Given an odd quirk to the school calendar, I return toschool on Thursday with three days to teach before mid-terms. Given that two ofthose days will be review, that leaves a dangling day for mop up duty andgetting everyone, myself included, back into school mode.
The first semester has been fulfilling and challenging andfrustrating. I had my first formal observation of the year and my assistantprincipal was quite pleased with what he witnessed. He likes my preparation andenergy, my moving about the room and keeping students focused on the work nottheir homework for other classes or their phones.
I’ve been playing with what I’ve taught and how I’ve taughtit, trying different things. For example, I rolled out five classes working theAmerican Lit kids through songs from Hamilton,figuring the rap would get their interest, which it did. However, when it cameto making insightful conclusions, not so much and that’s where some of thefrustration comes in.
The students arrive trained to get grades. Learning istertiary at best. I keep telling them I don’t care about grades but about thelearning, the skills they need to be adults and they scoff. As a result, I havea rep as being a hard teacher and a harder grader. The students continue tocomplain I am giving them honors work when I point out much of my curriculumcame with me from teaching standard classes in Baltimore County. Thankfully,the administration has my back in this. They like that I am asking for deeperthinking and more effort.
One new challenge this year has been differentiatingstandard and honors British Literature, requiring different work and pacing. It’sbeen occasionally successful but this year’s honors students are not the sameas last year’s so there’s more pushback at the workload. The level ofdiscussion is also not as passionate, which took a while for me to adjust.
Perhaps the most frustrating has been journalism simplybecause I have nine students, six of whom are seniors filling out theirschedule rather than having any passion for writing. We’ve also been learningto go digital, so at least they might like learning new uses for the internet,but that has also been a disappointment. Still, this is a year to restore theprogram and lay a foundation and when scheduling comes for next year, I will beheavily lobbying targeted students to join me.
I’ve also been the sole junior class moderator (the othershave two and I can’t recruit someone to join me) and thankfully those dutiesare light. The film club I co-moderate has had a very small number of attendees,which speaks more to how busy everyone is than anything else. However, we keepshowing the classics and hope people get curious. Coming up will be the annualCoffeehouse, which I took over from a departing teacher, so that’ll somethingnew for me to learn.
Year two has certainly been smoother and it feels good tohave faculty and administrative support. It was sad to lose one of mycolleagues when she left at the beginning of break. She was a great soundingboard and ally.
Once mid-terms are over, the third quarter begins January 14and I am looking forward to digging into the 19th century works thatlay ahead.