How do I survive the year when I've barely survived first semester?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by TeachingInGa, Dec 10, 2018.

  1. TeachingInGa

    TeachingInGa Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2018

    I just started at my current school in August and I have no idea how to make it until May. Some days I think I can handle it but most days I just want to leave my keys on my desk and never come back.
    Let me explain.
    I love teaching. I love my students. I hate where I'm teaching. I'm in a district where turnover is extremely high, especially in my school. It seems like most of the teachers in my school want to quit or plan to quit, and I am no exception. The morale at my school is extremely low and it is overall an extremely toxic work environment. It's difficult to stay focused and positive when it feels like almost everyone in the building is miserable and there isn't enough support to go around.
    Now I'm trying to decide if I should weather the storm until May or if I should try to leave mid-year. I know it's risky to leave a contract, which is why I'm trying to hold on, but the idea of staying at my school for another semester seems almost impossible. It feels like this job is sucking out all my energy and part of me wants to try to get out while I still have any left.
    Has anyone else dealt with this?
    How do you survive a toxic work environment?
    How do you decide whether to leave or stay?
    Is it possible to leave contract without damaging your reputation?
    I desperately need answers, please help!
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
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  3. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    Dec 11, 2018

    What is admin doing or not doing that is making the toxic work environment and low morale?
     
  4. TeachingInGa

    TeachingInGa Rookie

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    Dec 11, 2018

    To be honest, nothing. There is very little administrative support. For example, when there are discipline issues with students (which are frequent) our administration rarely helps. A student can cuss out a teacher or cause a scene in a classroom, get sent to the office, and will be back in the room partaking in the same behavior within a matter of minutes. On top of this, the administration springs last minute meetings, assignments and deadlines on the teachers frequently. We are already exhausted from having overcrowded classrooms and managing an array of behavior issues, the extra work they push us to do can be overwhelming. It's common for exasperation and frustration to be the overall mood of most meetings we attend. Even the veteran teachers look overwhelmed.
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Dec 11, 2018

    I vote stick it out. If you break contract, you may not be able to find another job somewhere else. Start networking so you can move into another position over the summer.

    As far as weathering the storm, I have just a few bits of advice. First, if you know there is a timeline, it makes putting up with crap so much easier. Second, do what it takes to survive with your sanity intact. If admin does the bare minimum when it comes to discipline, then you can't get too worked up over misbehavior. You'll never win that fight so lower your standards, find a line that you're willing to draw in the sand, and leave the rest. Pick your battles. But CYA in the process. Send an email to admin each and every time that a student prevents others from learning in your room. Anytime one student puts another at risk. And use those words. Then, when your scores are low at the end of the year, refer back to your emails. Make comments on your evaluation.

    Basically, do what is best for YOU. You cannot effectively teach in an environment like that, so do what you can to protect your career. And then get out.
     
    LittleShakespeare likes this.
  6. TeachingInGa

    TeachingInGa Rookie

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    Dec 12, 2018

    Thank you so much for the advice. I have been trying to document everything to keep myself protected. I have had several teachers at my school warn me that it is common for administrators in my district to purposely give low scores on evaluations if they suspect a teacher is trying to leave. Just in case that is true, I started documenting as much as possible. I have also been told that unions can help in those situations? I joined one earlier this year but I'm still not sure what I would do if something like that happened.
    Also, is there any advice on how to find a new district and how to get your foot in the door? The districts I want are a bit further from where I live but I'm willing to drive for a job I love. Is there a way to convince schools you are still a good choice even if you don't live nearby?
     
  7. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Dec 12, 2018

    I'm sorry to tell you this, but this part of it is kind of standard, at least in my experience. I have taught at public, private, and charter schools, and it's all overwhelming. Teachers are always overworked and admin* always seems to have their heads....not in their classes.

    *ETA: with some rare exceptions! No offense to the awesome admins who post on here!
     
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  8. TeachingInGa

    TeachingInGa Rookie

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    Dec 13, 2018

    I completely understand that we have a lot of pressure put on us almost everywhere. I knew there would be aspects to teaching I wouldn't enjoy as much as others. There is no such thing as a perfect school and that's OK. What isn't OK is when even the most seasoned teachers in your school look fed up because there are so many issues to worry about outside of the usual stress. It's not just the meetings, it's the overall chaos and disfunction.
    I do like the idea of setting a countdown for myself so I can remember this year won't last forever. However, right now the timeline makes me more nervous than excited because everything is so uncertain.
    I have never worked in another district and I am worried the distance between where I live and the places I want to work will scare off potential employers. Does anyone have experience with moving districts? What is the best way to get an interview with schools you're really interested in?
     
  9. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Dec 13, 2018

    I agree that it's not OK, but I have taught at four schools and this has been the case at all of them. I actually love my current school despite our issues -- I guess it's a matter of finding a place that matches your crazy : )
     
  10. TeachingInGa

    TeachingInGa Rookie

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    Dec 13, 2018

    I understand this happens everywhere, that's not exactly the problem. The problem is we are already exhausted because we are also dealing with things like breaking up fights between students and keeping tabs on who goes to the bathroom because kids get jumped in them. I'm not overdramatizing, this is the reality of the school I'm at. Meetings and deadlines exist at virtually every workspace, I'm not actually complaining about those things. What I'm saying is that by the time we get to these meetings or try to meet these deadlines, we are already completely beat. When I said I work in a toxic environment, I didn't just mean people are stressed. We are exhausted because we spend our entire day keeping the peace between teenagers who think the best way to handle conflicts is by fighting. We are hungry because we don't get a lunch break and rarely get our planning time. We are frustrated because we work in a district with notoriously low test scores and our area's are even lower. And we get minimal support for all of this. Instead, we get the meetings and deadlines on top of all this. I'm not trying to find a school with less meetings. I'm trying to find a school with less violence. I want to work somewhere that hasn't been a scene of drug deals. I want to engage in interactive lessons. Heck, I want to get through a lesson without some kind of crazy catastrophe breaking out in the hall. Am I crazy? Am I asking for too much?
     
  11. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Dec 14, 2018

    No, you're not crazy -- it's possible. I work at a Title One school and drug deals do go down on campus, and fights too, but we have good campus security who deal with 99% of those kinds of issues. I know I'm going to regret typing this, because I am probably about to jinx it, but I haven't had to call security to my room in two years -- but if I do, they are just a phone call away and the kid is gone for the day.

    You're right that it doesn't have to be this way. No school is perfect, but you have the right to teach and feel supported so that you can get through a lesson.
     
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