I've decided I haven't used all of my nine lives. For this new school year, I've signed on as a substitute/paraprofessional and reading-and-writing support teacher in a Bridgeport charter school.
I have my older daughter to thank for the original referral, which came less than a month after my museum job ended. She had worked at the school for a short time before becoming a long-term sub in Fairfield last year and thought it would be a great environment for me.
I'll be working every day school is in session and was enthusiastic at orientation this week. I'm excited about the coming year, and after meeting the staff I can see why the school has built a strong reputation over the 17 years since it opened. A teacher told me there are no politics among the staff, and the turnover is low.
The school includes grades 7 through 12, and I'll be working primarily with the high school students. My two English colleagues welcomed me warmly, and by the end of the first day, I had a strong sense of what the school and the curriculum were all about.
I was anxious when I learned I might be a short-term sub in biology and chemistry classes because of a vacant faculty position. I spoke with one of the biology teachers, who was very reassuring and showed me the syllabus for both courses. She couldn't have been nicer.
But I was quickly off the hook when a new biology-chemistry teacher was hired before the end of the day.
Taking on this new responsibility was exciting, but painful at the same time. I was walking away from five years of wonderful experiences substituting in Fairfield's two high schools and three middle schools, leaving many friends I'd made. I had enjoyed being a regular substitute and appreciated it when teachers asked that I sub for them.
And the headmaster of one of Fairfield Warde's three houses gave me a really nice recommendation. Thinking of all the Fairfield schools where I'd subbed, I knew I would feel emptiness as the school year got underway. I have a lot of goodbye emails to write, but I'd like to keep my name on Fairfield's substitute list in case I have any downtime at my new position.
But there are many pluses to my new assignment. Every morning I will be going to the same place instead of waiting anxiously for a phone call. I've already enrolled in a health benefits program, I can get direct deposit of my paycheck and there is a Friday half-day schedule.
The most exciting benefit for me in this school is the opportunity to do some teaching in my subject areas. I taught writing through Fairfield's continuing education department, but I haven't taught high school writing. It's been awhile since I've taught reading, but I've covered many reading classes as a sub.
The orientation earlier this week focused a great deal on the new state teacher-evaluation system, and it was quite an eye opener to see what is going to happen this year.
While subbing in Fairfield, I'd heard bits and pieces of what educators see as the pros and cons of the evaluation, but the orientation at my new school put things more in perspective for me.
The process is going to be comprehensive and tough, but it is also focused on making all teachers better and even exemplary. A video of a teacher in a classroom helped us to determine, based on various criteria, if the teacher was proficient, developing or exemplary.
The head of the middle school conducted a lively discussion about the video, and it was interesting to me that most of us were on the same page. However, I learned I was a bit too generous, and the teacher really was proficient but not exemplary.
I can't wait to get more involved with my new responsibilities, and the staff and director have made me feel very much at home. It's going to be a wonderful year.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.