It just dawned on me. I don’t have to suffer all of the struggles and frustrations of staffing season all by myself! I have a place to vent. It was only last summer when I started posting my thoughts here, so I have never had this lovely little outlet during staffing season… and we are in it!
Now please realize, I like to pretend, while I write, that I have many readers who are art teachers, and many others who are administrators trying to better understand the place of art in their schools. I realize that the truth is probably that I have three readers, and one of them is probably my mother, but I’m going to go on pretending. And what better occasion to address these two groups – during the time of year when they find each other.
Let’s start by talking about itinerants, shall we?! For those not in education (Mom), these are teachers who teach at more than one school.
Having itinerants is a pain in the butt! Not the people, mind you. There are many awesome teachers who happen to be itinerant, but the logistics of having itinerants is just not conducive to an excellent educational environment. Let me explain the problem (from my perspective) and then explain why, despite the problems, we have to do it anyway. (Seem pointless? It may be, but I think I made it very clear at the top that I was going to vent about staffing issues that bug me.)
Schools thrive in large part because there are teachers and administrators who are committed to doing what ever it takes: working long hours, collaborating with their colleagues, being there for special events, and doing the work – whatever it may be – to make sure students succeed. Itinerant teachers can’t commit fully. They may want to, and try to, but it’s impossible when they have to split their time between multiple schools.
An itinerant teacher has to balance and navigate multiple schools, multiple student populations, multiple sets of administrators (which you may read as “expectations”), and potentially multiple events even at the same time. An itinerant teacher cannot be at each school for staff meetings, back-to-school nights, and collaborative learning team meetings. They lose the benefit of these and on top of it, they lose time to travel that could be better spent planning, grading, or helping a student directly. Other teachers and administrators even have to plan even a conversation for a day the itinerant will be on site. The result is that an itinerant teacher is less than a full part of the school community, and this is less than ideal.
BUT… There’s this issue that stems from money. (Isn’t it always money?!)
School funding and staffing allocations are based on student enrollment, and these are not round numbers. When the staffing calculation give you a fraction, you get a fraction of a teacher. That’s the reality. The only way to fully avoid having itinerant teachers is to increase school staffing allocations in increments of a full time position. The idea is simple, but especially in a huge school system like mine, this would amount to many millions of dollars in cost. It’s simple to think about one itinerant teacher, but multiply that times 200 schools, and multiply again to cover overages in physical education, general music, and instrumental music – just to start, and the numbers are already ridiculous.
So itinerants are here to stay. I will keep trying to help schools find teachers for these split positions, and within this paradigm, we will keep doing what’s best for kids.