13 Things I’m Happy About at My New School

Some months ago, in The Last Walk to the Parking Lot, I described how a long tenure at my previous school ended and what working there had meant to me. Now, in this season of thanksgiving and hope, it seems appropriate to reflect on why I’m so thankful and hopeful at my new school.

1) I joined the district math department for two weeks in June to plan courses and write common assessments. The opportunity to meet and work with new colleagues, learn the district’s math policies and practices, and have a large block of compensated time to prepare greatly reduced my anxiety about starting over and opened my eyes to the environment of high expectations and high level of support I would be working in.

2)  I have multiple on-site mentors. The whole math department helps me navigate the details of preparing lessons, assessing student work, and participating in school activities. They are always available, helpful, fun, and go above and beyond to make feel welcome and a complete member of the team.

3) I have an instructional mentor for the first time in my career. She observes my teaching a lot, often at my request, and coaches me on matters in which I can improve. After each observation I have tangible ideas and tools and know I will do better.

4) I collaborate a lot with the Seventh Grade Accelerated Math teacher at the other middle school. It’s her first year in the district as well, and we’ve become a two-person support group. It would be a very different year without her.

5) We have tremendous parents. I had something over 40 conferences a few weeks ago during our half-days, and basically every parent asked how they could support my work with their children.

6) I’m held more accountable than ever before, which makes me feel more than ever that my work matters. During post-observation conferences, my administrator suggests specific steps to close gaps she sees in my teaching, like observing a specific teacher or trying a new technique. One of the most productive suggestions was to ask a second year teacher about the challenges she faced last year when she was in my shoes.

7) Starting over in a new school that is so systemically and demographically different from my old school makes me feel like like a new teacher in a new school instead of an old teacher at a different school.

8) I am surrounded by a lot, and I mean a LOT, of extremely good teachers who daily demonstrate the career’s highest standards of professionalism.

9) I am surrounded by a lot, and I mean a LOT of students I care about and want to reach and do my best for.

10) If an army moves on its stomach, a school moves on its support professionals, and ours are superb.

11) There’s no need to try to get tickets to a U of A game when I can stay after school a bit and see all the sports excitement I need right here. GO EAGLES!

12) Visitors include javelina, snakes, bobcats, scorpions, roadrunners, and wooly mammoths. GO NATURE!

13) I say hello and good-bye to the view above every day as I enter and exit our parking lot. The views below show the approach to my classroom and the creek that flows under the little bridge during rain.

At the end of The Last Walk to the Parking Lot, I expressed my gratitude to my former school’s family and thanked God for placing her on my life’s path. A friend from high school told me there is never a last walk, you just change directions. He’s right. And there’s more than a little lump in my throat at the gratitude I feel for my new professional family and thank God for turning my life’s path toward my new school and look forward to a very long walk with her.

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Sandy Merz

I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after thirty-two years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. After teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career, I’ve moved to a different middle school and district on the edge of town to teach math. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona, and serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education and I’m a former Arizona Hope Street Fellow.

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