August 29, 2011

Back to School... Kinda

I'm back from an amazing weekend in Green Lake, Wisconsin with my roomie and friends (more on that later) and finally have some time to catch ya'll up on what I've been doing.

I spent the better part of the past two weeks helping out my dear friend, Carolyn. For those that don't know, she was my coworker last year when I taught ELL, and I did her maternity leave over the winter months. Carolyn knew she was going to have a busy summer soaking up the sun with her beautiful little boy, planning her early August wedding, and moving her classroom to a new school (again!). What she didn't plan on, though, was that she'd end up in the hospital on three separate occasions with mouth infections from dental work.  Except for the week she was in Florida for her wedding, she spent the last month of her summer in the hospital or recovering at home.

Needless to say, Carolyn needed some help with her classroom, so I was called in for reinforcement. And when the doctors ordered her to the hospital for the third time, I was on my own. Her classroom was littered with roughly 100 boxes of her supplies and old curricula (the result of too many directors in too few years), and I was tasked with making sense of those items and preparing the room for the school year.

Organizing is one of my favorite activities, but it's much harder to do this for someone else, especially when they are cut off from communication, per the doctor's orders. It's a good thing I was in her classroom last year and had at least an educated guess on what most things were and where to put them. I wanted Carolyn to be able to walk in on her first day and not feel overwhelmed. The start of the year is stressful enough without having to worry about where your things are. 

And then, when the doctors told Carolyn she'd need to be on bed rest for the first week of school, she asked me to step in and start the year for her. This meant, we assumed, going to all of teacher meetings on the days before the year began so I could take notes for her and collect any paperwork she needed. She said she spoke with the principal and that he knew I was coming. So, on Monday morning, I awoke to my alarm at 6:30 to head to the first institute day. I spent four hours in meetings about people I didn't know and things that were completely irrelevant to me, simply because I though this was the expectation. And then I spend the afternoon finishing up the setup and decoration of her classroom so it would be ready for the first day. And, I learned at the very end of the day, I was not getting paid until the students arrived. So the multiple days of work I had already put in... nada.

I wish someone at the administration level had seen her classroom before the hours I spent in there. There is no way they would've let kids come into that room on the first day. It was nearly impossible to navigate the room let alone learn in it. How can they justify not paying me for the time I spent there? It's ridiculous!

So, I took Tuesday off to rest (and attempt to regain my voice) and started again Wednesday with the students. I spent three days learning about them and trying to establish some routines and expectations. I got to see some familiar faces, which was nice for me and also for our students (who moved to this new school with the entire ESL department). I hope I made the transition easier for everyone.

Carolyn is back at school today and already called to tell me how great the classroom looks. At the end of the day, I know I made a difference for her, my friend. And that matters to me more than anything.

For me, today marks the day I begin stalking the substitute website looking for jobs. I will continue to apply for full-time positions and maternity leaves as they pop up, but they are much more sporadic now that the year has begun. This year, I'm going to concentrate on building relationships at the schools where I'm working so I can, hopefully, get my foot in the door as opportunities arise.

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