So what was your first day of school like?
I remember, standing out in the hallway crying.¬† My dad left, and the teacher stayed in her classroom with the door shut.¬† It was my first day of kindergarten.¬† My dad was in the Air Force, and we had just moved to Maine, so we knew nobody and here I was starting the first day of school — about a week or so later than the other students.¬† My dad took me to school and walked me to the classroom, but he had to report to duty and couldn’t stay and the teacher had no time for a new student who was reluctant to start school.¬† Needless to say, that began a tug-o-war with that kindergarten teacher.¬† Don’t get me wrong,¬† I behaved in class and did my classroom assignments.¬† However, on some things I could be “contrary”.¬† At play time, I liked to play with puzzles and stuff.¬† I got along with the other children, but I was used to playing by myself.¬†¬† The teacher did not think it appropriate that a 5-year-old play by herself and could not understand why I would not play with the other toys.¬† So she “punished” me by trying to get me to pick up the toys at the end of playtime.¬† But I would refuse, because “I did not make the mess.”¬† The other kids had, and I could not see why they did not have to pick up their own mess.¬† I mean, my mom made my younger sisters pick up their mess!¬† So that’s how the year went.¬† I “got even” with her when we had a sub one day.¬† While the teacher was gone, I played with the toys!¬† lol¬† That put a bee in her bonnet.¬† At the end of the year, that teacher wanted to hold me back in kindergarten.¬† I could do all of the tasks well above my grade level, but she felt that “I would not do well”¬† in school.¬† Hmmmm
This year I start my 21st year of teaching.¬† On the first day of school, I always reflect back to that experience.¬† Teachers often make judgments about their students from the first day– and some of those teachers limit their interaction based on those judgments.¬† I try to keep an open mind about my students and continue to remind myself throughout the year that one experience (good or bad) does not define who they are.
This year I teach three classes of geometry and spend the rest of the hours as Academic Dean for Mathematics.¬† It’s a fancy name for a department head in a new program.¬† As Academic Dean I’m acting as a Math coach for the rest of the teachers in the department.¬† I’ll be observing their teaching, helping them with their lessons to teach them best practices and become more effective in the classroom.¬† This is in addition to what I was already doing as a teacher and department head.¬† So you can see why I’ve been absent from the board the past few days.
Wednesday and Thursday were training days for the teachers.¬† The mornings were filled with meetings and professional development, and the afternoons were set aside for us to work in our classrooms.¬† I don’t have a classroom anymore.¬† The three classes that I teach will be in other teachers classrooms, who are on their planning period that hour.¬† Instead, I have a¬† math office.¬† I should say “we” have a math office, but that’s my home base.¬† I had to pack up all the math equipment from my old room and move it to the new room, and then arrange it into the cabinets.¬† The janitor “dumped” 8 teacher desks in there, and only 3 of my teachers helped me to arrange the room.¬† That’s a typical example of the teamwork in this department, and throughout the school.¬† About half the staff seems to be ego-centrical.
There was no air conditioning for the first 2 hours on Wednesday — the time span I had to use to move my things from my old room to my new room.¬† I lifted and carried boxes that I probably should not have.¬† I have bruises, and body aches to remind me to reflect on why did I become a teacher.¬† Those first two nights, I worked from about 6:30 am to 3 pm at school and came home and crashed on the sofa.¬† I’m not usually one for a nap.¬† But my energy was spent.
Between the meetings and arranging the office, I did not get much time to go through my own personal things and organize them in my new space.¬† So¬† I am still feeling my way through my things.¬† It’ll probably be a whole year progress, at the rate that my “experienced” teachers seem to have problems and need help.
My teachers started off the year with a “bang”.¬† One teacher that we were expecting back quit 2 days before, and so we would be getting a permanent sub.¬† It turns out that the permanent sub is the same sub that I told last year to go take the PrAXIS¬† and get teacher-certified.¬† He did.¬† He passed.¬† Now he’s waiting on the certification.¬† So he will be a good instructor, but needs training in the paperwork and procedural stuff.¬† That I can deal with, as he wants to do his job well, but knows that he doesn’t know it all.¬† I have another new teacher to the staff.¬† She taught at one of the middle schools that were taken over by the state because their scores were failing.¬† School district pride set aside,¬† there’s something to say about a teacher who was teaching at a failing school.¬† She could be a good teacher, but still wasn’t effective.¬† Yet she has questioned EVERY decision from the principal since she walked on campus Wednesday!¬† She’s also been late for every department meeting we’ve had.¬† 2 of my experienced teachers who should know better helped themselves to equipment out of the library without having it checked out.¬† So the department is still plagued with the usual goof-offs.¬†¬†¬† And they don’t realize that their lack of professionalism here spills over into their classroom and affects their effectiveness as a teacher.
I spent alot of time those 2 days walking from one classroom to another, and from one end of school to another, re-educating the teachers in their procedures and acting as a go-between for the other departments, soothing their rightfully “ruffled feathers” for all the infractions that my insensitive staff members cause.¬†
Don’t get me wrong.¬† The other half of my staff in my department are wonderful.¬† They are from the Phillippines.¬† So you can imagine how their culture has taught them to be helpful, polite, and team-centered.¬† They are the ones that dropped what they were doing to help arrange the desks.¬† They are the ones that CUT OUT letters to make the titles on my bulletin board in the office, even though I would have been happy with a hand-written banner.¬† And they are the ones who stayed late after school on Friday to pick up all the trash caused from putting new batteries into 300 calculators.¬† They work hard, and I don’t mind dropping what I’m doing to help them out.
Friday was the first day of school for the students.¬† It was actually a good day.¬† Many students still needed to register and get their schedules, but they were out of the gym and in classes within a couple of hours.¬† I had many returning students happy to see me.¬† Imagine that!¬† They were happy to see their mean ol’ geometry teacher who wouldn’t give them a point so they could have a B instead of a C.¬†
My classes are small.¬† Last year I had 5 classes, and 4 of them were at 30 or more.¬† My largest class had 37 at one time, and never got smaller than 34.¬† This year I have 3 classes.¬† My largest¬† class has 18.¬† I can handle those numbers.¬† Now the numbers can change.¬† Because of schools being taken over, it’s possible we’ll get more adds over the next few days.
I guess the worse part is the fact that I have to travel to other rooms¬† to teach those 3 classes.¬† I knew it meant that I would have to tote my stuff from office to class, but I didn’t realize how much we rely on having our own room.¬† During my first class on Friday,¬† I had 7 people have to share the two pens I had because they did not have something to write with.¬† Usually, I have stacks of extra pencils, but I wasn’t in my own room.¬† Yes, I know.¬† Students should be responsible for bringing their own paper and pens, but I refuse to just let them sit their just because they “forgot” to bring something.¬† I did remember to bring me a dry-erase marker so I could write on the board, but somewhere along the way I left it in one of the rooms.¬† I did not have it 7th hour.¬† I have bought one of those pull carts that you see some teachers use.¬† It’ll hold my gradebook and some daily supplies that I will need to bring with me, so I can stuff it with a supply of paper and pencils.¬† But.¬† it will not hold a crate of calculators that ways 10 pounds.¬† And there will be some days that my geometry lessons will require more than the usual daily supplies — string, drawing paper, etc.
My first day went well.¬† The students seemed eager to be back in school, and my classes were not overloaded.¬† As I said, I try not to pre-judge my students.¬† They did seem like the typical teenagers.¬† I could see where some would present challenges as a learner, but¬† I’m happy with what I have.
The worse thing to happen occurred the last hour of the day.¬† On Thursday when I was helping the new math permanent sub/teacher, we realized that he was scheduled to teach in the same classroom 7th hour that I would be teaching in 7th hour.¬† It took a while, but we got that straightened out.¬† However, when I arrived at my 7th hour class, I found my students being turned away because there was a third teacher also assigned to teach in that room!¬† So now we had a math class and a science class in the same room.¬† Eventually, the principal worked it out, and moved me to another room.¬† Of course, it had to be on the other side of the school.
So all in all a good start to a new school year.