The new school year for the 2019/20 calendar year is approaching. The New York City Department of Education officially starts Sept 3rd for staff, and September 5th. September 3rd thru September 5th will serve as professional development, and preparation time.
For most years this is a bittersweet feeling considering that the summer is over, coupled with the excitement of new school year. New students, potentially new coworkers, and the likely optimism that starts to wear down come January. For administrators, this is a time to promote optimism, positivism, as well as introduce new teachers, and staff. Normally, at this point there is a schoolwide staff meeting.
New staff is introduced, new and current expectations, the staff handbook is handed out, as well as an inspiring speech by the principal and emphasizing, previous hardships, and progress. Progress is based mostly on student growth, and accomplishments.
For teachers, room keys, staff handbook, and other things depending on the school, such as borders, pens… teachers normally take a few minutes to socialize, and express affection, and summer stories. Teachers develop everlasting personal relationships with each other, even the principal develops such relationships, but this does not interfere with the performance of all staff, and the school.
In the case of PS/MS 280, staff members go and support musician, and science teacher, Pauly DiDio when he performs in Queens, and sometimes around New York. Here teachers socialize, share drinks, eat laugh and share classroom stories. Teachers spend many hours together collaborating, in good, and difficult times. Resulting in a brotherhood, which transforms into friendships and a sense of a big family. Teachers share family deaths, and see each other’s children go from babies to young adults and older.
Teachers share professional, and personal accomplishments, and goals. Teachers go to each other’s weddings, birthdays, and support each other during divorce, and other hurtful life events. There are siblings and do not share this relationships. This relationship goes beyond teaching, teachers as friends travel together locally, and overseas.
For the students, September is a month for adaptation, and the testing of limits. Students make new friendships, and continue friendships. At this point, inevitably many students cannot afford school supplies, and barely, not enough for a school uniform.
Many teachers help these students out of their own pockets. The city only reimburse $250 annually which doesn’t even cover 50% of what a typical teacher spends.
In September students develop interest in school sports. Many join the Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, and soccer teams. The coaches start meeting with the students. To later start tryouts. At least 20 students or more join each team. Very few to no students at all are left without joining a team.
The students that join the basketball team become friends, and spend a lot of time together in practice, the classroom, and around the school. And the same for every other team.
Many students, for instance in the upper grades, have established friendships for many years. To a point where even the families developed friendships. Students learn to love their teachers, and to appreciate the student-teacher relationship. Students together with the teachers leave the last day of school very emotional, and oftentimes crying.
The unbreakable bond
Everything changes dramatically from September to June. Teachers and students grow together personally and academically.
Students and teachers go through many hardships together, family deaths, and new births. The most difficult situations happens when a student passes, which shakes the entire school to the core. It suddenly, oftentimes, represents the first experience of death for hundreds of students, and of course crushes all school staffs. I experienced one of the most disheartening deaths.
A student whom I had a good relationship, and whom I taught every Friday. The last Friday I thought him, he said “I am saving $750 to buy a new iPhone” I said “… I can help you get it cheaper on Amazon, compared to Apple.com” then he said “ok… I will bring $350 I have saved so far on Monday so you can help me do it”. Monday when I came to work, I found out he died in an apartment fire, which also killed his stepfather. The news of this death affected me personally for months. However, ultimately we all experience difficulties, and must go on learning, and growing along the way.
When women teachers become pregnant students see the whole pregnancy until the teacher is only a few weeks, or less, before their due date. Teachers bring the baby to meet the students, coworkers, and administrators.
With every birth comes a new life to this world, and a new generation of students, and teachers. Oftentimes, teachers bring their children to spend day in their classroom with all students. Teaching in this school brings me hope, and optimism towards the future. We are a massive family of children, parents, teachers, school staff, and administrators. We share our highs and lows together as a group.
Here comes another school year full of teaching and learning. Full of life, adventures, and personal growth maturity. And hopefully with a teacher salary increase.