Year Two Comes to a Successful End

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School ends Friday but for me, the year ended today.Year two went far better than year one, and looking back, I can feel the growth and confidence growing. There are still plenty of things I want to do better, starting with classroom management, but I am definitely getting the hang of this teaching thing. I had a productive year end evaluation that shows my strengths and weaknesses, pointing the way.The year wound down and I found a good way to keep the sophomores engaged. Given how dreary and depressing the world lit we read was, I wanted them to think about better worlds. But first, I gave them five dystopia short stories to read and we discussed them and the concept of how a utopia slides into a dystopia. Then, I selected team captains who in turn divided the class into teams and they competed to build the perfect utopia and create a presentation to entice our panel of judges to select which one is most appealing.They met for a day to look over the rubric and guidelines and divvy up assignments. We then spent three days in the library where they could research, brainstorm, and plan the presentation. I do not think I have ever seen them work harder and waste less time than last week.Tuesday was the day. I had four judges from faculty and administration in each class to help me assess the work. My first class went all out, with food, leis, and the presentation. One team even handed us scrolls with their country’s declaration of independence. The afternoon teams skipped the food but had video presentations, posters, and documentation in case we were ready to apply for citizenship.Interestingly, they had a lot of overlapping ideas but also diverged in other ways. Our judges asked pointed questions, probing the plans for social safety nets or import/exports and so on. It was tremendously gratifying to see their hard work and effort pay off.On the other hand, I was sweating completing work on our literary magazine.  We had some communication breakdowns and some tech we counted on wasn’t coming together so we skipped InDesign and full color artwork in favor of a straight text publication using MS Publisher. When our copier balked at the 11×17 paper, I had to regroup and copied everything in a Word document, did some down and dirty formatting and finally got 50 copies printed and distributed this week. Many lessons learned for next year.Today was a makeup day and we still had a lot of kids in the halls, mainly because they had nowhere to be or their parents sent them in anyway. I cleaned the classroom, wiping down everything and storing text books, equipment and the like. I then tackled my desk in the English office, reorganizing to make room for the inherited Journalism materials. I also helped my team clean out common cabinets. But it wasn’t all work as we had a fabulous pot luck lunch.And then suddenly, I turned in my keys and final paperwork and the year was officially over. Tomorrow is real final day but for me it was today. And it’s sad. The department chair who hired me and mentored me and was really, really patient with me is leaving us and this was one day less with her. She’s one school over and will be my guest at Shore Leave but still, this was a bittersweet day.Now I have gone from teacher to student. I write this from a cinderblock dorm room at Farleigh Dickinson University. After a hellacious 5 hour drive, rather than the 3 hours it should have taken, I arrived to begin my three day residency, kicking off my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and Literature for Teachers. We begin Friday at 9 with a very full schedule.I admit to being eager to learn and be better prepared for year three.

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