Why & When
From Fall of 2004 until Summer of 2018, I had spent my entire career at the same middle school. But, for the 2018-2019 year, I held my breath, took the plunge, and transferred to Colton Middle School (CMS). I was very sad to make the move. I didn’t want to leave my school. I “grew up” there. I knew exactly who I could come to for help. I built a strong reputation of fairness with staff and students. Former pupils would regularly come back to visit me (see the picture in the banner above for proof) and it breaks my heart that I won’t be seeing them anymore. I wrestled with the decision to apply for the transfer for all these reasons, and after 2 weeks of struggle, I submitted my resume to HR, interviewed with the principal, and became a CMS Falcon.
My science team at my old site had grown stagnant. So much is changing, especially with the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) which have changed the face of science education and general pedagogy in California. The science team was trudging through the mud with either the NGSS or PBIS, or both, despite my efforts to help them. I realized they weren’t going to change, at least not at the same pace as the NGSS and PBIS revolution sweeping through the state. It also dawned on me that they were going to remain at my school for the foreseeable future.
Education is a field that DOES. NOT. STAND. STILL. As teachers, you and I have to keep moving forward. ALWAYS. We have to be in a never-ending search for better ways to service our students, whether that be through pedagogy or building relationships with our kids, parents, and community. If you find yourself in a team or even school that has greatly slowed your growth, then it’s time to move on. This is the situation I found myself in for many years. So, despite the love for what I had considered my work home for 14 years, I resolved to leave for a team I could help grow, and one that would help me grow. I resolved to KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
There had been other schools in my district with science openings in the past, and although I was curious about them, I never felt compelled to switch sites. I was looking for the “holy trinity”–a great science team, agreeable administrators, and kids who needed me.
The colleagues you interact with the most on a daily basis are the ones you want to make sure share your values about your profession. I believe teaching with empathy and compassion are what make a great teacher, not depth of knowledge in subject matter. Above all else, I believe building strong relationships with students is the absolute most important thing a teacher can do to help students succeed in their education and lives. As Danny Steele put it, “Classroom management is not about having the right rules… it’s about having the right relationships.” Fortunately, most of the new science team at Colton Middle School feels the same way. I had the first piece of my holy trinity .
They say the best time to look for a job is when you’ve already got one. When I interviewed for teaching positions way back in 2004, I had just graduated from the UCSB Teacher Ed Program, so I was broke and needed a J.O.B. I didn’t know anything about any of the administrators at any of the schools I interviewed at. I kind of just closed my eyes and crossed my fingers when I accepted my first teaching job, hoping my principal and assistant principal(s) would be agreeable. I’ve had tenure now for over a decade, so I could afford to bide my time and be picky in my search for a new teaching position. I’d heard wonderful things about the principal at Colton Middle School, Yvette Roman, from two teachers that I greatly respected. Also, I’d already worked with the assistant principal, Beth Jones, when she was a counselor at my old site. Furthermore, a colleague told me Beth was great as an AP. To sum it up, the administrators at CMS were outstanding according to trusted sources. The second part of my holy trinity had been fulfilled.
One of the schools I had applied for as a newbie science teacher in 2004 was a middle school in Glendora, CA (I can’t remember the name of it). When I sat down with the principal, I was immediately impressed. He was younger than any other principal I had ever seen at the time and he had this cool factor about him. He regaled me with stories of what the students and faculty at his school had achieved in terms of test scores, implementation of technology, and collaboration. In addition, they were in a relatively well-to-do area, so I would have a fairly large budget for supplies and materials if I joined the team. I left in awe of that school. I knew that if I ended up working there, I would have all the resources and support I could dream of. I also knew I did NOT want to work there. The kids at that school were well taken care of. They didn’t need me. You could plop a textbook in front of kids like that, go to sleep, and they’d still do just fine. Of course, all kids deserve to have good teachers, but some students really need the devoted ones more than the relatively wealthy pupils at that school. I got into teaching because deep down in my soul, I heard the calling. I knew I wouldn’t be rich. I knew I’d be spending hundreds of dollars of my own money for school materials. I knew resources would be lacking. I knew the kids/parents would frequently drive me crazy. None of that deterred me because I knew I wanted to show the kids they can live a hell of a life regardless of how it starts. About 80% of the students in my district are considered poor. Those are my people. That’s who I’ve always wanted to serve. So, I accepted the position at my old site before the principal from the Glendora school could even call me back to let me know whether I got the job. Full disclosure: less than an hour after accepting the job at the Colton Joint Unified School District, the principal from the Glendora school did call me to let me know he hired someone else instead of me. It was kind of cool being able to tell him I had actually just accepted another offer. It worked out for both of us, but I like to think I got the better end of the deal. Fast forward to July 2018. Some people told me I shouldn’t switch over to Colton Middle School because they’re “tougher” to teach than the kids at my old school. Honestly, it did scare me a bit to hear this, but in a strange way it strengthened my resolve to make the move. Tough kids, huh? Those are my people. The holy trinity was complete. I knew where I wanted to go.
In short, if you’re gonna make a move, go to where you’re needed. To be sure, working at a wealthy school or district will make your life easier. But working at where you’re truly needed will make your life happier. I’m no saint. If I were I’d be working in some other state besides California where education takes a back seat to practically every other political agenda. If you work in such a state and continue to teach with passion (probably while working at least one other job), my highest regards to you. You’re the real saint. And to all teachers, don’t confuse easy with happiness. If you can’t tell the difference, ask the saints.
That’s the why, when, and where of transferring to another school. As of this writing, only 1 week has passed since students returned to school in my district, so this whole transferring thing is still pretty fresh for me. I’m not yet certain I made the right decision to make the move, but I can say I made the best decision I could with the information I had. That’s all anyone can do. I can further state that everything is going well. So far, so good. Whether you’re a veteran or newbie educator unsure about switching sites, I hope my methodology will help you in the decision-making process. If you’ve got a better way, please comment away.