Giving Thanks, Taking Stock

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted and with good reason. I’m busy. Nothing new about that, I like being busy but this is really a different schedule and set of commitments that is threatening to become all-consuming.

The best things my department chair says to me are “don’t stay too late” and “stop working and have a life”. I arrive around 7 each morning and since I would rather not bring work home, I stay until 4:30-5 p.m. most days. By the time the final bell rings at 2:05, I need a few minutes to collect myself and before I know it, I’m rushing headlong from task to task, always trying to prep another day or two out. Most afternoons, though, I am entering data into the system from period attendance to grades to discipline reports. I’ve also had to step up calls home, which adds to the time being used. Fortunately, I am making calls that are good news along with the bad news calls. Parents and their students sound genuinely surprised when I say I notice improvement or comment on how hard they’re working.

I notice. I notice a lot and trying to process it all can be part of the time consumption. There really isn’t enough time available to reflect on each student in all five classes but I do know I am getting to know them bit by bit. Obviously, it starts with the louder and more disruptive ones, but I am trying to make a point of checking in with everyone at least once every few days. It’s when I notice a book they might be reading, or song they’re listening to, or even comments about the work we’re doing. I bring something up and they look stunned, unaware I heard them mention it a day or two earlier. Or that they wrote about it in their letter to me the first week of school. My awareness of their interests and lives, I think, helps me connect with them.

With that said the discipline issues haven’t magically gone away. Thankfully, I have been receiving plenty of administrative support including more frequent visits from the assistant principals. In fact, one morning this past week, one of the APs and my department chair were hanging out in the hall, keeping an ear out for trouble. Few of my kids realized they were just beyond the door, but they were working away and it was the most productive that class had been in a while. Some kids can’t seem to control themselves and they are removed from the class to cool down in the hall or have a chat with an AP. One has even gotten herself reassigned to another class, removing a major distraction.

I’m watching my 9th graders struggle with the difficulty of the high school work and the expectations. The first quarter grades proved to them how serious I was the first week, talking about how real and vital this year is for them. Some are trying harder, some need guidance, and others are still figuring out how to survive both socially and academically. The transition is proving more challenging than they expected and I just wish more would summon the courage to admit they need help.

The Thanksgiving break was certainly needed all around and while I managed some rest and some socializing, I also put in hours planning for this coming week as the school calendar inexorably grinds forward. It’s been a good break, and I think I’m recharged and ready. We’ll see.

One comment

  • Sharon VanBlarcom

    Bob, it is so good to read that you are contacting students with good news too. So often, the quiet kids go unnoticed because the teacher has their hands full with the loud ones. But even a short talk or thumbs up from a teacher can inspire the average “quiet” kid to work harder and achieve more than they thought they could. I’ve seen it happen.

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