Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week(s) in review

Some random thoughts on recent teaching experiences:

Recently, when playing music while the students worked, Stevie Wonder came on my iTunes. One student remarked, "My dad listens to this kind of music." Thanks, kid, thanks a lot.


I missed three days of school this past week. The first two were planned, as it was Rosh Hashanah. That was fine, because I actually knew ahead of time who my sub would be, so I was able to prep her ahead of time. And since I know her to be an intelligent person, I didn't have to dumb down my lesson plans like I normally do. Subs tend to be unpredictable--I've had a couple do exactly what I asked and they left me a full report of the classes, but I've also had plenty who have messed things up even when I thought my plans were idiot-proof. So thank goodness that was not an issue for these days! The next day, however, was another story......I got super sick over Rosh Hashanah (it really ruined a lot of the holiday for me), and had to stay out on Wednesday. I would have just sucked it up, but I had a fever and decided that would not be wise. And of course, I ended up with a different sub, and all of my classes said, "That lady was craaazy....." When even the good kids say that, and then follow up their claim by informing me that she said they couldn't peer edit each other's papers but they could text, you gotta believe them. Oy.


I was at the grocery store yesterday in the town where I work before heading to a little dinner party at a coworker's home (well, former coworker--it was her last day before retirement!). I then heard someone say, "Ms. -----!" It was one of my students (who I also had two years ago), with his little baby in the shopping cart. I knew his girlfriend had had a baby last year, but I wasn't quite ready for the reality of meeting a student's child. But I asked about the baby, touched his precious little head, and felt my heart warm when he smiled at me. Still, it terrifies me when I see kids having kids. I don't think these students realize just how much their teachers worry about them. All the things they go through, especially outside of reminds me how lucky I was to have such a great and comfortable upbringing. I wish with all my heart I could ensure that my students have the same, but I can't. I do the best I can for them in school, but I worry about what happens afterwards.


I'm learning my students' personalities now. Some pain-in-the-asses have emerged, but I'm definitely working to shut that behavior down quickly this year. But some of the kids are just so cute. A couple of the sophomore boys are so sweet and earnest, and I have this one girl who is so tiny and adorable, and she always says hello and goodbye to me. Talking to her makes me think of puppies and Lisa Frank notebooks. I also had a nice chat with one of my seniors recently when she stayed after school to bandy around ideas for her college essay. After that discussion, we just talked about life for a while, with her telling me stories about herself and asking me things about college and such. It's nice when students want to connect with their teachers, when they are able to see us as more than taskmasters.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Year 3 (of teaching, not Hogwarts)

Week 1 of school: Done. Here we go again, folks!

I’ll try to post more often now that I’ll actually have more material to work with. I did recently write a political piece that I was really proud of and was going to publish here, but my dad said that while it was great, he didn’t want it to ever be found by a potential employer and end up hurting my chances of getting hired. Much as it kills me to admit it, Papa Bear was right. Damn it. I feel so artistically stifled.

Going back to school always gives me such mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love summer. I grew up at the beach, and my birthday is even in the summer, so I’m a summer gal through and through. And this summer was fantastic. I actually didn’t make it to the beach that much (partly because I’m no longer living with my folks), but I saw my friends and family a lot and did plenty of cool things (like the Color Run, going to the X Factor auditions, watching Euro Cup in Boston with friends, playing soccer, watching 5+ hours of Olympics coverage per day [okay maybe some of you will think that’s more sad than cool…], hanging out with the wonderful R.R. who was in town just for the summer, hanging out in Boston, etc.). So when I’m sitting on the beach and someone asks me, “Hey, are you ready to go back to school?!?” it’s hard for me to muster a whole lot of enthusiasm. When I started seeing back-to-school Target commercials in late July, I swore at my TV.

But on the other hand, one thing I like about this job is that every year you sort of get a fresh start. New kids, new chance to set the tone and lay down the law early, the opportunity to try new things (especially since I’m teaching a couple of brand new courses), and this year I have my own classroom! Other than the fact that it leaks like a faucet during heavy rains, I love it. I really enjoy creating spaces that reflect their purposes and my personality. I’ve got posters on the walls that I’ve saved from college, a mini whiteboard that shows the quote of the week (if I can get the darn thing to stay on the wall), mini posters I made myself with quotes from books and such, and I have the desks in a double-horseshoe in order to better facilitate student discussions. Yup, I got to geek the place out. Hopefully it looks welcoming and is a place that will inspire students. And it’s great to have everything where I want it and to not feel like I’m invading someone else’s space. I’m hoping that having a classroom will get me to be more organized, since I won’t be on the move all the time with my stuff all over the place.

This past week was kind of hectic—we had school on Tuesday and Wednesday, day of on Thursday for the state primary election that no one really cared about, and then Friday was picture day. All the English teachers have to take their classes to get their pictures taken, since that’s the only subject every student has to take, so there went half of class. So there’s not a whole lot of exciting stuff to report on yet, but as I continue to get to know the students I’m sure the stories will start cropping up.

Oh, also: I work with the coolest department. On the first day back for teachers, we had already started planning a party to celebrate our retirees and welcome the newbies (and because we just like having excuses to have fun together). And on Friday, a bunch of us went out after school, where we decided we need to do some fun stuff as a group this year, including some sort of a trip (maybe New York, Martha’s Vineyard, etc.).Our new additions seem great, and the rest of us have been reminding them that we’d be happy to help them in any way we can.