As the School Year Progresses

20141020_153748I’m not writing as much about being a teacher this year as last; largely because I haven’t had a lot of time nor do I have a lot of angst to work through.

I can’t begin to describe the difference between Year One and Year Two. Not every single thing I do is new and I actually have experiences to call upon. The amount of stuff I have internalized is showing up in a variety of ways which has given me tremendous more confidence.

That said it is not all smooth sailing. This is my first year with Honors students and I came in with high expectations and they have been largely met. Their collective work ethic remains spotty and they seem to think first drafts are perfectly acceptable, even for revisions. Their writing shows huge gaps in processing and organization along with weaker than anticipated vocabularies so I have to work in more opportunities for them to break down essay writing, pre-plan more, and hone their wordsmithing skills. This of course means time away from other thigns I had hoped to do and while I am off the schedule the county would ideally like us to be on, remain on pace to finish unit one around the end of the first quarter.

Tenth grade curriculum is also new to me. I find I am enjoying working with my kids as we dig deep into Oedipus the King. The picture you see here is from masks the kids made reflecting their personalities, styled mostly on the traditional Greek theater masks. I am now looking for ways to transition from that work to the far more modern African novel, Things Fall Apart.  As I have mentioned before, I find the fiction selections uniformly downbeat and a year of depressing reading is really not in the students’ best interests.

For the eleventh graders, a year under my belt means I am able to take what worked last year and shine it up or take the lessons that bombed and start fresh. We’re well into The Crucible now and once more the classes are getting into it.

My mentor teacher has seen tremendous growth and is focusing me on achieving my goals so the tough love is helpful. My first formal observation with my principal and department chair went very well and we had a good, constructive feedback section immediately afterwards while everything was fresh in our minds.

What is now sucking down more time than expected are the side obligations such as communicating with students and parents through two different school-based portals, using more social media to stay available, and managing a classroom website so kids can find work, schedules, and resources. It’s all good as we begin the multi-year transition to a more digital environment but I see the students struggle with using tech beyond their ability to text and take selfies so we have some more work to do.

I am also about to begin two extracurricular projects: first, I am bringing the nationwide Poetry Out Loud competition to our school and we’re beginning to make the students aware of it this week. And on Wednesday we hold the organization meeting for our literary magazine which I am inheriting and have been asked to upgrade and expand its format. Both bring tremendous opportunities for the students and finally give me ways to more deeply integrate myself into the school community and culture.

There’s still more to learn and refine but trust me, we’re off to a much steadier start this year.

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