Now, I'm on the other side as the one who assigns FTE. And while I can't take all of the stress and anxiety away, here is what I would say to my teacher self and anyone else in this situation:
1. Do your thing, and do it well.
While this is the time of year that retention is at the front of everyone's mind, you are really working all year to give your kids a great experience so they will want to return! Don't feel like you have to change it up or track students down or do a silly little promotion - your best strategy is to make your class awesome all year long, because that is what they will think of when choosing classes for next year!
2. Don't make it a competition.
This is so hard! There are only so many kids, and elective teachers are usually "fighting" to get them in class. The worst thing you can do is to turn it into a competition and set yourself against any other teacher. Through collaboratively building each other up, we can all have strong programs! I've seen schools where that is the culture, and it works - everything thrives! I'm not sure how that works out, numerically, but it does!
3. Advocate for yourself!
Share your ideas, thoughts, and dreams with your administrators! There is no one who knows your schedule, strengths, and talents better than yourself, and you often can a creative solution to get more classes (or divide them in different ways) better than anyone else can. Don't be afraid to ask!
4. Realize you don't see the big picture.
There are approximately one thousand factors I am balancing when allocating FTE. Okay, not quite that many, but it is very complicated! There are things that administrators can't share, especially about HR issues, and ultimately, it's their job to figure it out. Please see #3 and advocate for yourself, but don't cross the line to thinking you know everything and pestering admins.
5. Don't take it personally.
This is one of the most challenging ones for me. When kids didn't sign up for my class, I wanted to take it personally (what did I do wrong?). When I didn't get as much FTE as I thought I should, I wondered why. Now, being on the other side, I can see that sometimes circumstances are such that it just doesn't work out. I know I will probably have to let good people go at some point, and that's hard. Meanwhile, in my own professional life, I am in an interim position, and I may or may not get to stay where I am - I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the fact that it may not have anything to do with me, and everything to do with the other factors around me.
6. Give yourself extra grace.
True confession: I was stressed last night. So I gave myself permission to go to the store and buy a candy bar to eat while I listened to an audiobook to chill out a bit (side note: there's something ironic about listening to Brene Brown talk about different habits to numb our emotions in Dare to Lead while munching on a candy bar after a hard day...). My healthiest coping mechanism? Not at all. And then, this morning, I've hardly done anything. And that's okay. Don't beat yourself up, and realize that you might need a little extra space in your life to deal with the extra stress.
And finally...7. I'm on your side.
As an administrator, I want all of my teachers to be successful. Period. End of story. I also have to make hard decisions that affect your lives, and don't underestimate the emotional toll it takes on me to process through these decisions. Even when the results aren't what you wish, know that I am committed to supporting you through it all and hoping that next year, we will be able to get that extra class or better schedule!
Happy February :-)!