I have never had such a hard time dealing with colleagues than I have this year surrounding the change to our school schedule. A little background first. It all started when our school found out we were under enrollment and in debt over $70k. We needed to cut a position in order to “pay back” the district and the decision to do so was left to the staff and members of our CSC Committee. It came to a vote between cutting the technology or PE to .5 and despite several arguments against, the vote resulted in us losing .5 of our beloved gym teacher who had been here for 12 years. The greif and anxiety began and the task at hand was unsurmountable. Essentially we had three problems going into the scheduling process:
1) ECE (early childhood) is now full time and they were demanding that they be given 40 minutes of planning like everyone else(contractual in our union agreement). This meant ADDING two more blocks of time in the schedule for them which was near impossible without taking the 5 minute passing period out, or combining classes at this time in the year which would cause repetition of specials curriculum already taught. We were also getting conflicting answers from people about what is “Best practice” for ECE specials- some saying 20-30 min was adequate, but just not in the morning during “literacy time” and not in the afternoon beacause they are required to take a 40 min nap!
2)The second problem was equitability. The majority of our staff feels that no teacher should have less or more planning time than anyone else whether specials or classroom teacher. We fit in ECE before by creating a “flex” day where we did not have other classes, but pulled in ECE on that day, and the classes we normally had went to PE. With the reduction of our PE position, thi wasn’t possible and so the fles time was cut also. This resulted in the greatest debate in history over the time that we. as specials, need to plan for 8+ preps, preformances, art shows and the variety of other things we do. I know this is not what most schools have, but we have been used to it for 5 years and change will be hard. (harder on some)
3) The greatest struggle was trying to fit all classes into a PE schedule that was essentially cut in half and teachers arguing and fighting over the afternoon times. We only have our PE teacher MTW mornings and MT afternoons, so the afternon time is at a premium.
So, that’s what I, personally, had to deal with as I was individually given the task of coming up with something in 2 days (over the weekend) so that our new .5 PE teacher could start with a new schedule.
Enter the fallout….
Teachers battling. Friendships broken. Collegiality dissapearing. Tempers flaring. Passion turning to desperation. Grief not being dealt with in a good way.
At this junction, the new schedule I created was tweaked and “livable” for the most part (two weeks) but the Leadership committee (which I was now put on since the former PE teacher held a seat and they needed specials representation) was set to take apart the schedule and create something that would work for the majority and mirror ideals and values set by the staff at the beginning of the year (“How can we be successful?”) I was happy with this new process since it took me, personally, out of the process and put me into a committee driven atmosphere where we were able to brainstrom and come up with things I had never thought of. Given- I would have to sacrifice the “flex” time, since it was made clear that we value equity and teachers were going to grieve to the union about equitable planning time. I was fine with this, but my teammates were not. I tried to advocate for them, but it’s hard when I hold a different opinion and they are not present to defend their positions. The new new schedule(version 3, but named option 2) created common planning time for all teachers including specials, thought it was only 30 min for us and 40 min for them. We made that time up in the afternoon by dismissing our last special 10 min before school was out. We didn’t want to have to “backpack and bus” the kindergarteners anyway. In all, the new option SEEMED fair for everyone involved and I approved it and could live with it. My art collegue could not…
She has been one of my best friends in this school since I started teaching here, but she became completely inflexible when it came to changing anything about our time. She felt like we were being cheated out of planning time and that the classroom teachers were just walking all over us. She was upset about having to squeeze in ECE to two 20 minute blocks back to back since it’s hard for her to set up and clean up after them in shorter than 15 minutes. And all of this was MY fault either because I “made” the new schedule or I was on the teacm who did and didn’t advocate well enough for these things. My hands were tied and I was depressed at the thought of losing my best collegue in the school.
The Art teacher came up with a schedule(option 3) that she thought would save the whole system, but it did not have as much common planning time, kept the block of planning for specials, and thus was not as well recieved by the whole staff, and was subsequently voted out in favor of the “option 2″ schedule. I swear it was like election day… and it got nasty with people trying to lobby for their choices and people willing to quit or throw a huge fit if one or the other schedules were chosen.
OMG. I don’t even know where to type from here, except to say that I’m so done with this. This has been dragging on for 6 weeks and is still not resolved except for our principal saying, we’re going with what the staff voted on Nov. 11th with no more disscusion. (Now she steps in…) The art teacher continues to fight the fight and be bitter, despite the fact that we’ve done all we can do. Our friendship has been destroyed. This has been the most stressful thing I’ve had to go through since my first year teaching. I refuse to let it land me in the hospital like then, however.
I’m stronger now and need to let it go and move on. I’m finding positives in the new schedule despite the fact that I will have less overall planning time. (it’s still ok contractually). I will see the kids more often (28 days in the new schedule vs. 16 days in the current schedule) And that’s, afterall, what I’m here for.
Ironically, in closing, I’m sitting here writing this on one of my last “flex days”. Too bad this time will go away soon, so I won’t have as much time to blog at work;)
Here’s the new, pulled-apart, revised, collaborated, tweaked and cried over final schedule if you want to look it over and comment. Careful, there might be some blood still on it.