Crossroads of Humanity

Aug 30, 2013

The Top Ten Reasons I’m Looking Forward to School this Year

The past few school years have been extremely stressful for me. During that time, I never considered leaving teaching, but I actively tried to leave my last school. Sadly, it had nothing to do with the school itself or the school district. It had everything to do with a tyrannical governor who I now fear is setting himself up to run for President in 2016 (Scott Walker's Stealth 2016 Strategy). I've posted about him before, and I'm sure I will again, but for now, I'll focus on the topic of school.

Teaching in Wisconsin became stressful even before I left. Although I was one of the first to leave, I wasn't one of the last. In a district that has always prided itself on teacher retention, a district where it was nearly impossible to get hired as a teacher because hundreds of applicants would apply to every open position, in a district that used to have between 4-20 teacher positions to fill each year, a record 61 new teachers were hired for the 2013-2014 school year. I guarantee, the district is not growing, and new positions are not being created. In fact, when I left, they didn't hire anyone to replace me. Instead, the principal of the school now wears two hats. I highly respect him, and I know he has the kids' best interests at heart, but it shows that educators in Wisconsin are being asked to do far too much.

June 5, 2012 - A recall election took place in the state of Wisconsin, and Governor Scott Walker retained his seat by a small margin. That night, I mailed out resumes to schools in other states as well as Canada. 20 days later, I was lucky enough to interview at the school where I now work.

Last school year was stressful for a completely different reason. I had a lot to learn! We'd moved to a new city with no friends or family nearby. I'm an experienced Montessori teacher, so at least what I was teaching and how I was to teach it was familiar. I had to find that line though. You know the one, the line between the old and the new, the traditions of past years and fresh ideas. On top of all that, the school where I now work was completing the authorization process of becoming an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program school. We were successful, yay! But that certainly meant a steep learning curve for me and an entire month of online training last October while I was still getting used to everything else. It was a crazy time.

Meanwhile, I continued to write and in July, I published my fourth book, a novella about a young woman who is finding spiritual awakening as her life spins out of control. Writing, my family, and the Montessori method were the three things that helped keep me grounded and focused. So without further ado, here are my top ten reasons for looking forward to school this year.

10. I am no longer in Wisconsin, and I have become familiar with and comfortable in my new surroundings.

9. I am comfortable wrapping the IB-MYP philosophy and lesson plan formats around the Montessori curriculum. The philosophies of the two programs are so similar.

In Montessori, we teach the "whole child" meaning we recognize each child for who he or she is as a unique individual. We meet students where they are (academically speaking) and help them proceed at their own pace. We teach multi-grade groups of students in small group lessons using hands on materials and impressionistic lessons. We teach the children to be stewards of this beautiful planet we call home.

Here is the IB mission statement directly from their website:

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.
These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

8. I get to work with a wonderfully supportive staff every day. I am fortunate to be working with a team of people who are some of the most genuine, kind and supportive people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. They all have demonstrated a passion for teaching and honestly care for the children throughout the school and for each other. I kid you not.

7. I have the support of the administration. Again, I kid you not! My principal encourages us to come to him with questions or concerns. No, I do not always agree with his final decisions, but I respect him and know that he is making those decisions after listening to his staff. On top of that, he is a well respected Montessorian who has written numerous articles and even a book about the Montessori philosophy. He also travels extensively educating others about Montessori education.

6. I have planning time every day. This is a practice that is falling by the wayside in many schools. This year, just like last, I'll have anywhere from 1/2 hour to over an hour every day for prep and planning. Any teacher will tell you that prep time is just as important as having the time to teach.

5. Field trips! I love field trips! We go camping twice a year, once in the fall (focus on team building) and once in the spring (focus on celebration). The sixth graders go to New York City as part of the Montessori Model United Nations program every spring. There are other field trips that pop up as we learn about them, if they tie into our curriculum. And the students often plan their own small group field trips based on independent studies - Maria Montessori referred to these as "Going Outs." Our students also visit a local wetlands and volunteer at a local food bank throughout the year.

4. I have the option to teach after school clubs and summer school based upon my interests, and I get paid by the hour for those extra duties. Compare that to being paid a flat $18.00 per event, no matter the length of the event at my last school.

3. I work with a super diverse population and am looking forward to learning more about different cultures.

2. The parents are caring and supportive. They treat us as professionals and understand that we are all in this together. Our goal? To provide a nourishing educational environment for all of our students, recognizing them as the unique individuals they are.

1. The students! I love learning along with them as I guide students through their studies, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the new dynamics that will develop in my classroom this year.

This is exactly what teaching should be like.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.

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