Saturday, December 4, 2010

Visiting my old school

This past week, I visited my old school for the first time since the beginning of the school year. Since I left, the administration changed (AGAIN!) and another school tried to invade the building, but didn't succeed. I have spoken to several former colleagues over the past few months and they have seemed stressed, overworked, you know, the usual. At first they liked the new principal. He was motivated, a hard worker, and had a vision for the school (something that was lacking for the past 5 years). Then, he started implementing changes, radical changes, that seemed to come out of nowhere and happened from one day to the next, and they were all complaining. Now they seem to have adjusted and are back to being content with him. They are motivated to work hard, the children love coming to school, in short, everything has changed for the better over the past 2 months.

From the moment I stepped foot inside the building, I knew things were different. The poster of illegal firearms was removed from the security desk, the walls were painted with inviting colors, there was a banner welcoming you to the school. Hallways that had once been cleared (supposedly due to fire regulations) were now decorated with plants and benches and tables for assessment. There were books on every shelf. The blood smear that had stayed on the sign for the office door for over a year was finally gone. The office was reorganized and decorated for the holidays. There were signs motivating kids to work hard posted in stairwells. This was not the same dilapidated, depressing pit of a school that I left. Instead, it oozed that potential I knew it always had.

I'm happy for my former colleagues that they get to work at such a dynamic school with such a great principal, but I'm honestly a little bit sad that I jumped ship. I can't help but wonder, what if I had stayed? Of course, everyone down to the secretary assured me I still had my old job waiting for me. I even met the principal and had a pretty long conversation with him about all the changes. The truth of the matter is that there was no way to know any of this was going to happen and there is no way to know if it will be sustainable. I left a failing school in every sense, a place where there were wonderful teachers who were literally hanging on by a thread, maintaining the legacy of the school by a thread, a place with a completely incompetent administrator who at the time showed no signs of leaving (he announced his resignation the 3rd week of school). Even had I known he was leaving, I'm not sure I would have been willing to trust that a new principal would be any better. I think if this new principal weren't who he is, the school would have just plummeted into failure and would have been sucked up by a charter school in a snap. Again, we were hanging on by a thread.

I'm happy at my new school. It is a big change for me program and population-wise, but I'm adjusting and I'm learning a lot. I also feel that I have a lot to contribute at my new school, especially in designing curriculum for the ELL students. My administrators are competent and hard-working. They push teachers to be reflective in their practice and encourage us to adapt curriculum to meet the needs of our students. I'm also happy in my classroom. I do not miss that old building at all. I love having a bathroom and a kitchen in my room. I love the closets and the central air. I love my books. My students present new challenges (many of them are in their "own world"), but I'm happy to see them every morning and I really feel like the class is finally starting to come together.

It's impossible to know how things are going to turn out. I took a risk and in many ways it paid off. It's just sad that one administrator can make so much of a difference. It's great for the schools that have great principals, but horrific for those that don't. I guess I'll see how I feel at the end of the year. I think my fiance would probably be horrified if I even suggested going back to my old school, since he's lived with all my stress and supported me through a bad situation for the past 5 years. I knew when I took this job that it didn't necessarily mean that I would have to be in it forever. I guess change is good.

No comments: