The duckling gets a cookie!?

You wouldn’t be able to tell from this blog, but I have spent a lot of time on the room problem.  On the one hand, I am managing okay.  My classes are going well, and I’m functioning with a fair bit of efficiency when it comes to moving myself and my things in and out of the three different rooms in which I teach.

On the other hand, it takes extra time and extra brainpower to make all this work. My students and I move desks every day, always at least twice, and some days up to six times.  They know the drill now, and they like sitting in a circle, so they’re pretty willing about it, but in each room my class is followed by a class of freshmen or sophomores for which the teacher usually prefers a row arrangement, so back they go.  I am always shlepping books, papers, sometimes my laptop, a DVD.  At least once a day I want something–some supplies, another book, a piece of paper from a file–that is not to hand.  Sometimes I’ll scoot back to my room for it, disturbing another teacher in the process, and sometimes I’ll just soldier on.  Romola and I have just one free period in our room, and we each have to try to remember to carry out everything that we need during our other frees, then find a quiet place to work.  I can work with people buzzing around, but Romola needs quiet and minimal distraction.

The people most affected are Dinah, Gwendolen, and me: Dinah and I because we teach in three different rooms (though me more than Dinah because she has two class periods and two free periods in her own room), Gwendolen because she has four (four!) other teachers using her room and no free periods in it.

Others are affected, of course–there’s no one in our department who isn’t affected in some way, even if it’s just because she’s getting booted from her own room so a colleague can teach in it.  Penelope probably scheduled us to teach in other English rooms so that we’d be more likely to have what we needed, but I’m coming to think that we might all be happier if some of these wandering classes were sent to underused rooms on the hall.  In past years, I’ve taught in a math room and in Akela’s history room, and both of those were fine.  Most of the history teachers, in addition to teaching all their classes in their own rooms, have three free periods in those rooms; it seems fairer that I should deprive Akela, for example, of one of his three free periods so that Gwendolen can have at least one.

I volunteered to collect problems and inconveniences related to the room situation for a week so that we had some data, and even without everyone participating, I easily filled 60 lines in a spreadsheet with individual incidents (“moved chairs,” “moved chairs back,” “computer wouldn’t accept login,” “needed access to own materials,” “technology incompatibility,” etc.).  It seems clear that these inconveniences, while they might be small things taken individually, are truly getting in the way of our providing the best we can for the students–not least because they steal time.

Armed with the data, we had a meeting to try to figure out some short- and long-term solutions on our own, and did come up with a couple of ideas that might ease matters in the short term (like putting guest-teacher laptops in three rooms), but then we just hit a wall: we don’t see any way to improve the situation unless we can get another room.  Fortunately, Dr. Tea decided we needed to call a meeting with Penelope to figure out ways that she can make things a little better for each of us soon, and then to ensure that we aren’t screwed so much in the future.

I’m becoming aware that some of my colleagues are getting tired of talking about this, so I’m trying to squelch the temptation to keep processing the whole thing aloud.  I do think, though, that one thing all this talking has done is to keep us from getting frustrated with one another, and to keep us focused on the root problems, which are that we don’t have enough rooms and the schedule is screwed up.  Otherwise, we could easily slip into resenting one another for all these inconveniences–

  • The teacher in Gwendolen’s room before me always finishes about a minute late; never, never a minute early.  We only have five minutes to change classes.
  • A lot of us have the habit of locking our laptops when we step away (Windows + L).  It’s less time-consuming than logging off and logging back on, it lets us keep programs and documents open, and it is important, because we have students swarming around all the time, that we not leave computers unattended with sensitive emails popping up and grade files accessible.  The problem is that then another teacher can’t log in to put in attendance, and attendance is supposed to be put in during the first five minutes of class.  I’ve accidentally done this to Dinah, and Gamma has accidentally done it to me.
  • It’s distracting when someone pops into your class to get something out of her desk while you’re teaching.
  • And many more.

So I have managed not to get annoyed at my colleagues, but the situation has started to get to me.  I’m even looking resentfully at the language lab, which is next to my classroom, and which seems to get only pretty minimal use.  In theory, of course, I think we probably should have a language lab (although I honestly don’t know–given the light use, maybe it’s redundant given the resources we have in classrooms?  Maybe a couple of extra laptop carts that could be shared among three or four classrooms would work just as well?).  In practice, I’m thinking that it would make a mighty nice classroom for, oh, ME.

The head of the high school came to observe me last week as part of my annual evaluation, and he showed up a couple of minutes late because he went first to my classroom, then to Dr. Tea’s classroom, and finally to Gwendolen’s classroom, which is where I was teaching.  Ha.  Yes, indeed, what am I doing in there?

One response to this post.

  1. My stress levels go up just reading this; I can’t imagine dealing with it all the time! But yes, I think you are very wise to try to keep people focused on the root problem, because otherwise it would be far to easy to blame the surface problems — “why doesn’t that person every do this or that?” — which of course are more apparent.

    And I would keep an eye on that language lab. I was chatting with a language teacher at FGS just the other day, and she was talking about the various ways that the teachers do and don’t use our language lab. As far as I can tell (from a strictly outsider’s point of view), the only specific equipment that one needs for a language lab in addition to computers is headsets with attached microphones, but surely those could just be on the laptop carts with the computers.

    Or perhaps another possibility is what our science department does, which is to have one room that is the teachers’ collective office, and the other rooms are teaching rooms that they each go in and out of. That doesn’t help with the furniture rearranging, but it does mean that there is always a place to go during free periods and that one isn’t disturbing anything by popping back to one’s desk. So maybe that could be a use for the language lab? (Better that it be a classroom specifically for you, of course!)


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