The First Quarter in Review

Halloween gets everyone excited, whether you’re in costume shaking down the neighbors for candy or girding yourself for the onslaught of candy-crazed kids. At the high school level, most kids have decided they’re too old and too cool to dress up and collect fun sized pieces of chocolate. Still, it reminds them of childhood and this year, it happened to coincide with the final day of the first quarter with the promise of a day off to follow. Maybe that’s why just about every member of the faculty noted what a stressful day Thursday was.

For me, though, it was a chance to look back and realize what has transpired in just under three months. In early August I was hired and had to acclimate myself to the curriculums of two grades, find my way through a new bureaucracy plus navigate a new building. I had to figure out how to organize and decorate a classroom, plan out my lessons and pace myself to get through each seven period day.

Yesterday, while the kids slept in, I was in the building for professional development, grading and planning. (There was also a chili cook-off but my entry didn’t place, but it was fun anyway.) I have developed a wonderful working relationship with my fellow 9th grade teacher and even though I am still largely following her experienced lead, I am still contributing ideas and work so it’s really a partnership. The other four 11th grade teachers have all been generous with answering my questions and helping me figure out how to get my kids to work through the more challenging material. At the faculty meeting yesterday, my work on a Performance Based Assessment was recognized as a major help, chunking it for the students and contributing a model script to show the students. My chair proudly described by efforts resembling that of a 20 year veteran not a raw rookie.

I’m definitely into a rhythm, creating lessons and PowerPoints, and learning which kids need a kick, which need cajoling and which need me to just let them be. It’s not dissimilar to my coordinating the freelancers at DC and Marvel, each of whom needed something different.

Still, I’m struggling with managing their rambunctious behavior. For a variety of reasons, my seventh period class is proving the most challenging. We’re all tired at day’s end so my buttons may be more easily pressed but they also bring a set of issues with them that have proven to be combustible. It got bad enough on Thursday that I got loud enough to attract my chair’s attention. She waded in and calmly read them the riot act for five minutes while I cooled off in the hallway.

Several commiserated with me and noted they all struggled with all the same issues their first year. It’s great to know I am far from alone but my ego has taken a bit of bruising.

Monday we begin the second quarter and my classes will begin with a restatement of policies and procedures. This time, though, there will be swifter and harsher consequences for their actions.  More calls home, my first detentions…whatever it will take to show them they should not ignore the rules. Maybe when they see their first quarter grades the ninth graders will be shocked into taking things more seriously. Or, more likely, when their parents see the grades, their behavior will be properly modified.

We’ll see.

I’ve come quite a way since I was hired and recognize there’s so much more to learn, much of it coming through experience. I continue to treat this year as a 10 month laboratory as I try techniques and practices to see what will work and what won’t. I’m constantly being told I need to develop these tools for my teacher’s utility belt so when something doesn’t work, I have the next one at the ready. Of course, I keep thinking I’m a seasoned professional who should know how to handle these situations but of course my seasoning was in publishing where I was dealing adult to adult, not adult to still-developing adolescent. They cannot really be compared.

One comment

  • Joseph Tages

    Great to hear about your chair taking into account your years of experience as an editor. Given the industry’s state at present in some places, it’s not unlike dealing with unruly teenagers or clueless instructors.

    Seventh period was always edgier for me because the day had dragged on for too long by then. Eight period was always easier on both teacher and student fronts because we all knew our cars and buses would be ready for us soon as that bell rang.

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