I was in two minds about sharing this, but I wonder how many MYP Coordinators feel the same from time-to-time. We have a funny balancing act to perform – between full-time teacher and full-on admin. It leads to interesting experiences! This is not intended to be a self-pitying post, rather some observations on being in the middle.
Last week was a good one. I presented a PD session to teachers that had taken many hours to prepare in that it needed to be supported with a lot of resources for teachers to be able to get on with the task of mapping the curriculum. It involved working with the curriculum coordinator and ATLAS rubicon to make extensive edits to the MYP planner template so that each section was really clearly and explicitly articulated and linked out to its own page of further guidance and an evaluation rubric. Each page needed to be populated, checked and linked up. Where possible I put in further PD resources for that section of the planner – as the Head of School says, “curriculum development is professional development.” It was an extensive task but the feedback was positive and teachers let me know that they found it useful; more have been in touch to set up sessions for support and collaboration. I have some clearer ideas of where to develop the programme in the interim before the Next Chapter. I had some fun classes and a really positive informal evaluation from the Principal, topped off with a long weekend and some good family time.
This week was a bit shakier. For various reasons tensions are a little high in the school after a busy reporting period and with the need to make budgetary efficiencies. The lingering misconception that the MYP Coordinator position is an overly expensive administrative role makes it a target for suggestions of cost-cutting and sets up easy ‘big bucks’ jokes. Although certainly not intended to be so, once you’ve heard them a few times they feel personal. My role is on the teachers’ pay scale with no stipend; I more than fill the time allowance with curriculum and MYP work and meeting with teachers and administrators. I feel more teacher than admin, but I’m happy working with both groups. I’m pseudmin. When things are good, I feel like I’m making a difference in an environment that has traditionally resisted the MYP; that we are making progress and that there is a positive future here. When things are rough, it’s important to remember that others feel stress too. Next week will be busier and better.
I’m a pragmatic idealist, I want to do a good job, make a difference and provide for my family – but I want to do it with integrity and a smile. A recent study suggested that beyond a comfortable living income, more money does not equate to more happiness, and I use it as a mantra. I know I’m providing a very high standard of living for my family and good prospects for my children. Beyond this, happiness comes from positive interactions, from the feeling of doing a good job and of trying to put something worthwhile into the world. I don’t want to choose to earn more in a true admin position but ramp up the stress for myself and the family. Maybe the time will come when I’m ready for that. For now I want to stay rooted in the classroom, to work directly with students, develop myself as a teacher and to help others grow too. I want to help generate a culture of can-do, to help the school improve, to come home happy in the evening as I generally do. I don’t mind that report-writing takes a long time or that ATLAS is not fun, that expectations are high or that reflecting on our own professional practice can be uncomfortable: these are some of the ways we earn the privilege of being a teacher in an international school. It’s why we all get paid the big bucks.
But maybe I do need to develop a thicker skin.
So here’s a question to other MYP Coordinators: Do you have these weeks too? Oddly as an IBDPCo in Indonesia, I never felt like the position was a target – I wonder if that is because of the high-stakes nature of of the programme.
I would also love to read some great leadership advice for people who choose to be in the middle. If you have any great recommendations, let me know!
Comments are open or find me on Twitter: @IBiologyStephen
*Image: Piggy in the Middle, by Holly Occhipinti (Pinti 1), Creative Commons on Flickr