I’ve Been Oriented

Since I signed the contract a week ago Friday, I’ve been working fairly steadily on preparation. Still feeling the butterflies, especially with each day bringing me closer to that pivotal first day with the students.

Last week, it helped to remember I was not alone. Tuesday and Thursday we had county-wide New Teacher Orientation. There were hundreds of us crammed into Perry Hall High School, so many in fact that we were assigned to satellite schools for parking and had to take a school bus. Thankfully, we were very well fed and caffeinated.

Tuesday morning we were greeted by the high school band and flag team as one of their seniors did a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Then the county suits all welcomed us, some more formally than others, but using humor and enthusiasm to let us know they were delighted to have us there. We reviewed county and state expectations with a lecture on the coming of the Common Core, which thankfully is not under assault in Maryland.

We were then broken into disciplines and English gurus walked us through the specifics of the Common Core for teaching English.  They had us turn and talk, get up and walk, think and write; putting us through the very paces we’d be putting the kids through in just a few weeks.

Lunch meant eating and visiting the gauntlet of vendors who offered us keepsakes, tschokes, and giveaways to entice us to use them for our investments or banking needs. We were enticed to get Barnes & Noble teacher discount cards, join the PTA, the Education Association and most notably, the union. Once I did, I got both a water bottle and a folder full of information including aspects of my job that I kept waiting for HR to tell me (including how many sick days I get).

After lunch, I went to a breakout session for the 8th and 9th grade teachers where we reviewed Springboard, the text book we’d be using. We got brand new copies of the teachers’ edition for ourselves and were shown how to access the website to get electronic resources including a PDF version of the text. That proved rather useful. Again, we were broken into groups and given exercises to practice different ways to pass on knowledge.

On Thursday, we spent two hours on the state’s new teacher evaluation system. A friend warned me early on that I’d be hearing Charlotte Danielson’s name invoked in beatific ways. Sure enough, this woman who took existing practices and turned it into a “framework” was cited so often, I wanted to turn it into a drinking game. Seriously, there was nothing new here except how the info was organized. The evaluation systems strikes me as overly complicated with way too many steps but as it rolls out, I expect it to be modified as reality sets in.

I was assigned to a classroom for the rest of the day where we worked on professional conduct and classroom management – far more useful than lectures. Our instructor was enthusiastic and energetic so she made the exercises and discussion plenty of fun. We broke in between for lunch and braved the gauntlet once more. Although this time, I won a door prize consisting of some gift certificates and coupons, mostly aimed at the female demographic.

What about Wednesday? Well, I was one of eight reporting to Owings Mills High where we had school-specific orientation. Apparently, eight is a significantly large number compared to previous years. We were given some opening remarks, met the school’s new principal, and then peppered our guide with questions about the school and its culture. Then he took us on a tour of the building followed by a tour of the programs we’d be using for attendance, grading and communication with our students.  Without a school email address, as yet, I observed but can’t wait to get rolling.

By 11 we were done and I spent the next three hours in my classroom and the English faculty room. The classroom had been cleaned out for me so I took a cleaner and rags and wiped things down and then began organizing. Until I get my schedule and class lists I’m unsure of the optimal seating arrangement but managed to get some things setup. It was good to unpack some of the gear I brought in including some of my books for the room’s library. My department chair also began reviewing an approach to the 11th grade curriculum that helped.

Friday, my final weekday free for a while, saw me preparing PowerPoints, handouts, documentation and the like. And of course, more studying for the Praxis II so I can earn my Social Studies certification.

Tomorrow I report to the school with the rest of the faculty and there’s just a week before the kids arrive. I’m closer to being prepared, just uncertain when the nerves will give way to confidence.

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