Four Weeks Done

If I thought the first four months of the year was a rush, the last six weeks rival it. I am only now coming to terms with what has happened and the dramatic changes in my life. While still not entirely feeling real, I am coming to accept that yes, I am a newly employed teacher, starting a second career, and that these are my kids. For better or worse, their fate these next ten months are in my hands.

Given the timing between hiring and the first day of classes coupled with the technical glitches keeping me off the school network for nearly two weeks, I felt vaguely overwhelmed and constantly behind. As a result, each succeeding day has grown smoother and a routine is taking shape.

Some of my biggest concerns over teaching –pacing my units and crafting lesson plans – were helped in two significant ways. First, the 9th grade curriculum is largely laid out in the SpringBoard while the 11th grade curriculum was revamped over the summer and lays things out day by day. The second advantage is that we consult with one another, a lot. My fellow 9th grade teacher and I compare notes every few days, adjusting along the way, and spend Friday afternoons talking about the following week. In that case, I also have access to the PowerPoints she has prepared over the last few years so I can take it and modify it for my needs. There are five of us teaching 11th grade (standard, Honors, and AP) so we’re a little more all over the place but do keep tabs on where we are.

This way, I roughly know what’s happening a week or so out and have materials and visuals ready 2-3 days out. This means, each morning I can roll in at 7, refresh myself on the day’s activities and be set to work. And at the end of the day, after some much needed decompression, I grade and prep for the next few days. I find I am staying until 4:30 or so, treating it like an office and normal work day so the work stays in school (for the most part) allowing me my own time when I get home. This makes for 9-10 hour days plus commuting so it’s been full.

My day starts with two 9th grade classes so I can instantly modify a lesson that’s not working as planned although each of the four classes has its own personality. Period 2 tends to be my quiet class, which helps. I then have a period free where I grab a cup of coffee and check email, do some grading, etc. I then have my 30 minute lunch duty where I increasingly am finding myself helping kids, at their request, with assignments. After this I have my 11th grade class, which has its own personality. When they leave, I have a free period where I have my lunch with fellow teachers. Then I teach the final two classes.

Some days it works. Other days the lessons need help. Yesterday turned out to be writer’s workshop for all five classes. After the first two, I realized it wasn’t sparking any dialogue and was told it was really boring. I took the free period to go watch how my colleague was teaching the same things to her class. It was somewhat revelatory and I took notes, modifying how I’d handle the afternoon classes. I went in expecting immediate improvement but whereas her class spoke up and contributed good thoughts to the conversation, my two slept, sat mute, did homework or shrugged, refusing to think. They really exasperated me.

Overall, though, with each passing day I am feeling more on top of the tasks making up my day. I’ve been grading, posting the grades, emailing parents, attending student meetings, having my committee meetings (and the attendant work related), and other requirements of being an educator.

My mother keeps saying it’ll be two years before it feels right. At least I feel I’m heading in the right direction.

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