Tag Archives: teaching

Meet the fockers . . . I mean, parents

Tonight was our Middle School Open House. I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I haven’t really been to a school open house since . . . oh, I don’t know . . . 5th grade! I went to the SHS one last year but it didn’t really count since there were only a few parents that showed (it was in the second semester) and I wasn’t really the teacher and hadn’t been teaching most of the students by that point anyway (since it was early in the semester). So I re-printed my “Respect Contract” (my behavioral expectations) and made a snazzy little flyer with pictures and columns and a cute border (I’m a little proud of it, can’t you tell?) and went there tonight not really sure what to expect. I got there at about 6:20ish for the 6:30 Open House, and found about two dozen or so parents waiting outside the Middle School doors; I did NOT expect that.  I also did not expect the feeling of being a celebrity . . . I literally had people lining up to talk to me as I chatted with other parents.  Overall, though, I think it went all right. I found myself repeating the same things a lot: “Here’s my newsletter that tells you about my class, how I grade, and what we’ll be learning this year,” “If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me,” “I have found that all seventh graders talk a lot,” “No, I am not a student, I am a teacher.” Okay, maybe I didn’t really have to say that last one, but I did have a few parents comment on how they thought I was a student and not a teacher. Grreaaat . . . I could understand being mistaken for a high school during student teaching, but seriously, a seventh grader?! Really? I think I will have to teach kindergarten for a few years in order for me to be recognized instantly as a teacher instead of a student.

Over all, though, I thought it was a good night and could not realize how quickly it went by. I probably met 20 or so of my students’ parents, which really is not even 1/4. It was neat to see how my students acted around their parents though and what the parents had to say about their kids. I found myself becoming more enthusiastic about teaching after tonight, so I have to say it was a productive evening. It’s also nice to know that there are supportive parents out there willing to meet their children’s parents and take a part in their education.

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Why can’t we be friends?

Yeah, I’m still sick, but now the grossness has migrated from my throat to my nose. I’m surviving on water, gatorade, peppermint herbal tea, Dayquil, Nightquil, and Airborne. And tissues . . . lots and lots of tissues.

Anyway, today I witnessed something rather, well, amazing, in my opinion. In my one class there is a boy with Asberger’s. He’s very smart, rather funny and quick with a joke, gets along pretty well with teachers, but socially around his peers, he just doesn’t cut it. He’ll get upset easily in class, yell out inappropriate things such as “SHUT UP!” or “KNOCK IT OFF, YOU RETARDS!” (which, by the way, the use of the word “retard” is a major no-no in my book, but I’m not quite sure how to get him to stop saying it . . . or if I even can), or go up to girls in the class and try to touch them. Many of the other students find him strange or, at the very least, an avoidance, and I must admit, I feel his pain. He was aware of his condition which probably makes it even more painful. He has a TSS worker who is with him throughout the day, and, while she is a great help, especially to the teachers, and works extremely well with him, I am sure her added presence just makes him feel even that much more noticeable in terms of his differences.

Anyway, there is another boy in the same class, and apparently there is some bad blood between these two. The TSS worker said they got in a fight last year, and even in my class there has already been some confrontations. I even caught the second boy making the (for lack of better words) “retard” sign at the student with Asberger’s (which resulted in an immediate visit to the vice principal because actions like that, in my opinion, are bullying and will not be tolerated in my classroom). To put it bluntly, things have been a little tense between these two boys, and I try to keep them separated as much as possible for the good of the order.

Flash forward to today. We are working on a creative project where students are allowed to work in partners or groups of three. As the students are pairing and grouping off, I keep an eye on my student with Asbergers, because I know one of his “touchy” points is group work. As he kind of fumbles around and figures out what to do, I hear a familiar voice call to him, “Hey, you wanna work with us?” I look and it’s boy number two and another classmate, who also has a tendency to be a bit . . . sneaky, if you know what I mean. In my head, I’m thinking, “Great, this is not going to go well,” but I let the boys work together and stand close by in case anything should go down.

Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . those boys worked together SO well that class and then later on during Core Plus time (I see my students twice a day; the second time is called Core Plus). I was actually completely dumbfounded. I first I couldn’t tell if the other two boys were being sincere or not but I truly think they were. All three of them were joking and working together, and while the boy with Asberger’s was actually working on his own project after all, he sat near the other two and was cracking jokes with them. I made sure to tell the first two students how proud I was of them for inviting him into their group with them, and I am truly hoping that this is the start of a new chapter for them. While I know seventh grade hormones and everything can be fickle, I am still remaining optimistic. It was truly a great part of the day.

It’s the things like this that remind me why I decided to drag my butt out of bed before the sun rises, deal with whiny twelve year-olds, read and plan until my eyes and fingers hurt . . . because I know that sometimes, it is truly worth it.

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It’s been a hard day’s night . . .

I am so, so, so very tired, and I am only seven days into school.

I am sure this is just a “getting adjusted”-type phase and in a few weeks I’ll be more acclimated to the 5:45 a.m. mornings, hour meetings after school (only sporadically, thank goodness), the 90+ pre-teens I see every day, and the hour or more a night I put in planning. But right now, at this point, it is all I can do not to fall asleep on the drive home. Luckily, J and I just got a beautiful, comfortable, LARGE (this is key) king sized bed delivered yesterday and I had the best night’s sleep that I have had probably since May, which is in large part due to the fact that neither of our dogs woke up in the middle of the night for the first time ever. However, despite the great shut eye, I am still exhausted.

Honestly, it is September 3, and I am looking forward to October . . . November . . . December . . . May . . . and I must admit, I am not quite sure how I am going to do it. I know they say that the first year of teaching is the most difficult, but am I truly ready for it? I gotta admit, I can be lazy sometimes. I can procrastinate like the best of them. Yet despite (or maybe because of?) these flaws, I did extremely well in school and in college, without pulling all-nighters or getting TOO stressed out. And yet, now, as a teacher, I find that I can not do it, at all. I cannot procrastinate. When in college, the only person I was ever responsible for was myself. If I didn’t do the work, the only person it really affected was me. Now, if I don’t do the work, I have 90 12 year-olds staring me down, plus a team of teachers and administrators breathing down my neck. It is really intimidating, truly. I have always said that I work better under pressure, but . . . jeez. Can I really handle this kind of pressure?

The only thing that is keeping me going right now is my a) still kindling passion for teaching, b) the knowledge that every single new teacher has, is, or will be going through the exact thoughts and feelings that I am, and c) I know I am a good teacher (well, as good as you can be at this stage, anyway), and I can’t let my insecurities and the feelings of being in waaay over my head remove me from that knowledge. I had excellent training, I know my content extremely well, and, most of all, I love the students and what I do (well, most of the time). I just wish I had a Dr. Reeves or a Jan around to remind me of that these past two weeks. 😦

But, hey . . . tomorrow is a new day.

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Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I’m not a fool

So I am completely in over my head right now.

Okay, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but . . . wow, oh, wow . . . is real teaching NOTHING like student teaching. I mean, sure, there are some similarities: waking up early and lesson plans. But the management, the paperwork, the faculty meetings, the Act 48 hours – none of that you get during student teaching. And I have to tell you: I had a really really awesome student teaching experience. So that first week of real teaching? Maybe nothing can truly prepare one for that.

I should say now that while I know a few posts again I said I would probably be blogging a lot about turning “green,” now that teaching has truly taken over my life, much of this blog will be dedicated to that. I should also add that as a professional, I need to be careful about what I write here, especially considering it is a public forum and everything. However, I do think it’s important to chronicle my first year as a new teacher, and I like my friends and family to read about my life so they know what’s going on, so I will try to blog often about what I can.

So, anyway . . . the first week was pretty much a success. I have only had issues with one student so far, and I found out that it is probably not just me, so that was a relief. I have also discovered that seventh graders are chatty, chatty, CHATTY. While I do not mind students talking, by Friday I found myself a little annoyed at the amount of talking they did while getting out their materials, turning to the right page, while I was putting something on the board, etc. In fact, I told most of my 4 classes that I was rather annoyed with the talking, and I think they got the idea rather quickly. Right now I have my students sitting in groups of four because that’s how they were during student teaching and I really liked that. However, I am not quite sure seventh graders are mature enough for that much face-to-face interaction, so I may have to rethink my seating arranagements for now. While I do not necessarily want to go to rows (it’s kind of against my teaching philosophy, which relies heavily on cooperative learning), I also realize that middle school is a different ball game, and that many of my students are still learning “school” in a sense: that is, a lot of them don’t have the skills for positive, beneficial group learning yet. YET. I think by the end of the year I can definitely get them there, but I think I may have to rethink some of my expectations now that I have spent a week with my students. Not lower my expectations, mind you, but rather, adjust them for the time being and the reality of the situation. I would never lower my expectations, of course – I am too high-reaching for that. 😉

So I have been slowly getting acquainted with the school, the faculty, the other teachers on my team . . . and quickly getting acquainted with my students. I have to say that, even already, I have become fond of many of my students. There are some really funny kids are our team, and some really kind spirits, and I think this year is definitely going to be interesting. However, it has been hard getting adjusted to a new school, a new district, new teachers, new students, and, yes, a new curriculum. That is a lot of new for my life, although, let’s face it, “new” has been the key word for my life this entire summer. I am still learning the ropes of the school, while at the same time teaching and lesson planning and figuring out my curriculum. It has been a lot of learning on my part, and just a reminder that even as a teacher, I am still a student. However, despite the early mornings (waking up at 5:45 is going to get old real fast) and the 30 minute drive, I am still loving teaching. I am just trying to make sure not to become jaded by the commute, the difficult students, the loads of grading, or the other teachers (negative attitudes are abundant, unfortunately) and keeping that gusto that I felt during college and student teaching. The good news is, I have a great support system, a supportive husband, and some awesome students, so it should all be good. 🙂

However, we’ll see how I am feeling after the SECOND week . . . just kidding.

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And if you wanna be the teacher’s pet, baby, you’d just better forget it

I have reached a turning point in my life this week. I have officially begun the long process of setting up my classroom. After being under construction (and in the dark) for most of the summer, my room has finally be opened to me and I spent the last two afternoons trying to figure stuff out. And let me tell you, there is a LOT of stuff to figure out. I am sure my predecessor was a nice lady, but, holy crap, did she leave me a lot of JUNK. In my classroom I found a half-full bottle of Mylanta, random pictures of students, a gallon milk jug full of soda tabs, chapstick, an entire drawer full of stickers, 6 containers of gold glitter, and about 1000 “Student Achievement” papers, not to mention the stack of books, papers, and random school supplies. I officially have enough staples, paper clips, and thumb tacks to last me for the rest of my teaching career, I think. Of course, these various odds and ends were not organized in any fashion, but rather stashed in the top drawer of the desk. Yeah . . . I am STILL cleaning it out.

We had a district new employee seminar today (complete with breakfast at Country Cupboard), in which we received a CRAP load of information about benefits, pay roll, and, of course, the teacher’s union. We had a lunch with our district union president (a teacher at one of our elementary schools) and our PSEA (Pennsylvania State Education Association – the larger “union,” if you will) representatives. They went over EVERYTHING; it was rather tedious. But I now have a better understanding of the “business” side of being a teacher, including the credits I need to start accumulating if I want to keep my certification. (For those who don’t know – in Pennsylvania, after you get your initial teaching certification, called Level or Instructional I, you have six years to get 24 additional credits in order to apply for your Level or Instructional II. If you don’t achieve these 24 credits, you lose your certification.)

Tomorrow we have a team building day at Camp Victory (human knot, anyone?), and I hope it only takes half the day so I have some more time to work on my classroom. Thursday is a “normal” inservice day, with faculty meetings and stuff. Friday I will probably also spend most of the day in my classroom finishing everything up. It’s been a little overwhelming, but the more time I spend at the school, the better I feel. Plus, I met two out of the three team members on my team (each grade level has two teams that teach the four core subjects), and they both seem pretty cool. I also met my mentor today (the other 7th grade English teacher) who is NOTHING like I had thought (but in a good way). I’ve also made some friends with new staff at the middle school, and a few of them are my age and fresh out of college, which is nice. I was worried for a little that I would be the only 22 year-old in a school of middle aged teachers.

Now I have to work on my classroom management strategy and make a poster for my classroom rules. Well, I’m not calling them “rules” – more of a contract, between me and the students. I’m going to read some parts of my Classroom Management book a little, just for some tips and ideas, and then get cracking! Wish me luck. I am going to need a lot of it these next few months.

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