Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Saturday, September 7, 2013


The kids are back!
I started my 19th year of teaching this week. Yep. That is a long time. I decided to force myself to take a moment and reflect on the first week. I tried to do it after the first day. Here is what I managed to write down.

"Off to a good start! First Period : Forgot how quiet these guys (my little 6th graders) are on the first ..."

That is as far as I got. That's an indication of what our first weeks are like. We are constant motion. I made it worse for myself by requesting (and being granted) a room change. In spite of working weeks before the start of school to be settled, there are still parts of my room still floating.There are so many e-mails coming from all different parties. E-mails about the new computer attendance system, e-mails about the new gradebook, e-mails about students with medical needs, e-mails about IEP students, e-mails about upcoming faculty meetings, e-mails about APPR, e-mails about meetings, e-mails about curriculum night, e-mails about homework websites, e-mails from the English dept head, e-mails about supplies, e-mails about committee sign-ups, e-mails about upcoming observations (first week of school) e-mails about the staff development catalog -- must read and sign up by second week, 86 e-mails plus the ones from the day before school started...I think you get my point.

Oh, and the kids are back!
So, attendance rosters need to be printed (find out which printer is actually working and figure out how to use the new attendance system to print the charts), desks arranged, warm-ups printed, syllabus modified and printed, rules and procedures explained, tours of the building (6th graders are new to my building), locker combination practice, plan with other English 6 teachers (on our own time -- no common planning there), plan with Special Educators pushing into my classroom so they can modify if needed, meet with my team about sharing first day responsibilities, parent conference 3rd day of school.

Did I say the kids are back?
Modified schedule posted on white board in the front of the room. Regular schedule posted on another board. Work out the kinks with technology in the new room. Each set up with Smartboard and projector is a little different. Mine clearly works when it decides it will. Set up hand in baskets for work, find a place for worksheets arriving daily from the district print shop, create a sub folder filled with pertinent info especially for the kiddos being followed by the Special Educator on the team, find a place for tissues and other supplies kiddos may keep in the room. Teach fire drill procedures and practice them -- fire drills start next week and can be very unsettling for some 6th graders.

But wait, the kids are back!
Seating charts with pictures so I can begin to learn their names, index cards with their names on them folded on their desks so I can begin to learn their names, sticks with their names on them so I can pick sticks for groups, to call on kids, and to begin to learn their names.

Seriously, the kids are back.
This is just the items I remember. Can we agree that I have handled or dealt with at least a hundred others in the first three days of school? But, let me be clear about this. None of that means any more to me than standing outside the door of my room and smiling at each child who enters. I need to know their names so I can greet them individually but right now that isn't possible. I have already learned who the avid readers are because they have borrowed books from me already. I learned another likes to hunt for pheasants but is also interested in weight lifting. There is a big fan of the Hobbit series of books. I already got a note delivered to my desk. Don't remember that happening every year. I have already mentioned the state tests at least 5 times. For the rest of the year I refer to them as "That which shall not be mentioned" well, until about February. I can see the ones that are very anxious and worried about doing all this Right. I don't know their names yet but remember the worried faces.

They have learned a few things about me already. I won't be the teacher "frowning and scowling at them until Thanksgiving." I will be the teacher constantly sharing great books with them. I will be the teacher telling them how proud I am of them. I will be the teacher noticing the new sneakers they are wearing. I will be the teacher seeing the new t-shirt they are wearing. I will be the teacher laughing in the classroom. I will be the teacher giving them chances to sit in my reading lounge during instruction. I will be that teacher.

Got my APPR HEDI score yesterday. I am officially an 88 this year and therefore identified as EFFECTIVE. Well, then, good to know. I know plenty others like me who have taught just as long who didn't get that score and are being told they are DEVELOPING. In the first week of school with so many really important items to worry about, I will be the teacher who couldn't care less about THAT SCORE. It doesn't really tell you anything about me. I will be the teacher I have been for the last 18 years and more. Because we all are improving, changing, modifying, yes, developing, every minute we are in our classrooms. And yes, we are also effective while we are doing all that. Have been pretty irritated lately to see editorials commenting on how important "enthusiastic young teachers are." Well, I am not young. I am 53. But I am as enthusiastic on the 19th first day of school as I was on my 1st first day. And, I know way more now than I did then. I know what is most important to pay attention to. Know what that is? My kids. Did I tell you the kids are back? And I couldn't be happier about it.


  1. Nicely done. It would be best if NYS and Administrative powers that be across this great nation could remember that teachers who are effective LOVE THEIR JOB AND THE KIDS THEY SERVE! I am sorry but the ONLY WAY that is measurable is by ASKING THE KIDS! Have the kids tweet, FB, email a nicely written 'thesis statement' or paragraph on how they like their year so far and what they know now they didn't know last year and why.

    It is about PEOPLE not paperwork and numbers..duhh.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I really can't change the way I teach and my focus always has and always will be the climate in my classroom. I want them to want to be in my room and if they do, they will want to do what I ask them to do. That's winning in my book.

  3. Love this. I loved the repetition of "The kids are back!" It shows your frustration with how the importance of having them back could so easily get lost in all the hustle and bustle of the red tape and organizing that we have to get through at the beginning of the year. You lead up to the point and conclusion we all have to get to...none of the rest of it matters. The kids are back and they deserve our full attention. A great piece showing a universal teaching experience!

    1. Well, I try to address all the "barking dogs" but my focus has and always will be the kids. I am getting to know them (all 100 of them) and finding out something personal about each one of them. They will know how much they mean to me and in turn they will want to work their hardest when I ask them to.
      I can't run my classroom any other way! I know there are countless others just like me. That is what teaching is really all about.