Thursday, October 8, 2009

The SLT and other Crazy Meetings

The School Leadership Team (SLT) meets once a month to discuss major policy issues and other stuff going on in our school. Our union rep refers to this group as "the most influential body in the city" in terms of managing schools. The principal, vice principals, parent coordinator, union rep, parent rep, student rep and elected teacher reps are voting members, but anyone can come in and offer feedback.

An administrator asked me to come to this month's meeting to see if I could offer any ideas. It was pretty flattering to be asked (assuming he thought that I've had at least a couple good ideas in the past year), but I think it was a decent move politically on his part as well. This was the AP from Kansas asking me to come. We have a very similar background, especially for teachers in NYC. We both came from Kansas, went to the same university and learned to be teachers under the watchful eye of the same adviser/professor. We both chose urban education and both moved out to NYC to see what we could do for the students here. Whether that dictated the fact that we think very similarly or not, we do.

If I were an AP (and voting member of the SLT) and knew that a teacher in the building shared very similar points of view with me, I would definitely ask that teacher to come to the meetings. Ideas are received differently coming from teachers and administration, even if they are the same idea. Getting support for your ideas from the teachers is very important as it might be bolster support among other teachers rather than just sound like another idea an administrator has for the school.

At the meeting yesterday the first order of business was to pick a new secretary. The old one (my mentor from last year) is leaving this week to go on maternity leave. In order to secure a spot at the meetings and show I'm interested in contributing- not just wanting to blow a lot of hot air at my bosses- I volunteered and did the job yesterday. We'll see how it goes.

Advice for New Teachers:

Teaching is exhausting. Last year at meetings like this I felt pretty brain-dead and had very little to contribute. I also didn't feel like I knew enough about the school, the community or about education to contribute to major meetings like the SLT. The meetings I attended were generally mandatory and I usually just sat there and took in everything I could with my weakened attention span. I think that it's alright to do this (observe more than actively participate), though tossing in your two cents every once in a while is a good idea.

Additionally, don't burden yourself by joining a thousand committees. It's alright to say no to additional tasks. Everyone knows (or should know) that your first year is ridiculous and that it's unreasonable to expect a you to complete a lot of additional duties. I turned down several committees last year, as well as a couple coaching positions.

One group I found a niche in, however, was a grant writing team. The only thing that I really had to do was spit out onto paper a good amount of rhetoric that I learned in the school of ed to send to some committee somewhere else, who would then read it and consider giving us money. This grant writing team actually had a retreat (in addition to our bi-weekly meetings) where we were put up in a hotel in Midtown in order to get us away from the building and talking. Enough decent stuff was put on paper that we were awarded the grant we were shooting for ($250,000). At this time last year I was an expert in that- telling people the latest ideas in education in black in white on the page. Now I think I'm ready to start throwing in my two cents about how the school should be run.

Today's Wine: Trentatre Rosso 2007. This one is getting solid reviews as an inexpensive wine you can pick up at Trader Joe's (hopefully other places too?). It's a blend of Montepulciano, Cabernet and Merlot. Very solid, some strong tannins (I think I'm starting to figure out what that means) and very drinkable with anything.

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