We are hearing frequent reports of serious teacher shortages both nationally and locally. See “Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional)” Aug. 9, 2015 and “Shortage Puts Uncertified Teachers in Arizona Classrooms” Aug. 1, 2015. This only deepens our appreciation for the two groups of teachers and support staff we have assembled at PFFS-Downtown and PFFS-University. They are an amazing group of human beings.
The combination of some of last year’s staff leaving Tucson (and some other staff changes) this summer and our adding 8th grade at PFFS-Downtown this year – has meant that we now have 8 new faculty members at the two schools. Since we only have 21 total staff positions, that represents a hefty percentage of new people.
Fortunately, we have two things going for us. First, our unique mission/vision attracts a special type of educator who is a learner, an adventurer, a caregiver, a thinker and a risk taker. We literally have teachers who have been stalking us, waiting for an opening for a specific grade/class. Applicants are interested in our school because they believe that they will not have to make the same sort of educational compromises that unfortunately happen at so many other schools. They desire a school where the established structures allow teachers to truly know their students. They want to work at a place where what is taught matters, not only because it represents rigorous academics, but also because it is grounded in the larger context of society and the community they live in.
Secondly, Santo & I always work hard during the interview process to not only hire competent teachers but also seek professionals who eagerly embrace collaboration and making their work public. Both PFFS schools have classrooms that are open to public observation. This works with us because our model of teacher improvement is not about top-down evaluation, but instead it is built on group reflection and support. We watch each other to learn how to improve our practice. We ask each other to come into our classrooms for collegial support. We know that the work of teaching young adolescents who come to us with such diverse needs and individual learning profiles is deeply challenging, intellectual work that can be best mastered as a team.
School has started and the week we had of adult-only planning time is now history. But already we have established a culture of care and support – not only within each school, but across campuses. A particularly exciting new development this year is the hiring of our new Assistant Principal, Chad Blair who will split his time between the two campuses. His traveling between the two campuses should help us maintain the momentum of collaboration that was started at this year’s joint staff retreat.
As for Santo and I, we are just happy knowing that we would have been thrilled to have our own children know and work with any of the PFFS staff as their middle grade teachers and mentors – always the true measure of confidence. It’s going to be a great year!