Today marks the last day of a four day weekend. Public schools here were closed in observation of Rosh Hashanah. I feel like I’ve said this a million times before, but everything has been a blur for me this summer. I feel like I’ve been living in a daydream for the past 6 months of my life. I don’t really know what that means… But thats how it feels. I’m present, and calculated, but at the same time I feel very tuned into one frequency here. And the rest of the world is operating around me without my presence.
We’ve been teaching for about 3 weeks now. Its been fun, challenging, and annoying at times. But overall I’m enjoying it. I felt really rattled and out of the loop in regards to how the school was operating the first couple of weeks. Payroll slips written in DOE-ese, weekend emails and meetings without my knowledge, and even just feeling lost in terms to where I should be each period. Its draws stark comparisons to how things started off for me in NYC actually. But just the same, I’ve picked up how things flow here and I feel I’ve quickly learned about my students and colleagues.
Some takeaways I’ve had so far:
- Express genuine concern for a student’s well being. Don’t just say we missed you in class yesterday. Mean it! When one of my students isn’t in class it makes me wonder where they are. I really enjoy the contributions each of them make on a daily basis. Plus I feel like everyday is an opportunity for me to get closer to figuring out the key to light this student’s ignition switch. Don’t show fake emotions. I don’t just say we missed you in class, I really make a point to show my students that I mean it. And I’m going to ask every time they’re not there.
- If you feel like you’re under planning you probably are. I felt very under utilized at my school the first couple of weeks. I have two very experienced Co-teachers, and I think I let them take more leadership than I felt comfortable with from the beginning of our meetings. This resulted in me feeling less than an equal asset in both classrooms. To change this I’ve started implementing more activities, and classroom management techniques in my technology class. I’m also beginning to deliver content this week in my English classes.
- Go out with coworkers/get to know them. I’ve hung out with coworkers after work twice this week. Wednesday there was an early showing for the Spy Exhibit in Times Square for educators. And of course Friday after work drinks. Sometimes things can seem so busy with work and grad school I may not allow myself to be social. Building relationships with my staff has already helped me feel more comfortable as a new teacher. Its making me less nervous about making a mistake, which helps me push myself to keep trying new things.
- GET ORGANIZED. I thought I had to be organized this summer. But working at a school is a completely different level of organization. There is no way I can really explain the amount of file organization you have to do manually, and in your head. Just get a book. I’m actually using a small journal that a friend gave me as a going away present at my last job. Its about 5″*3″ and I write (almost) everything in it. This includes blog ideas, notes from a mentor meeting, grading procedures, Lots of to do lists, journals to myself, account log in information, questions, lesson plans, doodles. Everything!
- ASSORTMENT OF COLORED PENS. All the crap you write in your journal would be ridiculously mundane to look at if you didn’t spice it up with colors. These also come in handy when grading papers, marking attendance, and note taking on the subway. Let your inner artist come out. (Don’t say you’re not artistic! I get really upset when my students use that as an excuse. And have actually gone off on a tirade about how the beauty of art lies in its diversity. Everyone creates art and they should stop letting other people tell them what good art looks like. LoL)
- Pay equal attention to all students. I’ve noticed that I’ve become very good at helping specific students in my classrooms. They’re the ones who I’m normally engaged with whether its for good or bad classroom behaviors. As a result I want to make a sheet that can hold my weekly attendance, and also serve as a way for me to see who I’ve spent time checking in with throughout the week. A simple checkbox system should work. Check in the box means I’ve seen you this week. No check means I need to get to you soon.
- Clipboard. Buy something light. This will come in handy with your attendance, writing notes, holding lesson plans, and will serve as your mini desk throughout the day. (You won’t be sitting down much)
- Post Its. Write post it notes to students. Sometimes you may want to praise on a student, or check in on a student, but the classroom temperature isn’t right for the exchange to happen. I’ve done this a couple times and gotten really good responses from the students.