Week One, Year Two

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

“How was the first week?”

I’ve been asked this question a lot lately-- by friends, family, hairdressers, and grocery store cashiers upon seeing that my only items for purchase are peanut butter, red pens, and Tylenol Extra Strength.  I’m still not quite sure how to answer it.

It’s sort of like being asked by others how things are going in a new dating relationship, you know, the “SoooOOOO....  how are things with that GUUUYYY?” (I tried to type out the intonation of the typical delivery of that question).  You don’t want to say, “Things are SO good!  I’ve already started doodling our names together in my composition notebook and stocking up on diapers for our future children,” but you also don’t want to be completely untruthful; that you aren’t excited or hopeful. 

So I will say this: the first week has gone well.  It’s already been very, very different from my first week last year, for several reasons.

1) I realize how the first week is supposed to work.  Last year, my goals for the first week were things like: “Get them to like you!  Make sure they know you care about them! Don’t worry about having things organized just yet, just get to know them! LOL!  I love everything!”  Yikes.  It’s no wonder why August, September, October, and November felt like the bowels of hell.  This year, my goal (singular) for the first week was, “Make sure they know how to work and how to act in your classroom.”  This doesn’t mean I operate by the Don’t Smile Until December rule, it just means that boundaries and procedures have to be set and understood before teaching, learning, and relationships can take place.  Did I communicate that with this set of kids? Let’s talk in December.  I will either confirm that or I will probably be in a coma.

2) I am organized.  Everything-- from homework to hall passes to supplies-- has its place as well as a very specific way it is handled. I now have class jobs for things that waste my time and bore my students like answering my phone, writing things on the board, and lending books to kids for silent reading. Also, EVERY desk is now marked with painter’s tape on the floor where it belongs so I’m not spending 20 minutes putting desks back where they belong the place at the end of the day.  I could write a book on the phenomenon of Student Desk Creep.  It’s mind-blowing.

3) I have orthopedic shoes.  One of my pre-AP students commented that my shoes seem “practical and satisfying.” I would agree with both of those adjectives.  They also prevent my foot bones from turning inward, giving me little clenched claw-feet.

So, to answer that question, the first week has gone very well. But if I learned anything from last fall, I’ve learned that things can go from sunshine and Beach Boys to full-force hurricane, bat-poop craziness in milliseconds. 

I guess the biggest difference is that this time I have an umbrella.



Nearly There

Friday, May 20, 2011

School is winding down.  I have almost made it through my first year.
If you had asked me back in September (or October… or November) if I thought I would have ever made it this far, I would have answered with an emphatic, “Oh, hell no.”  Ooo, child, I was a sad case.  Recently, my mom recalled a Sunday afternoon last fall in which she drove 40 minutes to my house to do my laundry because I was so miserable just thinking about the week that awaited me that I was practically paralyzed.  This post from September does a pretty good job of summing up my sentiments from last semester. 
Then, for whatever reason, something clicked after Christmas.  I figured a lot of things out.  I changed what wasn't working, and found ways to improve what was.  I forced myself to have a life outside of school, however small it might be.  I became a teacher who is firm, but kind.  I finally managed to use my classroom's bedamned projector system.
Yesterday, I was one of three teachers who showed up to school in the 7th grade hallway.  Substitutes had been called, but few showed up and my assistant principal was visibly frazzled.  I ended up redistributing the kids from the unsupervised classes into classrooms where a substitute or teacher was present.  I then taught five, hour-long classes with 36-40 students in my room.  I missed lunch because I met with a parent who is worried that her ex-boyfriend will kidnap her child.  I read 20 pages out loud to each of my last two classes of a book they love.  After school, I went to my students’ talent show where I screamed myself hoarse.  Before falling asleep, I typed up two quizzes for the following day and sent some emails about scheduling.  And yet, as I was laying in bed waiting the few moments it took for sleep to settle in, I felt empowered.  The day was chaotic, but I was the anchor.  I felt proud—of my students and myself.  It had been a good day.
Maybe I will burn out going so hard like this, but it’s miles better than being miserable.
Or worse, bored.

Back to School

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Welcome back!  Apparently I've grown a beard over break: