Around this time last year, I remember getting excited about the upcoming school year. I was starting my second year as a teacher: I was hungry to implement ideas I'd thought about over the summer. I was eager to consider taking a different approach with certain topics. I was excited.
I'm excited for next year as well, but I'm also a little uneasy: in the last four nights, I've had the same dream, twice. I rarely dream, so dreaming the exact same thing twice is a new experience.
In my dream, I was back in the classroom during my third year, but things were very different. I was finding it hard to enjoy being in the classroom because my school's administration was making life difficult for me. Some of them were minor things, some of them were major things that really bothered me.
From what I recall, I was no longer allowed to teach my personal finance course. Why? Because the kids don't really "need" this course on paper. Why would kids need to learn about saving, credit cards, and long-term retirement investment? Ultimately it's about credit accumulation and most kids did not need this course. What does "need" mean, anyway? That made me unhappy.
In June, we were told we were getting new desks and that we should label our old desks with "THROW AWAY" for the custodians to take out during the summer. We were told to do this several times throughout the last few days, as if using the old desk wasn't an option. Here's the thing, I like my old desk, so I didn't mark it for removal. Logically, it just didn't make sense to me. Why is it a big deal to throw away an old desk? Especially since it's so conducive to organization with five side drawers (three on one side, two on the other) and one middle pull-out drawer (heh, I said "pull-out") for writing utensil storage. Doesn't that sound sexy?
In my dream, when I came back into the classroom, they had replaced my desk with a new brown desk, which was actually pretty nice looking, but it had no fucking drawers!
I am very particular about my things and especially how my things are organized. This new desk did not please me in my dreams. But, I was going to be okay.
As my dream progressed, I felt like I was teaching in Orwellian times at my school. The teachers were talking to each other in secret. Everything they did, they did by the book to cover their ass. Fill out paper work, avoid human contact with the administration. Nobody wanted to argue about an error in a student's schedule because that was now an administrative issue. It didn't matter that the kid's schedule was going to screw him over in the long run. There was an "us" vs. "them" mentality at my school, and I hated this poisonous culture.
Then I woke up.
I sort of know why I've been having these dreams: my school's culture has been deteriorating over the past year. I'm scared it's only going to get worse next year. Things were very different when this school opened: there was not one teacher who didn't come in early or stay super late to work. The staff worked their asses off and we enjoyed a collegial and open working environment.
I believe when employees are happy doing what they're doing while being in a supportive culture, great things can happen and money becomes less of an issue. That's what my first year was like, and I'm not so sure I can expect that next year.