Seniority Troubles

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by allaragallagher, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. allaragallagher

    allaragallagher Comrade

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    Aug 23, 2016

    Hi all.

    I work at a tiny school (100 or so kids) and am starting my third year of teaching. My coworker resigned last year, making me the senior teacher of my department. However, we really don't have "departments" here. We had no collaboration so I've put together everything I have on my own. At workshops, she played on her iPad while I mapped out our curriculum. I am making headway but it's been a slow process. Fast forward to this year and the new hire (a retired English teacher/long-term substitute) has 20+ years of experience on me. When she was hired, I was able to sit down and show her a syllabus for each class, as well as a list of available books to teach. In my three years, I've taught every grade level within my certification except one. That's about it, though.

    I told her there is a lot of freedom here, which makes her very uncomfortable. She wants me to tell her when, where, and how to teach vocabulary. The same goes for grammar and spelling. She has asked about a department grading policy and recommended reading lists. We have none of these things. I completely understand that she is just trying to be respectful and treat me like the senior teacher, but the truth is: I have no say in what you do in your classroom. You want to teach that book? Teach it. I do not have a curriculum to share with you besides my own. You create your own grading policy, though I shared with her how I do it. I do not teach vocabulary/spelling/grammar individually, but instead we explore these within other units. I tried the 'Monday-grammar-Tuesday-spelling-Wednesday-words' thing and it just didn't work for me.

    She seems a little lost without me handing down the law and now I'm thinking I need to start crafting these policies. What do you think? What do you (if you're the senior teacher) take upon yourself to have mapped out when it comes to your subject? I've told her things like: Well, I would like all grades to read at least one Shakespeare play. Should I be more specific than this?
     
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  3. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Aug 23, 2016

    I teach in a large English department that has very little in the way of shared policies or curriculum aside from some agreed-upon "core texts" for each grade. Each teacher has complete freedom to teach what, when, and how in their classroom, as long as they are teaching the standards and the core texts. I personally found this overwhelming at first, but at the same time, I appreciate the freedom and the room for creativity. I would caution against creating department policies if you don't see a need aside from this one teacher's need for structure/hand-holding.
     
  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Aug 23, 2016

    It sounds like you have been generous in sharing, and the school size you are talking about is hard to have a one size fits all curriculum. I would suggest you give her some vague goals, and then be her sounding board, as she goes about bouncing ideas off of you while making her own way. Keep in mind that she was trained in a different era somewhat, and things have changed a lot in the last 10 years, so she may initially be nervous and unsure. Be her friend and share unless it becomes clear that she doesn't want to put in the man hours on her own. Should that become the case, you might suggest to admin that there needs to be more formal curriculum guidelines across the board, as we all have state standards to meet, which change rapidly. That's simply a fact, so it may have escaped admin's attention to date.

    Good luck.
     
  5. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Aug 23, 2016

    Complete freedom is terrifying after years of being given a set curriculum. Why not see if you two can plan as a team so you can give her the benefit of your experience, and you can gain the benefit of her (eventual) innovation and collaboration?
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Aug 23, 2016

    OP, I'm in the same situation as you are, as far how small the school is, freedom with curriculum, etc. The only difference is that I have always been the only English teacher at my school, even now that we've merged 2 schools (the other English teacher quit, so that made things easier).

    If it's not your job to map out curriculum, and create policies, etc, then don't do it, it's a lot of work. This retired teacher with 20+ years of experience is capable of doing that, especially if I was able to do it right out of my credential program. It's overwhelming at first, but them the possibilities are endless and it gets easier.
    I'd say support her, but she should be doing her own work and stop relying on you so much.
     
  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 23, 2016

    Personally, having come from schools that had such policies and curriculum, I can see why she might be struggling with this change. When your background has been at schools where these things are outlined, it's a shock to the system to have total freedom with no guidelines. It seems like your school doesn't have these guidelines because it's so small, but most larger schools operate successfully with them... and, frankly, I think those guidelines are important to have.

    In your particular case, I would probably create the policies and curriculum guidelines... not daily lesson plans but general outlines. That said, I don't suggest that you do it alone. I'd suggest that you start a committee, even if it's just the two of you, and work together to put some structure into place. Total freedom isn't necessarily a good thing.
     
  8. allaragallagher

    allaragallagher Comrade

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    Aug 23, 2016

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. I am not against working out some department policies, but I am overwhelmed at the thought of having to take on ALL of what she is asking. We're very similar when it comes to interests, so hopefully we will be able to collaborate on some things and put some structure into place.

    Our grading policy needs to change simply because we are moving towards PBE, so I have to make our rubrics anyway, and mapping out what sort of writing we do when isn't so intimidating. I can even make a recommended reading list. I just can't reintroduce her to teaching as a profession and stay sane at the same time.

    Thanks again.
     
    ms.irene likes this.
  9. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Aug 23, 2016

    I think you are doing fine to help her and shouldn't put too much pressure on yourself to creating policies. Continue your helping and see if others can help as well. Understand this teacher's difficulty, but don't go so far as worrying about having to solve this problem.
     

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