I’m moving on.

At the end of this school year I will be leaving my school, where I’ve worked for 4 years. I love the mission of my school, I love working with my colleagues, and I enjoy the heck out of teaching my students. But I’m moving on. Here’s why.

When did I first start thinking about this?

In October. This year we got a School Improvement Grant, and veteran teachers (those at the school 3 years or longer) were told we would be getting an increase in pay, to decrease the gap between our pay and Chicago Public Schools. (Last year I was paid nearly 20% less). Prior to my one-on-one meeting with the CFO, I prepared a list of contributions and accomplishments I’ve made to the school, including nearly $7,000 in grants ($5,000 for professional development & travel, and $2,000 in technology hardware.) I also laid out a plan on how I can continue to help the school in the future (being a lead teacher integrating technology into our school). I didn’t get what I wanted. (This year I’m paid about 15% less, which is improvement, so I’m grateful.) I was told this is tricky, and they’ve tried merit pay in the past but it didn’t really work. He understood it does not encourage teachers to stay because as the years go on we get farther and farther behind equal teachers in other districts. It was said that they don’t really have plans to change this system.

At one point I asked “So if I quit, and you hire someone with the same education and experience as me, you would pay them what I’m asking you to pay me?” The answer, “That could be likely.”

I was incredibly upset. I do not feel valued (read: fairly compensated) or appreciated for the time I have spent with the school.

So I began to ask myself Is it worth it?

Yes! I have access to things I could never dream of if I were teaching the same student population in CPS.

  • I have 1 computer for every 2 students. I am so lucky! I have eliminated worksheets, my assessments and projects are online, and my website is the one-stop-shop for all of my student’s Spanish learning needs. YouTube? We’ve had access to that ever since I’ve been there, and the Spanish Dept has our own channel with 50,000 views!
  • I don’t get told “no.” I’m careful what I ask for; I’m not having pizza parties every Friday or taking students on a school sponsored trip to Mexico. Want to take students on a tour of murals in the Puerto Rican neighborhood? Sure! Can I have students dress out of uniform for a fashion show in Spanish? Why not?! Last year I got to teach an elective where students blogged about Golden Era Spanish Literature and this year I’ve gone to 5 professional development conferences.
  • I put a lot of stock in my colleagues. The vast majority are dedicated and hard working. They all care a lot about our students. They push me to think about best practices, we share successes, and we are not afraid to suggest improvements. I enjoy seeing and talking to them everyday. 
  • I am treated as a trusted professional. The Spanish Department creates our own curriculum, which allows each teacher to play to their strengths. No one is walking into my classroom with a clipboard docking points on an evaluation because I don’t have an exciting word wall decorating the room or my lesson plan isn’t posted.
  • I do not feel fairly compensated.
  • In an effort to meet the needs of our students and to prove to those in charge that we deserve to exist we are constantly implementing new initiatives. Rarely do I feel they are well planned, executed, supported and monitored. Somewhere along the line, the ball gets dropped and we move on to something else. Some of our focuses over the 4 years have been, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, Remediation Plans, Standards Based Grading, Growth Based Grading, Reading initiatives, Writing initiatives, Integrating curriculum across subjects, Student Support Services, Aligning curriculum to College Readiness Standards, Aligning curriculum to Common Core Standards, Tracking Students, New bell schedules, Mandatory Student Support/Tutoring, Mandatory capstone/research project for each student in every grade and New Principals. None of these changes are inherently bad. In fact, I think these are good ideas, have helped our students succeed, and are necessary to address the needs of our students. My frustration stems from feeling that a lot comes down the pipeline at one time, without clearly laying out a plan to implement. It’s not bad to be flexible and “figure things out as we go” but it’s confusing when you just keep changing focus to the next thing, without mention of the previous actions.  Most schools deal with this issue, and I would gather that this is a universal feeling amongst teachers. 
  • What I’m truly passionate about, integrating technology, is not a focus of the school. My colleagues are already trying to juggle a lot. Administration has made it clear to me this year that, under our current situation, it’s not feasible for technology to be a focus. There’s no room for it.
The bottom line is, it’d be worth it if what I wanted for myself was to just be a great Spanish teacher to inner-city kids. I can do that here. I have been doing it here. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done here with my colleagues. We do so much good there and I’m going to miss it. My kids are awesome, they are smart, hilarious and I have a lot of fun teaching them. I can even see myself working there again. Even with the constant changes and the lower pay, I don’t know any other school in Chicago working with the same population of students that is a better environment for teachers and students.
But that’s not all I want. I really feel like that’d be selling myself sort. There’s no (truly compelling) reason not to take this risk and see what else is out there.
I’m not leaving bitter or upset. The bulk of my time spent here has been great. I’ve gotten to do things I’d never get to do anywhere else. I’m moving on thankful for my time spent here. I feel like I’m graduating with 200 students I started with, (who have over $6 million dollars in scholarships to go to college!!!) and we’re all leaving the place that taught us so much to start a new adventure.

5 responses to “I’m moving on.

  1. Pingback: The guilt of leaving the students who need us most. | Learning to the Max

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  3. Pingback: It’s a fact – schools are unequal | Learning to the Max

  4. Pingback: Why is it so hard to improve schools within the public school system? | Learning to the Max

  5. Pingback: Why I’ve just been sitting down and reading/listening | Learning to the Max

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