Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recuperate and Relflect

At the end of the school year I pounded out a few notes about what I should think about this summer.  While the summer has effectively come to a close, there has been enough time to relax, reset, and reflect. 

Here are a few things that were rolling around upstairs in May, that I'm rehashing now as we head into the new year:

A Progression from Day 1 Until Today
  • Year 1, Day 1- Teaching broke me back down.  I was an arrogant college graduate with some experience in rural America and with blue-collar military brats when I started teaching.  Controlling my own classroom (or not controlling it) was like the reality bus plowing me into the asphalt that year.
  • 1st year- The term "fetal position" comes to mind.  There tends to be a lot of crying by first year teachers who have been rocked completely from their foundation.  I was more of a stare-blankly-at-the-wall-for-hours type.  Complete humility is a main ingredient.
  • 2nd year- Learning to walk, maybe?  Teachers start to get a grasp on the classroom, but still aren't very concerned with what's going on outside of their classroom.  I tried to strong arm a few meetings early that year in the name of fresh leadership, causing come sour relationships and professional setbacks.  As it turns out, being a leader takes more than just a desire to be one. 
  • 3rd year (last year)- The ability to think critically kicks in and you reach the beginnings of a maturity level as a teacher.  I felt as though I was yelling and screaming like an adolescent at times, however.  That said, I could finally start telling people that I really like my job, in spite of the challenges, without my mind turning to all of the negative, bullshit experiences that go along with teaching. 
My Goals for Year 4
  • Knock it off with the screaming and yelling.  While immediately effective coming from someone with half-ways decent management skills, it is not effective in the long-term.
  • Tighten management in general.  More structure, more routine, fewer lost minutes every day.
  • Focus on curriculum writing with the implementation of a blended technology model.
  • Support newer teachers where I can.  As it turns out, at year four I've been on the staff as long or longer than at least half of the teachers on staff.  There's NYC turnover for you.
  • Re-forge relationships with my AVID class.  I had these students all of last year and they were among my favorite.  This year I begin a four-year looped elective with them and it's my goal to help get every last one of them into a solid, four-year university.  This year will be about setting up that four-year plan on my end and on theirs.
Various Thoughts on the Use of Summer
This summer I gave myself about a month off from scheduled work days and going into school.  This is what I recommend for teachers across the country and my fiancee was good enough to make sure I practice what I preach.  Personally, I think teachers should get three to four weeks and then be required to put in more professional development and planning time before school starts (the absence of children being extremely important in this case).  I also think that teachers should get paid about $10,000 more for this extra work and other efforts over the course of the school year, but considering all of the states are going bankrupt, it might be difficult to cough up another $72 billion for the 7.2 million teachers in the U.S. in addition to funding the pensions they've been promised.

Getting Back to It
Other than the vacation time, which was, admittedly, spent doing a lot of work and planning outside of the building, I attended two conferences, graded state exit exams administered this August, and spent a good deal of time at school this month setting up my classroom, organizing materials for the year, and meeting with other staff members.

Next week is when most teachers I know will start back full time or nearly full time.  It's important to point out is that this is seven work days before the contract requires it.  For some reason the union and the Department of Education don't see enough value in getting teachers to come back to work more than a day before the kids to require it.

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