My school is a pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade school. We call grades 9-12 the Upper School, to distinguish from grade Pre K through 4th (the Lower School) and grades 5-8 (the Middle School). On the last Friday in May, I finished teaching my History and Government classes in the Upper School. Last week, I gave my final exams and turned in final grades. This week, I've been to the last meetings of the year. The 2012-2013 school year, my 11th year in the Upper School, is now complete. It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I've been here eleven years because the time has truly flown by. I love what I do and this school has been a happy home for me.
And so it seems strange to write that I am making a change. I'm not changing schools but I am changing divisions. In September, as I begin my 12th year of teaching in New Jersey, I'll be teaching 6th grade history and serving as the Middle School's Assistant Principal. Just the invocation of the words Assistant Principal make me leery…..I picture the protagonist of many a John Hughes film, the self-important administrator with toilet paper stuck to his heel. I have no intention of being that person.
In my new capacity, I'll be handling Middle School academic matters and teaching a bit of Middle School myself. All of the administrators at our school teach (including the Headmaster), and that part of the job is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. It's thrilling because the History curriculum is coordinated from the 6th through 12th grades, so I already know the material very well. The opportunity to see where it starts is exciting. Figuring out lessons and activities for 6th graders is a challenge and will move me into doing something new with the ideas about History that roam around in my head.
Taking a break from teaching American Government is a more difficult notion to embrace, though it's likely time for me to do so as it's gotten harder and harder to justify the uselessness of Congress to teenagers. I've been teaching Intro to American Government in one form or another for more than 20 years and it's time for a break. I'll miss teaching U.S. History, but JT will be studying it in the 8th grade so I expect at least a few conversations on the topic will happen in my world.
I wasn't looking for a change when the prospect came up in January and I took the position this Spring after a lot of thinking about what I do and who I am. In the end, I decided that trying something new was a good idea because I should stretch myself. In this case, the risk involved is low as the Headmaster promised that I can always return to my old job if I like. So it's not like the default option here isn't pretty awesome. My new boss, the new principal of the Middle School, is one of those colleagues who knows our school and its virtues and defects very well. His judgment is trustworthy and always motivated by what's best for the child in question. He has a great sense of humor and the perspective that the school is about kids first and foremost, a view I share. I like and respect him and know that I will enjoy working with him. I stand to learn a lot in the process, of course. The chance to participate in the organization side of the academic venture that is a K-12 school is exciting. I have some ideas about how to make that process a greater success and I'm looking forward to working on them.
So I will try something new next fall and my summer will be filled with the sort of relaxation that will allow me to identify the prospects in my new job. It's change and so it is exciting, thrilling and scary all at once. But it's worth a try and I'm all in.