Wednesday, August 31, 2016
First Teacher Day of the Year.
Full district welcome followed by school based professional development.
The alarm went off at 7 am. Yes, this is later than it will go off during the school year (when I'll have to leave at 7) but it's still earlier than I've gotten up all month. I pick up my phone to scroll through Twitter, email, instagram, facebook, snapchat and my timehop. Second alarm goes off at 7:15 to say stop playing on your phone! I'm not in school mode at all, so I decide to get dressed in school colors to try to build a positive feedback loop. Forcing myself to smile every time I enter the school building each day has always worked to make me feel happy even if I wasn't really awake enough to be grinning. Maybe wearing school colors will invoke some school pride and enthusiasm that's gone dormant over the summer?
I leave the house at 7:45 and arrive in the parking lot at 7:50, I love my commute! When I walk in the door (greeting a few co-workers on the way in) I spot my co-teacher. We got together earlier this month to set up our classroom so it's not a reunion after months apart, but it's great to walk in the door and immediately see her. I greet her and some other friends and we sit with some other high school math teachers at a table in the auditorium. At 8:00 someone at the table checks their email and discovers that the detailed schedule says coffee 8:00 - 8:30, the initial schedule had said 8:00 start. We all lament the one last thing we could have done...
At 8:30 we are greeted by my principal (the whole district staff is here but we're at the high school so he gets to MC). The mayor acknowledges how much summer work we do. The superintendent hopes we took some time off. She asks the new staff members to stand, we clap. She also asks returning staff to stand and we clap again. I appreciate the appreciation. The union president just started a twitter account and is encouraging everyone to participate in #whyweteach. Back to the superintendent who recaps last years accomplishments and tells us there are no new goals this year. The goal is deepening our work from last year. This is significant in a low income district where most years are a revolving door of trainings from whatever the grant of the month is. Maybe being labeled a failing district by the state wasn't so bad after all? I'm curious what will change when we finish our five year plan and that bonus funding evaporates.
The district welcome concludes at 9:23, already ahead of schedule. There's break until 10:00 so the other staff have time to clear out of our auditorium. I greet one of the new hires I've been working with over the summer and meet a new hire for the school for students with emotional/behavioral disorders. When school based professional development starts the principal models sharing the agenda and objectives. I'm never engaged by reading an objective - I appreciate an outline of what we're doing today, but by the time we went over the agenda I knew what the goals for the day were. We spend some time look at data from the state test, student survey and staff survey. My takeaway: kids feel safe and like teachers have high expectations of them, but not so much like they have relationships with teachers or are engaged. It's good to know what we're doing well with and what we need to improve on as a whole. We get up to mingle and fill out people bingo sheets, I meet another new teacher outside of my department and catch up with some familiar colleagues.
twitter conversation because I disagreed. My coworkers had the same reaction I did - we do a much better job identifying and responding to trauma now but there's not more of it. Otherwise I had agreed with superintendent's speech but others in the lunchroom were not happy with it. Turns out that it wasn't that they disagreed but that they didn't need to hear it. That was a fair reaction - it wasn't very motivational for those of us who have done this year after year. I appreciate the superintendent's sincerity but I could have used some pep on the first day back! We also caught up about important things like gardening and summer adventures. All in under thirty minutes. Teachers can both talk and eat rapidly.
We have a new student information system (online program for attendance and grades) so we had Aspen training from 12:00 - 12:45. I appreciated that at the end of this first training (how to take attendance) we got to choose our track for the next training - differentiated PD is unheard of here! Yay!
I walked out of the computer lab with two of the new hires in the department and they asked to pick my brain for a bit. We headed down to one of their classrooms and I agreed that the room layout looked good, her opener plan looked good and her posters were nice. Then I shared some posters to go with hers and we talked about my grade breakdowns. I did an okay job in this interaction of listening and valuing their thoughts rather than just saying "last year I..." Frequently I get excited when someone asks a question that I have an answer to and just want to tell them everything I do. A goal for this year is to teach teachers the same way I do students - asking what they think, listening and building off that foundation. Also, adorable moment, they asked what room I was in and realized that I was next door to the third new teacher. Apparently they went into my classroom during new teacher orientation and stole a bunch of ideas from my room setup! Makes me extra glad I went in to set up in early August. One of the new teachers is in her first year teaching so she needs an official mentor (we'll all unofficially mentor all of them but the mentoring program is required in MA to get a professional license). I haven't been asked, and when I texted the other teacher who usually mentors in our department she hadn't heard anything either. I gave both the new teachers my phone number and promised to investigate the case of the missing mentor.
Headed back toward my classroom at 1:00 for some room prep time. I prepped folders (hole punch and draw lines) while I answered more new teacher questions, this time from the teacher next door. I'm so appreciative that everyone is asking me things since my brain is still focused on renovating my kitchen, it's getting me back in school mode. I was doing great and feeling confident in my answers until she asked about homework. I haven't thought about that yet! Last year homework was complicated and a mess, everyone has a different opinion. This teacher and I are totally on the same page with what we want to accomplish but are lost on how to do so. We told the rest of the Algebra team to think on homework overnight so we can make decisions tomorrow.
Our day was officially done at 2:30 but we didn't leave our rooms until 3, and continued talking all the way to the parking lot. My throat hurts! I guess I'm not used to talking so much. I rewarded myself with ice cream when I arrive home.
School is on my mind the rest of the day but I didn't get anything else accomplished. I went for a walk and listened to a podcast while my daughter was at an appointment. We ran some errands and got home at 6:30. We watched netflix for a while. I started getting ready to blog at 9:00 but got distracted looking at dogs to adopt... Then it was suddenly 10:00 and I decided to go to bed instead!
1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?
I'm proud that I was able to spend some time with each of the new teachers in our department, I was on the hiring committee so I was a familiar face to them and hopefully was welcoming. A few times I answered questions without ever asking "What do you think?" which wasn't ideal.
2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?
I'm really looking forward to getting back into a routine. I love teaching and I am much happier when I'm on a schedule. But summer is also a great opportunity to do different things - I've been enjoying my home improvement and web design projects. I'm having a hard time switching gears back into school mode, especially when we have two teacher days followed by four days off. They feel like two random days in the middle of my vacation.
3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
I started building relationships with all my new coworkers in my department. I also caught up with friends who I hadn't seen much of over the summer. It takes a bit of work to get back to the point where we all know everything going on in each others lives, lunch today was a good start!
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?
I want to create space for other people's ideas. Originally this goal was going to be about allowing students the voice to share their opinions on the world outside of our classroom (as well as the world inside our classroom but I've already created structures for that). After a day of interacting with adults I've realized that I shouldn't limit myself to students. I enjoy sharing what I know but I'd like to get better about asking open questions and giving other people the space to share their knowledge.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
The end of July was my first opportunity to run a Nix the Tricks workshop for a district rather than at a conference. I enjoyed the experience and am thinking more about how to be a classroom teacher while also having a broader influence.
In early August I took a day to set up my classroom; the actions were not notable but the company was. My co-teacher was with me. Seeing her up and working and prepping for the year meant so much more than the email saying she was in remission and we'd be working together again this year. Another goal of mine should be to tell her daily how much I missed her last year and how happy I am to have her back. My daughter also joined us and it was a good opportunity for her to learn the school and the schedule since she's about to start ninth grade at the same school where I teach!