Ready or not …

schoolI went into my school yesterday. I figured that since I technically start getting paid as of September 1st, then September 1st would be a reasonable day for me to go in for the first time this school year. We’re starting school relatively late this year, on September 8th, so this would still give me lots of time to get all ready for the kids. This way, I would actually not be working for free, was my thinking.

Just so you know, teachers in the public school system (here, at least) are on a monthly salary. We are required to be at our place of employment each day 15 minutes before school starts till 15 minutes after school ends. Other than that, we choose when we put in the time necessary to prepare lessons, materials, coach teams, run clubs, etc. Some teachers arrive early in the morning. Some stay late in the afternoon. Some cajole the custodian to let them back in the school during the evening or weekend. Some work mainly at home. But we all put in the time. We have to. During the school day, we’re teaching. We have to have stuff ready to teach, we can’t just wing it (although, to be fair, sometimes we can – it just doesn’t work that well).

It is the rare teacher who does not show up a week or two before school officially begins, ostensibly to set up their classroom and prepare materials that they know they will need. This is especially important if you are changing the grade level or subject that you teach, the school at which you teach, or (and this one applies to me) you have had to move classrooms within the same school.

imagesI had already transported my furniture and boxes to my new room last June. I have so little shelf space that I had left most of the boxes just sitting on the tables. I had put away some stuff in the one armoire-type cupboard. I had placed the furniture and area carpet where I wanted them. Then I closed the door, locked it, and left for the summer.

And yesterday I returned. To a classroom with furniture all piled up in a corner. To boxes piled here and there. To a disconnected telephone. To a carpet tossed in the middle of the room. To a missing computer desk and a missing computer. To the wrong chairs stacked by the door.

So I had to begin again. I spent an hour hunting down the missing desk and computer (someone had placed them in the classroom next door, for some reason), then finding the right chairs and trading them for the wrong ones. I carefully rearranged all the furniture – then rearranged my desk and the computer desk again to minimize the glare on the computer screen. I reconnected the phone and set up a new password on its voicemail system. I gave away a bunch of books to our new Grade 1 teacher – and a rolling bookshelf to hold them all. I set up a laptop computer station for the kids to use in one corner, complete with that area carpet and two big screens for privacy from the rest of the room. I also broke two of those plastic sticks that are used to adjust mini-Venetian blinds.

I worked really hard. And it’s not like I haven’t been working hard moving boxes and furniture over the past several days anyway!

I got kicked out at only 3:30 in the afternoon, because the custodians wanted to secure the school early. No problem, I thought. I’ll have the rest of the week to try to do something with all those boxes and to properly organize my desktop and deskdrawers and my lone cupboard.

This morning, the school secretary phoned me. She told me that there were maintenance people working in my hallway, and that they had requested that no teachers whose classrooms were in that hallway come in today so that they could do whatever they have to do more efficiently. And they may need us to stay out tomorrow too. And perhaps even Friday. But next Tuesday, the first day of school for the kids, should be fine.

Well. I guess I should have gone in last week and worked for free.


21 responses to “Ready or not …

  1. You take me back to my teaching days, you do. I am happy that Labor Day weekend now has no more meaning than any other long weekend. May you have a good year in this time of being stiffed by Big Brother in Victoria.

  2. petrichoric – You’d be surprised how attached even high school kids get to their teachers. And in high-needs schools, even more so. They would just rather die than show it, though!

  3. I want to teach in a high-needs high school eventually, so I’m not really sure how many of those little faces will be smiling and happy to see me at first! 🙂

  4. This has been a weird week for me. First, I blogged about cats – and then all random blogs I clicked on were about cats – and then I blogged today about teaching, and I clicked randomly on your blog, and you’re a teacher, too!

    I just dropped out of my alternative teacher certification program (long story… I do intend to train again, but elsewhere) and it’s very depressing to read all about how many unpaid hours teachers have to put in, and how much of their own money they have to shell out for supplies.

    A friend of mine who used to be a teacher left her old school to seek employment in a brand new school, and had to pay to put all her classroom stuff in storage during the summer because there was nowhere for her to put it, as the construction of the new school wasn’t yet finished! I don’t see why teachers should have to pay for things like that when they earn so little money already.

    It’s such a shame teachers get a bad reputation sometimes, as it’s an incredibly difficult job.

    I admire you, and I hope I’ll get to teach too eventually.

    • Hi petrichoric – thanks for visiting! I was once told that teaching is a career, not a job, and I believe that. That’s why, I think, we get paid a salary (like the true professionals we are) rather than an hourly rate, because one can’t really say that in “x” amount of hours, everything is done. It never is, there’s always something more that can be done, because we’re dealing with kids. That being said, after a while, most of us learn to use those after-school hours to prepare more efficiently so that it’s not a 24/7 career, to not spend our own money on teaching supplies, and to work within the system and its constraints. Most of us do learn to turn it off and leave it at school, then to go home and really BE home. Some teachers can’t (or maybe won’t?) do that, but I’ve been teaching a long time, so I’m good at it. If you have the right attitude, teaching really is a great job, and where I live, the salary isn’t so bad. And after all, how many workplaces are there where you go in each day and are greeted by something like 25 smiling little faces that are genuinely happy to see you??

      Best of luck in your pursuit of a teaching career!

  5. Holy crap that sucks… these things are NEVER found early. My sister is a Grade 8 teacher. I don’t know how you all do it.

    You rock. And good for you not to stress over something you can’t change. Go with the flow; everything will work out eventually.

    • Maureen – I am surprising myself with how zen I am being about the whole situation. Normally, I would at the very least bitch and moan about it, but this time I’m finding it rather comic. No anxiety dreams either, so I must be doing something right!

  6. Sounds stressful! But I hope you have a great school year! 🙂

  7. I’m with Violetsky – why did they wait until now to start thinking about all this crap? Is school opening going to be delayed now or will the kids all be issued gas masks?

    • XUP – This morning’s latest is that now they’ve found more vermiculite dust in other areas of the school, so all the carpets everywhere will now be replaced and depending upon how bad the dust is, more heavy duty cleaning will have to be done in those other areas too. Despite this, they are insisting that school WILL open on Tuesday as scheduled, but possibly without some carpeting in classrooms. No word on gas masks yet.

      And Dawn, that’s the truth! Bffffft! (to paraphrase Lily Tomlin’s Edith Anne)

  8. And Capricorns never lie.


  9. What a pain for you! Why is it that they have a whole summer to get works done and they are STILL at it the day before school begins? Hope you get it sorted….
    And whats that about capricorns looking younger?? I am a capricorn too! Hmmmmm….

    • justme – There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m choosing to not stress about it. Isn’t that adult of me?!? And yes, we Caps are apparently astrologically programmed to look younger – Dawn and I say so!

  10. aaaarrrrgh – they just found the vermiculite dust NOW?? Looks like the kids will have fun redecorating.

    • VioletSky – Yeah, they had all summer long to find it, but no. They waited until six days before school starts. I think I’ll blame the provincial government. Or maybe global warming.

  11. I was going to be a teacher and, in fact, completed the first year of a teaching degree. The more I talk to teachers (or read their blogs) the more I’m glad I changed my mind. You people are saints. You put up with a lotta crap and I don’t mean from the kids.

    Just read your Dec 24/08 post. (Gotta read the archives and get caught up.) And I think we have the same birthday (but I’m a year older). We also share the Capricorn thingy of looking younger. That’s not what I see when I look in the mirror, but I get enough comments to think it’s what others see. Either that, or I’m surrounded be compulsive liars. Either than, or everyone around me has VERY bad eyesight.

    Good luck getting the classroom set up (AGAIN).

    • Dawn – Every job has its own crap, though, doesn’t it? I just never thought I’d be dealing with vermiculite dust and multiple furniture moves in addition to the crap. And yeah, that Capricorn thing of looking younger is weird, isn’t it? I used to read it in horoscopes and scoff, but now that I’m middle-aged, I wonder if there might be something to it. I know quite a number of Capricorns who all look much younger than their birth certificates claim, so who knows?

  12. meh, have the kids do the work on Tuesday…

    • Jazz – I just got an email from my principal telling me that a massive cleanup is now going on in the classrooms in my hallway because dust has been found in the heating vents that contains vermiculite, which has an asbestos component. Apparently this means that they have to remove everything from the classrooms in order to clean and replace the carpets, thoroughly clean the walls, ceilings, light fixtures, AND the furniture itself. So I’ll get to rearrange my furniture a third time. But I doubt it’ll all be done by Tuesday now.