Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Draft Day

During the first few days of our TFA induction, we were told over and over to "be flexible", "plan for the unexpected" and even "your placement might be the exact opposite of what you were expecting." We heard stories from current TFA Corps Members about having their teaching role switched 3 weeks into the school year, or not getting a job until mid-September. We even had a seminar focused solely on how our TFA KC staff was working hard with the KCMO School District but that at, best case scenario, we'd know just before the first day. We were given a list of attitudes to have during this time and told about a placement fund for those who don't get a job in the first month.

The next day, the head of personnel for the KCMO school district opened his session with, "I apologize for the delays, we usually don't know much until mid-August." But then, he was interrupted by a member of his staff, then turned back to us and announced, "well, it seems we've finalized everything, and the principals are here to announce their new teachers and you'll be able to sign your contracts."

The place erupted in cheers. It was quite a moment. Very well done by the KCMO school district.

I found out later that the TFA KC staff didn't know until a few hours before we did that we'd be finding out our jobs that day. The KCMO school district staff worked very intensely to get us all placed so quickly. Our principals didn't even know who they'd be getting until a couple hours before they met us.

So the head of personnel, acting like the NFL commissioner on draft day, brought up each principal, announced that principal's 'picks' (new teachers) and all the new teachers joined their principal on stage; taking a picture as a 'team' and singing their contracts right on the spot. We were even given hats with our school's name, just like the NFL draft. It was a great scene and atmosphere.

Each time one of the combined high school / middle school principals came up, I was listening intently, since my initial placement was middle school social studies. So when my name was called with George Melcher Elementary school, I almost missed it. If this had been a televised draft, the announcer might have said something like, "in a surprise pick, George Melcher Elementary has selected Donnie Miller to teach 5th grade." As I walked up front, signed my contract, donned my hat, then posed for the picture with my new co-workers, I was thinking "elementary, oh my word. What have I gotten myself into?"

I had been thinking that my original placement (older kids, one subject) would be easier and more to my personality. So it was quite surreal to be 'picked' for an elementary school. I enjoy kids of that age, I'm just nervous about the lesson planning involved in teaching every subject. My fifth grade co-worker is also a TFA corps member (there are 7 of us in our building), so it will be helpful to work and plan with her. But while reading the Bible yesterday afternoon, I was reminded of what I would often tell my congregation, "Serving isn't about you. It's not about what you get out of it. We serve for the sake of the God who has called us to serve and the people he has called us to serve." Well, considering that my school has a lot of room for growth and a lot of opportunities to help kids facing some serious challenges, this will be a great place to serve. As usually happens, I'll likely find out that what I assumed about a situation is different from reality, meaning that I may come to realize that 5th grade is exactly what I'm suited for.

But it will also be a great place to learn about teaching. I've heard a lot about some of the great teachers there and how the principal creates a very nurturing and caring atmosphere, while also maintaining high expectations. And, when the time is right, I'll be able to coach at one of the nearby high schools.

I'll be trained at Institute over the next five weeks, then I strap in for the ride of my life.

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