The First Day of the Rest of the Year

Today was the first day of orientation.  I always leave the first day with my head swimming, full of new information, but three things stood out today:

1) The spiritual connection I feel with my colleagues here is such a great blessing.  I say it often: if I can’t teach at an Orthodox school, I am so happy to be teaching at a Catholic school that is so well-aligned with Orthodox thinking.  They are one of the most conservative groups of Catholics I’ve ever met.  Nearly all come from large, two-parent families, go to confession frequently, and pray before every class.  The first thing we do as a school is attend Mass, followed by a prayer service for the upcoming year, with petitions for students and their families, relatives who are ill, and grace and wisdom for the upcoming school year.  I can’t think of a more unifying, uplifting way to begin this new journey.

2) Everyone looks so relaxed on the first day.  They actually take the time to look into your eyes, ask how you’re doing, and mean it.  By the end of the year, we’re all wound so tightly we almost can’t form a complete sentence in conversation with another adult.  It’s nice to remember that these are real people, with outside interests and families they love.

3) I never thought I could like a principal as well as our departing principal, who was a thoughtful, wise and humble leader.  But this new one won me over in the first five minutes by directly addressing my biggest (and really, only) complaint about my school: The communication here really sucks.   So much that I’m willing to use a vulgarity in describing it.

Well, she began by saying that her personal philosophy can be summed up in one word: Communication.  Almost all problems can be solved through better communication, so it is her goal to communicate as much and as well as possible.  She mentioned a “Friday Memo” that would contain all the upcoming “special events” for the following week – something I’ve been advocating (begging, really) for ever since I first arrived and realized how haphazard communication is.

The amazing thing is that teachers are willing to do almost anything for an administrator, especially one they like.  What they resent is when these duties are thrust upon them with little or no warning.  They also resent what I’ve talked about before: the feeling that all the major decisions are made behind closed doors, regardless of how deeply they are affected by said decisions.  The new principal addressed this as well.

Our new principal also mentioned that she wants to come observe everyone within the first few weeks.  I’ve heard this every year since I’ve been here, and I’ve never been observed except by another teacher.  I hope it happens this year.