In other rooms, other wonders

I checked in with Romola yesterday via e-mail.  She hadn’t seen her room schedule and was surprised to discover, when she looked at it, that she is scheduled for all of her classes in our room, including one that looked like a conflict with a class I had scheduled in there.  So I checked my room schedule again, and things had changed: now I have one class in our room, but as I wished in my last post, my (now three) nomad classes are, in fact, all in the same room.  (This strikes me as another example of the general excellence of the person who does the scheduling and room assignments–she tends to notice this kind of thing, and to be responsive and clear about what she can and can’t do, and why, when we discuss it with her.  I’m remembering, actually, a conversation in which I asked if it would be harder scheduling Romola and me w/r/t the room this year since we wouldn’t be teaching multiple sections of the same grade.  She thought it would, but she said she’d try to minimize disruption.)

The teacher whose room this is–let’s call her Gwendolen, in keeping with my robbing of George Eliot characters–is a very gentle, soft-spoken soul who must be about thirty.  I think she came to SA more or less straight out of college, though she might also have picked up an M.A. on the way, and she’s been here–well, longer than I have, but not that much longer, so seven years, perhaps?  I mentioned her in passing in the room post: she’s the one who teaches half (or it may be more than half) of her classes in the middle school, and she goes over there to do that (also pretty destabilizing, I’m sure).  Last year she had those classes in Dorothea‘s room, and that freed up her room to be a catch-all for those of us who share rooms–at least three classes met in there, including Dorothea’s ninth-grade class.  (Dorothea, by the way, came to SA after me but has her own room because she’s primarily a middle-school teacher, and they do have their own rooms over there.)

I like Gwendolen–she’s intelligent, and thoughtful, and I know her middle-schoolers adore her (the Snork Maiden didn’t have her, but you know, I hear things).  I do see her as a little passive and unwilling to stand up for herself, which perspective is making me unwilling to complain in any way that might be detrimental to her.  And when I look at Romola, who to be absolutely fair should probably have to leave the room as often as I do, or more, because I have seniority, I see someone who is still struggling a bit to get established at SA, and whom it might do good for once to get the long end of the stick, so to speak.

And it does occur to me that this might be an occasion on which it would behoove me to be a good sport about the room thing.  Right now, there’s no way of making a room magically appear; any solution that would make me a little more comfortable (moving some of my classes back to Romola’s and my room; moving an extra desk into Gwendolen’s room) would also be to the detriment of Romola and/or Gwendolen.  Rather than inflicting my problem on my colleagues (who are also all affected, in varying ways, by the space crunch), perhaps better to recognize this as a departmental issue, which it is. We share space more than any other department, and even those of us with our own rooms are affected by having other people barge into those rooms to teach in them.  We need another room; it just happens that this year I am (probably) the person who will suffer most from this situation, and next year, if it isn’t fixed, it will be someone else.

I think that my response should be:

  1. Transform this lemon into the lemonade of getting to know Gwendolen better, which I’ve never been able to do up to now.
  2. Be glad that indeed I have only one other space to go to, and explore ways of sharing the space that aren’t too intrusive to Gwendolen but maximize my comfort level and the usability of the room.  For example, Gwendolen definitely has a year-long American literature class, so maybe she and I can collaborate on a bulletin board that I can use for my AP/American lit classes.  And I should definitely figure out which classes are in that room before and after, and what kind of setup/changeover of desk arrangements might be possible.  I don’t want traditional rows for two of these classes–I’d like a semicircle, or a two-row semicircle if there’s not room to make a large enough semicircle.
  3. Frame this situation–to Dr. Tea, our current chair; Elinor, our presumptive heir to the chair; and the relevant administrators, when I have the opportunity–as a departmental issue that is causing us to be less effective, or to work harder to be effective.  Keep the issue on the table as something to be dealt with.  There’s going to have to be some moving when Elinor becomes chair anyway, I think, as she currently shares a room (with the new hire, Dinah, I assume).
  4. When I have my evaluation meeting in which the high-school head tells me how awesome I am and I tell him how much I love working here (which is how it’s gone for the past four years), and he asks what the school can do for me to help me do my job: this is it.

All righty then.  Time to go get cleaned up and head in for Super Monday.  Looking forward to writing about the experience of mentoring a new teacher (not Dinah, someone in another department–I think this is unusual, but that department is very small, and contains a) a chairperson and b) someone who was hired a year ago.  Also, the new person does not have a deep high-school background, so I think the idea was to put her with someone who made the transition and lived to tell.

Lived to tell, but not in her own room, that is.


2 responses to this post.

  1. You’re being an extremely good sport about the room situation! I’m glad that at least you have only two rooms to float between rather than three, but it does sound strange to me that you have only one class in “your” room and three in the other room. At that point, shouldn’t the “other” room be “your” room, especially if Gwendolyn already has her own room over in the MS? Or maybe I’ve gotten confused about who goes where.

    Didn’t you all move into a brand-new building last fall? Was it built too small from the get-go, or is the English department unusual in its requirements? (We have a bit of that too, since the English department at FGS has more part-time folks than any other department. Plus we have some of the largest rooms, which I love, but not quite enough of them, which is altogether less love-able.)

    But of course I don’t mean to discourage your making-lemonade-out-of-lemons attitude, which is most admirable!


  2. Posted by meansomething on August 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Hey, WN. Yes, this is a new building! And we are a large department–I think the root of the problem may be that we got allocated the same number of rooms as, say, history or math, but we have more teachers. And THAT is partly because English teachers have, on average, a slightly lighter schedule: normal for us is 9 semesters (so, 4 & 5), while other departments have 10 (5 & 5). And we are probably slightly more likely than other teachers to get a course release for something like the literary magazine (which is my situation this year: 4 & 4, plus the lit mag, equals 100%–though in some years, they’ve needed to put that on top of the regular load and paid a stipend). I have probably contributed to the problem, too, by teaching less than 4 & 5 pretty consistently–I’ve only done that “full” load one year.

    I think the lemonade attitude really serves me, and all of us, best. I’m not unaware, either, that I will be perceived as a good sport and a team player, which is definitely a goal here. There’ll be times to act like a diva, as Flavia described recently ( ), but this isn’t one of them.


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