Category Archives: beginnings

Last Day of Freedom

Today is officially my last day of summer. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will need to be at school. Many freshmen will arrive and go through their first day of high school via freshmen orientation. Luckily, I don’t teach freshmen, so while they are running through their schedule in the afternoon, I will be putting together last-minute things. I’d love to put together last minute touches on my rooms, but that will have to happen after school.

As I head into my fourth year of teaching, I realize one amazing fact: this is the first job that I’ve had for more than three years. As I’m counting school years instead of calendar years, it works. I’m proud of myself for that fact. The first three years weren’t easy by any means. I’m not kidding myself in thinking that this next year will be easy either. No…we’re changing the game, again.

My district decided to institute a change in grading policy this year. Apparently, they’ve been studying the research for three years (according to an article in our local paper). However, the first we heard of it was last year. And, we’re expected to make these huge sweeping changes in how we grade, what we grade and how we decide what to assess and how much that assessment is worth — in one year. As someone who is her own worst critic and who really wants to be a good teacher — I’m in panic mode. I think that the only reason I’ve calmed down internally is because it’s necessary for survival. My insomnia was about a week long — which is too long. Part of it was my brain in panic mode about a number of things. Part of it was also because my apartment was too damn hot. Apparently, I need it to be about 70 degrees in order to sleep properly. It was between 75 and 80 in my bedroom, till I turned the a/c down super low (it’s wonky & doesn’t work right) and wet my hair before bed so I’d be colder yet. The heatwave plaguing us finally broke yesterday too, so…that was nice.

SBG is going to be a huge mindset change for many people. As someone who grew up with the points system and who did her homework because a) I wanted good grades and b) it was expected, this is a change. I like the idea of grading w/ rubrics. I like the idea of grading less (since that will apparently happen), but…I have to alter a lot of my assessments. I also have to change my mindset of HOW I grade many things. Additionally, there are a number of other responsibilities we have, as teachers, this year. This is why I’m freaking out.

And…we have a new principal. *glub*

So, when I say it’s my last day of freedom…that’s true and untrue. I’ve been struggling w/ anxiety about all these changes since June. So, I’ll never be free of that till I’m comfortable with the new grading system, etc. But, this is my last day that I have that’s officially summer.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early…I resume my teacher life full-time. I’m excited, but scared as hell.

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Filed under 2010, beginnings, grading

Freedom Writers

So, I have to admit…when I went to Long Beach on Friday morning, I was skeptical. I didn’t know what to think. I’ve seen the Freedom Writers movie. I’ve read the Freedom Writers Diary. Both were touching. Both were almost too incredible to believe, but after teaching a few years in an urban setting (though my city is not a BIG city, it’s still a city and I’m at an “urban” school), I knew that those types of occurrences or situations can happen.

I never expected to be affected like I was. I cried, a lot. Some of it was in response to hearing from actual Freedom Writers. Some of it was in reaction to stories and situations that struck too close to home.

Erin Gruwell is THE MOST POSITIVE/UPBEAT person I’ve ever met in my life. My friend Susanna from high school is a close second. She is so committed to what the Freedom Writers Institute is doing and their methods. I want so badly to be able to have some of that positivity.

I wish that I would have written this post 2 weeks ago, or whenever it was that I just returned from CA. I feel as if I’ve forgotten so much. Plus…there’s only so much that I can say. As part of my training, there are many things that I have to keep confidential. But…I have more ideas on how to teach and how to reach my students.

Let’s hope the $25 I spent on notebooks (230 of them!) will pay off…I have a lot to do this week. (We start with kids on the 16th).

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Filed under beginnings, books, expectations, instruction, planning, writing

Schedule for 2010-2011

So…my tentative schedule for next year is this:

Semester One
1st: Junior English (1st floor)
2nd: Homeroom (2nd floor)
3rd: Senior English (2nd floor)
4th: Credit Recovery (1st floor)
5th: Plan

Semester Two
1st: Junior English (1st floor)
2nd: Homeroom (2nd floor)
3rd: Credit Recovery (1st floor)
4th: Plan
5th: Junior English (2nd floor)

Credit Recovery for 1st and 3rd quarters will be makeup for Freshmen or Sophomore English. Credit Recovery for 2nd & 4th Quarters is makeup for Junior or Senior English. The junior/senior class is geared more towards writing, so I’m going to tweak it to make it more writing intense. It was last year, but…it wasn’t exactly what I like.

Currently, I’m in 3 rooms throughout the year, not counting homeroom. However, that’s why I put the 1st & 2nd floor stuff. I’m in a different room for each block. Plan period will be in our English office area. If they ever take our office area away (b/c we don’t have room) I will be supremely pissed and will DEFINITELY look for a job at a new school.

We have a new principal this year…I’m nervous. It’s like being at a new job all over again. Change (that I didn’t initiate) gives me such anxiety. Bleagh…

I hope that my curriculum person works things out so that I’m not traveling all the live-long day. I might just buy myself some KEENS and wear them and say they’re dress shoes. Shit.

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Filed under beginnings, block schedule, credit recovery, preparation

First Semester

Well, it’s finished. That’s good. I don’t have to deal with my 4th block class anymore. That’s good too. What’s NOT good is that the last day of our semester…we didn’t have school. Yup, called on account of the weather. Now, did I mind starting winter break a day early? AbsoLUTEly not. Here’s the kicker though: because their last day was cancelled, that means many of them do not have to take finals. Now, some teachers (I’m pretty sure many of them) rearranged their schedules and gave them Thursday. However, for my seniors, I planned that Thursday was their final speech and Friday would be their comprehensive test. So, no test for them. Friday was supposed to be a test day (of a different sort) for my juniors. Wednesday and Thursday they were also giving speeches. However…there was/is no culmination of their classes. They’re just…done.

That upsets me, on a number of levels. But, I can’t control the weather, so I’m trying to get over it.

I’m also trying to get over my feeling of big failure related to this first semester. I feel like while I’m a second year teacher and things were better than last year, they weren’t astoundingly better and I still feel pretty crappy about how I taught and what we got accomplished in class.

I’m also trying to get over this.

That being said, I’m already thinking of next semester. I’m going to approach things differently. I’m excited for two things: 1) I have just ONE prep all day (I know, aren’t you all just INSANELY jealous?) and 2) I don’t have a class during lunch, but instead I have plan. This means I don’t have to deal with students who are only focused on “when do we eat” and the elimination of myriad other problems. HOORAY!

I’m excited for what second semester will bring. I’m contemplating teaching a few new things. My fellow junior teachers and I will be nailing down consistent, across-the-board, specifics regarding their huge junior research paper/project. I think that I might have/feel a bit more control when I get to that point (quarter four) this year.

My dilemmas are these: 1) how do I naturally/skillfully work some/more grammar instruction into things? (which requires ME to know my stuff– heh heh…) 2) how do I do the same with vocabulary (I do have some ideas, but not many) 3) how do I get more organized when I have THREE EFFING CLASSROOMS throughout the day (yeah, I have to move each time I teach) and 4) how do I get more organized in general. *sigh*

Well, now that I’ve got some of these things out of my head…

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you happen to celebrate — I hope it was wonderful) and that 2009 holds fantastic things for you!

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Filed under beginnings, holiday break, preparation

Friday!!!

Well…I made it through my first half-week. And, really it wasn’t that bad at all. This is primarily because we are only in meetings. Students don’t show up until the 23rd. Since I am a new teacher, I have 2 wks of meetings (which I think I explained earlier).

On Wednesday we have meetings with the entire district staff. I’m sure it will be crowded as hell b/c we’re a big district. Also, my mom is an elementary teacher for the district, so I might get to sit by her at our super-big meeting. (*smile*)

Ok, so far…
Wednesday: we met at our individual buildings in the morning. There are 10 newbies, including me, at my building this year. 5 were actually hired for and taught during a portion of last year, but it was after new teacher induction. So, while they started working on their rooms, we got the world’s longest tour of our building. :-)P Wednesday afternoon we met w/ all the newbies from the whole district. We learned about our local Education Association and then had an inservice with a woman who wrote a book about teaching in a multicultural school district when you’re a white teacher (which most of us newbies in the district are…). It was pretty good.

Thursday: we met at a middle school for the whole day. The morning was spent learning about the 6-Traits writing and a) how to teach it in/across the content area and b) how to teach it as a Language Arts teacher. In the afternoon we broke up into workshops. I went to one on classroom management (which touched a LOT on procedures and what Harry Wong says in The First Days of School) and then another one on differentiating instruction. That one focused a lot on multiple intelligences, varying how you teach something (aka not just quizzes) and then also on the different styles or preferences of learning. A lot of it was stuff I had heard/learned in my education program, so it was nice to have it re-inforced. (or is it re-enforced?)

Today: We met at yet another middle school for the day and met JUST with our curriculum areas. So, I got to know more of the new Language Arts/Reading teachers in the district. We learned a LOT and discussed a LOT and I think this was by far the most helpful day. We talked about fitting the district’s mandated assessment tests into the curriculum (aka instead of just waiting till the last minute and shoving it in front of our students). We also talked about state writing assessment (which is a DAMN big deal, as all you educators know…my state assesses three separate grades to measure progress), structuring and pacing, planning or mapping out the semester and essential questions for our students. I have a much better idea now (after we’re given a sample template of setting up the school year–which I’d have to modify to fit into a semester b/c I’m on a straight 4 block) of how I can structure things. And, I have a GREAT idea for a bulletin board that would require just a little altering throughout the year. “ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: WHAT WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES” and then underneath, inside, etc, I’d have the essential questions for each unit/section posted, so kids know what we’re aiming for with each thing we do.

I got to thinking today that I’m really glad that I didn’t get hired by the district I student taught with–because I’m not sure I would’ve gotten this kind of information OR this feeling of support and encouragement. That district is bit snobby and full of themselves and has a better-than-thou attitude. MY district is great, and keeps telling us that, but is so earnest and enthusiastic (which I love). And they admit that we have issues we struggle with and obstacles to overcome, but that everyone is in it together. I guess I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid is where I’m going with this…

So, so far, so good. I just wish I could find all my letters/paperwork about next week. Becuase I don’t know which building to show up at next. *sigh*

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