Saturday, January 28, 2017

Where do you teach?

When many educators ponder this question they instinctively envision the building in which they work.  Up until last year, I did the same.  

What changed? I have just completed my first semester as a full-time teacher teaching in two buildings daily.  This position requires a 20-minute commute in the middle of the day.  Adjusting to the role of “split teacher” was challenging at first and I want to share my experience with professionals in similar situations.  After reflection, I’ve come up with a brief list of pros and cons about the position.


Perspective- The biggest pro I can identify is the gift of seeing two schools up close.  It’s fascinating to partake in two different climates and cultures simultaneously.  This has given me perspective on a much deeper level and helped clarify the nuances of each school.  For anyone who enjoys learning about organizations, this is an intriguing perk of the position.

Networking- Although you will spend less time in each building, split teachers get to know two faculties.  I have 2x the amount of colleagues and inevitably 2x the opportunity to network.  These relationships can lead to more friendship and growth opportunities.  Teaching in two buildings is a powerful way to spread your name around the district.   
Duties-  Split teachers typically do NOT have these responsibilities (at least not as many).  Aside from being a scheduling headache for administrators, there is less time for these duties due to your mid-day commute.  This will vary from district to district.  Policies regarding these duties can generally be found in either your union contract and/or your faculty handbook.


Prep time- Depending on your commute, your prep time can and will be extremely limited.  When I taught in one building I had down time almost every day.  I would spend this time walking or socializing and allow my brain to unwind.  As a split teacher you have significantly less time to prep for your classes (when not traveling).  This makes the day go fast but can also lead to burnout if you’re not careful.  I’ve found it helpful to meditate on certain occasions.
Building involvement- This is a subjective con, but for me, I do not like being the “ghost”.  If you’re a teacher that comes to work, does their job, and leaves then this could actually be considered another pro.  However, if you’re someone that wants to be an integral part of your building and participate in committees, clubs, school events etc… teaching in two schools will hinder that level of involvement.  There is simply less of you to go around.  

So, where do I teach?  When asked this, I used to tell people "I teach at Great Neck South High School".  I now say "I teach in the Great Neck school district." For better or worse, educators must be aware of the world beyond the four walls of their classroom and realize they are part of a bigger picture. It's comforting to identify yourself with your building or grade level but, in this unpredictable educational climate, change may be right around the corner.

Thanks for reading! Before you go I'd ask you to think about you current position. Do you consider yourself a school or a district employee?