Starting School

With the clean-up from Irene spreading across the towns, school finally got underway in Darien yesterday. At least 30% of the students said they still had no electricity, some still had no water. Yet, they showed up, brightly scrubbed and ready for class. The fact that the building had power and AC probably helped the overall mood. Teachers were similarly eager to get the school year started, with no one really wanting to tack on days to the end of the calendar in June.

We had a delayed opening plus an extended homeroom so students could see a video broadcast and receive hard copies of their schedules.  Based on previous experience, the Guidance office asked me and our new intern, Dan, to man a table with copies of the schedule for those who skipped homeroom or lost their copy between homeroom and first period. After an hour, and handing out fewer than ten schedules, we were dismissed.

I was given the chance to occupy a new desk this semester, a regulation-sized teacher’s desk further in the back of the faculty offices. I’m no longer a gatekeeper but now have a phone so the central office can find me. As a result, I spent some time yesterday cleaning it out and reorganizing it, keeping it generic enough for whoever gets the desk fulltime in the future.

The fun came when I got to observe four different teachers kick off the school year. Each was warm and welcoming, but all four worked very differently. Three worked through the roster to learn nicknames and a few had them do some ice breaking assignments to get to know the students. Since one teacher mainstreamed five seasons of Lost over the summer, she was inspired to have them identify themselves as what sort of person they would be on the island – leader, supporter, cheerleader, challenger – and what one object they would bring with them. Then they were broken into groups, one from each category, to compare objects and determine how they would actually be used on the island. A hammock, for example, could also double as a fishing net.

Only one teacher walked the students through the curriculum and expectations in the traditional manner, the one I imagined they would all use. That made me give some further thought to what I could do whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Today I’m covering art: graphic design and sculpture. I’ve been reviewing some handouts, letting do thumbnail sketches for their first assignment and watched as a class of freshman played with clay. It’s been good seeing them get right to work.

One comment

  • Susan Osthaus

    I’ve always enjoyed your presentations at Shore Leave and every now and again visit your blog. I’ve been charting your progress in teaching and thought you might like to check out the LiveJournal of a fellow secondary school English teacher (many years of experience) and published writer of SF, jimvanpelt.livejournal.com. He gives lots of great teaching advice (which writers can also use on their own), and he’s a great guy from the old Rumor Mill days. Good luck. SueO2

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