Pros: no two days are ever the same, small staff allows for better collaboration and camaraderie, small staff allows for better relationships with administration, many chances for professional developement, support available when needed.
Cons: no true planning period, substitutes won't come to our building so we have to find creative ways to cover classes, the stigma that comes with working in an alternative school, no sports or dances like traditional high schools, low rate of pay, insurance changes that are outrageous, and really long days
SInce I have 3 positions, sometimes 4, there is never a typical day at work. Working with alternative students can be a different experience daily. I am the intake coordinator so, my day may begin by reviewing, compiling and distributing information on the students sent to us through expulsion. I do this for both the high school and middle school in – more... our building. If the students are especially disorderly, I assist the principal and Dean of Discipline with ODRs, contacting families, and collecting work for studnts who are placed in ISS- In School Suspension. I am also the special education department head and contact person for all special education students manifested to our building. I have a caseload of 28-35 students, which requires daily data collection, check-ins with students and regular IEP meetings. The rest of my day includes teaching Algebra I and Algebra Enrichment to SE students and any of the above aformentioned jobs.
I have learned that alternative education students are great and so interesting once you are able to build a rapport with them. I have also learned that, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a student's homelife can be a barrier to their bonding and learning. As a special education teacher, I have learned that if a student is determined to fail, nothing written in their Individualized Education Plan will matter. It is a tough lesson to learn because you realize you cannot "save" them all, until they want to be "saved".
The administrators in my building are exceptional people that care deeply for the students and their learning. They offer teachers support whenever they can and contiually provide opportunities for growth and implement innovative programs to enhance student learning. I also have learned that their job is hectic and unpleasant at times. When I am Principal Designee, I get a good glimpse into their day to day operations. It can be difficult for parents of alternative students to trust and believe administrators because they have had to hear negative comments about their student for years. It is a real skill to get a parent to understand and agree with school policies and disciplinary actions.
My co-workers are hard working people who do the best they can to enhance each student's learning. We have difficult jobs due to over crowding and the daily difference of students in attendance. We have severe truancy problems and new students coming in weekly. We deal with behavior issues daily and some behaviors can become verbally and/or physically aggressive. At the same time, we try to manage the constant disruptions and defiant behaviors. My co-workers care a great deal for our students, but there are a few that should teach in a different environment because the stress of challenging behaviors along with constant changes in protocol have become too much for them and it has become noticeable to the students.
The hardest part of my job is keeping up with my different responsibilities. At times, it seems as though the e-mails and paperwork are never going to end. One of my duties as intake coordinator is contacting the other schools in the district, correctional facilities and out of district schools to obtain records for the incoming students. The majority of the information is sent via e-mail, but many times important information is missing and I have to track it down. I am also the contact person for the parents of recently expelled students. I make and return numerous phone calls weekly. As a teacher, I am responsible for creating and implementing standard based lesson plans with differentiation for my SE students, grading, and updating my gradebook weekly. Sometimes I feel as though there are just not enough hours in a day or a week. But, I have yet to fail to complete my work in a timely manner and have not missed any deadlines.
There are so many enjoyable parts of my job. I get to know something about every student that comes to our building. I have sometimes difficult but informative conversations with parents, probation officers and students. When I am Principal Designee, I have to handle discipline, but sometimes it can become a great way to connect with a student and help them find solutions to their problems. The best part of my job is seeing change and growth in my students. The students we service have basically been given up on by their district schools, labeled as failures or " bad kids". The truth of the matter is they were not given a chance to change. I have several students that looked as if they were a nightmare on paper, but are my favorite students because they finally found a learning environment with teachers who care and that go out of their way to help them succeed. – less