This past winter, my boss informed my team that we were being split up. I would be at one school, one teacher at another and the third and fourth teachers at a different school. In the 8 years I've taught in this program, I've never been by myself. It's a far cry from ideal. There's a lot of benefit in bringing all the gifted kids together to teach them, and to having the teachers in one place. But we can't have it anymore, so c'est la vie.
We took solace in the fact that at least we'd still be teaching gifted kids. We all took a deep breath, started to plan, and I started to think about packing.
Then, this past spring, my school district tried to pass a levy. We tried pretty hard. I even went door-to-door and talked to people to encourage them to vote for it. This was not my idea of fun, but I really wanted it to pass. It failed anyways, by a fairly wide margin. Sigh. On the chopping block were half the elementary librarians, middle school sports, 5th grade band and strings and the entire gifted program. Turns out, when you're threatening drastic cuts to your school system, cuts to these things do not inspire the public to run out and vote for you.
After it failed I was informed that I'd be moving to a 5th grade classroom, along with one of my team mates. In truth, had I been allowed to pick where I went, I'd have opted for a 5th grade classroom. And the school I was headed to was a fine one. I knew some of the staff there already. I'd be with one of my gifted ed colleagues. Given the circumstances, I couldn't ask for better.
All of us were reassigned. All of us had no say in where we were placed. But in the end, we all took a deep breath, started to plan, and got serious about packing. Or, at least, finding boxes.
We had all of our lasts. Last field trip to Fallingwater. Last Rube Goldberg Day. Last day with kids. Last day teaching in a gifted program. Last gifts, last notes, last hugs, last waves goodbye. We stacked and sorted through 20 years of supplies, books, manuals, folders, and files. We each took from the multitude of piles what we thought would be most valuable, given where we were going. Ancient things were boxed and labeled and sent to storage. Probably never to return.
We had meetings, looked up our new curricula, found copies of teacher manuals, began scouring booksales for books to stock our shelves. At least, that's what my team did. I can only assume that the rest of the gifted staff did the same. What else do you do? Someone moved our cheese, and sitting around waiting for someone to bring it back was a waste of time.
A few weeks before school ended all the staff members, fearing state legislation gutting unions come January of 2012, agreed to extend the current contract, adding in another pay freeze and bumping up the amount we pay for insurance. Things that had been mighty sticking points in the past were now just big pills to swallow as we all took one for the team.
And while all this was going on, parents of middle school athletes banded together and bombarded the school board. Someone made a passing remark that gifted parents hadn't said much. Over the next few days, a couple hundred calls lit up the lines.
Parents had been talking to us, too, but we'd given up hope, really. It wasn't going to happen. And, in truth, I didn't want it to. If we were going to bring back a gifted program, I thought, it would be best to pass a levy--like they said we needed to--and take a year to plan. Look at all the models out there. Look at our district demographics and all the possibilities. Decide what the priorities are and how best to meet them. Survey all the stakeholders. Do it right, not just slapdash, let's-get-through-this-year-with-what-we-have like we've been doing for, well, ever.
Instead, we got a mass email, the last day of school. Sports are back. Seven out of eight of the k-5 gifted teachers are back. And I get a phone call--would I come to central office for a meeting? Instead of a yearlong thoughtful study, three of us got to look at the numbers and come up with a plan for next year. A lets-just-get-through-it-best-we-can kind of year. More kids, fewer teachers and a mandate to "keep it the same" as before.
We came up with two proposals. One that looked more or less the same as last year, only with all of us doing a little more, and at different locations. A second plan that would keep student services the same but even out the workloads more, and increase our presence at the schools. It also seemed more economical. We'd have to learn a new curriculum, but frankly, I was up for a change. All of us liked this plan better and felt it had more long-term potential. We said so. The administration seemed to agree with us. We took a deep breath, started to plan...
Today we were told they were going with Option 1.
I'm back to doing exactly what I was told I'd be doing last winter. Same program. New building. By myself. More kids.
All seven of us were packed.
But only two of us are going anywhere.