging yellow bulletin board paper, a second para laminating the desk plates I bought for the students, and a third para stapling the borders around the perimeter of the bulletin boards. The desks were in the neat rows I had planned, the classroom library was organized, and the computers were reconnected.
I planned every minute of my day, but I didn’t factor in collaboration. I’m always the person others count on. It was refreshing to feel like I could count on them. They exceeded my expectations and set a tone of cooperation for the year. All of my plans didn’t prepare me for teamwork.
Brook Lyn is the pseudonym of a special education teacher in Brooklyn. If you’d like to submit an entry for the New Teacher Diaries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.