Sunday, September 25, 2011

Apparently you have no time when you're a teacher...

So I know that it has been weeks since I posted and I really intended to be better about this but apparently time is not something you have a surplus of when you're a teacher. My apologies. I must say... the whole "it's better to have no expectations" concept is ringing true in my life lately. To be completely honest, my first 6 weeks have been nothing like I expected. Despite all the warnings that your 1st year is your hardest, my excitement lead to a blissful ignorance of what was really to come. I had visions of happy children sitting in their desks smiling, an organized classroom where as I flowed around the room pulling things from drawers and placing things on shelves a happy little melody was playing in the background, and an efficiency that allowed me to abide by the 8-4 hours expected. Well boy was I in for a surprise. The smiling children - well I think a more accurate description would be hormonal early teenagers. My "organized" classroom - I've never felt so UNorganized in my life. I haven't seen the top of my desk since the 1st day of school, I misplace things I just had in my hand not 5 minutes before and despite my efforts of trying to teach my kids to respect their surroundings, it still looks like a new tornado came through at the end of each day. And as for those hours of 8 to 4 - try 11 to 12 hour days most days of the week. How do those other teachers do it? I see lights off in rooms right at 4 and I'm dumbfounded as to how on earth those people are getting things done!

And on top of everything else I think the stress and lack of sleep have finally compromised my immune system and I've come down with an unwlecomed head cold. All I want to do is sleep through tomorrow but the thought of having to put together detailed sub plans is more exhausting than actually going and teaching so I'm going to suck it up and start the week off being sick....

HOWEVER... with all those trivial complaints comes the more important fact that I still LOVE my job. I love interacting with these awesome 14 and 15 year olds on a daily basis. They literally crack me up with the things that they say. Life is still just enjoyable at their age (even though many of them have home lives like I could never imagine). They are so hard-headed and yet still so impressionable and I feel honored that I actually get to be a role model for these kids.

The coolest thing that sticks out from this past week is the time that I've spent getting to know a few students who I think often get overlooked. When you have 5 classes of 35 kids it is easy to let a few students get washed up in the mix. In every class you have your intense personalities: the comedians, the "cool" kids, the trouble makers, the athletes, the brown-nosers (both ones that you love and ones that get on your nerves) and the average kids. No matter what kind of students you have, there are always ones who are overlooked by both teachers and their peers for whatever reason. Maybe they keep to themselves and you're so busy dealing with other problem kids that it is easy to just let them be. Maybe they just rub you the wrong way and you'd rather focus your efforts on the kids who care. Or maybe they already have a reputation of being troublesome so why waste your time? There are 3 boys in particular who fit into each of those 3 scenarios that I decided to make an effort with this week. I had a one-on-one conversation with each about my expectations for them and the potential that I know they had. It was almost as if they were surprised that I was actually taking the time to care about them. Each of those 3 boys were like different students after our talks and to be completely honest it actually surprised me! All three put more effort into their work this week than they had in all of the prior weeks put together. I sat back and watched those students work and put forth such an effort and I had an incredible sense of pride for them, their actions and their new motivation. Seeing them care pushes me to continue to care. Those students are the ones that make it all worth it. I am more than willing to put up with the attitudes from other kids, the chaotic mess that is my classroom (and let's be honest - my life) and the long hours if it means I get to have an affect on a student who thought no one cared. So yes... this job is so much tougher than I thought it would be but more importantly, it is incredibly more rewarding than I expected as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Survival of the fittest..

Well I'm halfway into week 2 and up till this point I've been in total survival mode. Last week was insane. I don't really have any other word to describe it. Aside from the fact that it was my first week being 100% completely in charge of my own classroom and having to deal with all of the administrative stuff of week 1 (stuff they do NOT teach you how to handle in school by the way), my class sizes were at about 45 last week. Now I don't know if that means anything to you but the typical class size of an elementary school is 24 tops. So picture 45 of the hook 9th graders infiltrating your classroom. I was told to prepare for 35 so that is how many desk spaces I had. This means I had kids sitting in any extra chairs I could find, on my stool, in my desk chair and even some sitting on the back counter. It was crazy. My body, mind, and motivation all reached a level of exhaustion I didn't even know was possible... BUT... I made it. And this Monday morning the guidance office, for the most part, had everything work out. Unfortunately a few awesome teachers were surplussed but they finally got the numbers balanced and I have somewhat normal class sizes (still too big for a science class if you ask any science teacher but, hey, what can ya do).

I also started this week with a positive attitude and as a clean slate with my classes. I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it and am actually starting to enjoy myself. I'm slowly but surely forming bonds with these new students and I'm excited about getting to know them better. Last week when things were so crazy and the stress was getting to me I had a 9th grade English teacher come tell me that all her students were talking about how they liked being in my class and they're glad they have me. The next morning I randomly got a text message from a former student I had at MHS and she said "Hey Ms. B., just wanted to let you know we all miss you SOOO much here!" Those two things gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going and the hope that I will be able to form relationships with my new kids like the ones I had with my kids last semester. And already it's starting to happen. We've always been told you're not supposed to have favorites but I think you can talk to any teacher in the world and they definitely do. I'm starting to really enjoy some of my kids (some, of course, are still knuckle-heads) and look forward to the rest of the year with them. Today was the first day since school started that I left feeling like I had a somewhat normal day and thinking to myself, "I really do love my job." I'm grateful to be able to say that. I put in a 12.5 hour day today and yet it was the best I've had yet. I'm excited because I'm helping out with volleyball this season and our girls had their first home game today. They played great and won both sets. Overall it was a good day and I'm excited for many more to come!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Twas the night before the first day of school...

Here I am... writing a blog post. For the record this is something I said I'd never do and yet here I am. Although many have a negative view of blogs and bloggers, I think that the stigma of having a blog is slowly but surely fading, as are my reservations. There are two main reasons I decided to give in and create a blog. The first being that this is a great way to keep my loved ones updated on my first year of teaching. I know I will have plenty of stories and ideas to share with friends and family but won't be able to talk to everyone as often as I'd like. This way, I can share with everyone. The second reason is more selfish (and probably more applicable because the first reason is given that any of my friends and family will actually read this). This will be somewhat of a personal diary to help me remember my first year teaching. You always hear your first year is the hardest so I'd like to look back at this blog in a few years and laugh at the miniscule things that stressed me. So here it goes...

The last few weeks of my life have been anything but dull. I think I've experienced the widest variety of emotions ever in such a short time period. I've felt things these past few week that I didn't even know I was capable of feeling. Nervousness, disbelief, excitement, stress, joy, relief, uncertainty, gratefulness, loved, humored, confused and exhaustion to name a few. It was only a few short weeks ago that I was relentlessly praying for an interview. But the good Lord graciously provided me with the most amazing opportunity to teach Biology and Environmental Science at an incredible school, under the best principal anyone could ask for and with a remarkable group of colleagues (in which I'm learning just how remarkable they are with every new day). The past two weeks alone have been full of new teacher orientations, technology workshops, science content workshops, pre-planing, faculty meetings, getting lost in my gigantic school, meeting more people than I can remember names for and lots and lots of prayer.

And now it is Sunday night; the night before the first day of school. Ironically, it feels eerily familiar. I would have never guessed growing up that the way I was feeling the night before I was about to start another year of school was the same nervousness my teachers were feeling. I have butterflies in my stomach and a knot in my throat. I have already picked out that perfect 'first day' outfit and my alarm is set so that I will have enough time to get ready and arrive at school an hour before I'm required to be there. Physically, I'm ready. Mentally... well, I'm still working on that. My prayer and hope going into this school year is not necessarily to mold every student into a scientist or even convince them love science. It is to be a positive influence on these kids; someone they can look up to, someone who they know believes in them and someone they can count on. For a lot of my students, school is the only consistency in their lives. I want my classroom to be a comfortable learning environment where they feel safe and encouraged. What I'm most excited about, however, is what I will learn from these kids. I know each and every one of my students has something to offer and incredible potential. I am elated to get to know them and discover their interests, talents and gifts. So I am ready for year 1- I know that although I'll be teaching about cells, heredity, ecosystems and more, what I can't wait to experience is what my students will be teaching Miss B.