I know many people who read this blog are already in education, but for those who aren’t let me give you my first Monday
I woke at 5 so I could do a bit of exercise and breakfast before school. I got to school a bit past 7 and went to make copies for the day. I did try to make them on Friday, but I couldn’t.
The copy room was like a rugby scrum as teachers jockied for paper and position, then the secretary came in a jumped the line. I gave up and walked away. I only needed a couple of copies for small group instruction.
Later I learned that they put paper in at 7;30 AM so a lot of teachers make copies then before the daily ration of paper is gone. I have a box of paper, I just didn’t expect to have to use it this early in the year.
At 8 the students enter the building for breakfast. When they are finished they head to their grade level hall and wait until announcements at 8:30. Official duty starts at 8:10. I sometimes feel a bit like a prison guard as the students are asked to sit 2 X 2 in the halls. Girls on one side boys on the other. Students read talk or play video games, teachers talk and keep order. I try to practice rewarding positive behavior by giving away Eagle bucks.
My first class starts right after announcements and I’m teaching from 8:30 to 12ish, back to back to back to back. It’s a tough stretch and that first day my calfs were so sore I could barely sleep. I’ve almost got the hang of it, but this is my major weakness as a teacher. My plan for the day has to be ready, I can’t really make mid-course corrections, or a few extra copies or anything like that (no bathroom breaks). Luckily for me we have a schedule that requires common meetings and plannings.
After that marathon teaching session. I have lunch, plan (I made copies for tomorrow and I didn’t have to use my own paper), and PLC (Professional Learning Community) time. PLC is team time, but the change in name requires actual PLC rules, plus we are a SIG (School Improvement Grant) school, meaning we have to keep records of the everything. Then I teach one final class before the end of the day.
My daily team consists of a first year teacher who spent last year substituting, a SPED resource and an ELL resource. They are great people who are willing and happy to dive in and do what it takes to teach. They help me with my planning difficulties. Each day has a slightly different topic as not all team members can make every meeting and Mondays are spent with Science to help us connect our lessons. I just wish we had common planning time as well, an hour is just not enough time to work together. We at least have time in math to divvy up the lesson planning responsibilities for the week. The common lessons are helpful for me and the students. I feel a bit bad because I haven’t been able to stay late and half the team is at school until 7PM very night.
The Science team is a good match. They are a bunch of overly organized, newish, teachers. Most of the 7th grade is new to the building and most of the teachers are in their first few years of teaching. The first meeting was mostly getting to know each other and the students, but we did look at last year’s MAP scores and get a few thing out of the way. Near the end of the meeting the Math coach visited, she had this 1,000 yard stare as if she was just overworked already and we haven’t even had students for a week yet.
It has been a bit frustrating the first week because we are trying to figure out the thought process behind the curriculum they built last year and no one has been there to help, but after seeing the look of exhaustion on the math coach’s face at 1:00 on a Monday I knew our she has been too busy to work with us yet.
As a math department we are kind of figuring it out and finding more flexibility than we first thought. We can really make this curriculum our own, but getting through the first week is more about survival than planning for the future.
After my respite with adults I teach one last class and the students leave at 3:30. We kind of push them out of the halls and wander outside to make sure everyone leaves in an orderly fashion. New duty schedules were posted on Wednesday.
I’ve been trying to keep on the students during the day to clean up after themselves and the last class has the responsibility of putting chairs on desks. I spend the first 10 minutes after the students leave cleaning my room and writing the objective on the board for tomorrow. Today I graded the AIM test for the EPIC class (Response To Intervention, a state mandated program to give student extra help in their areas of need, but I would prefer a more low key homeroom type program). I packed away the exit slips to grade at home and started to leave, but found my partners at the copy machine trying to get ahead of the game. I gave them my ream of paper. (I expected paper shortages, but not this early in the year).
At home I corrected the exit slips, still not happy with progress, and reviewed the lesson plans for the week. Now I’m writing this. Next I’ll review my classroom student information system to see what medical, psychological, and educational notes there may be on my students.
I’ve been in education for 15 years. When I first started there was none of this required collaboration stuff. We had a tight group in my first building, but for planning and paperwork, I was basically on my own. Over the years I’ve been to a lot of team meetings and for the most part they ignore planning and concentrate on students. In defense most of the meetings tended to be grade level meetings not subject meetings. The problem is when the focus is on students and not teaching the discussion revolves around student behavior and nothing productive gets done.
This sounds odd writing it, but I prefer the focus to stay off of students and stick to classroom teaching. The funny part is for a lot of the last few weeks I have heard the word compliance and flinched almost every time. I don’t want to teach students to be compliant, I want to teach them to learn. In actual practice, though there is a lot of focus on compliant behavior, mornings in the halls and a heavy focus on classroom procedures.
This is one of the weaknesses of the reform movement. The students and teachers are all expected to be compliant. We have a ton of paperwork and required things to be done. Like creating common assessments (9 per quarter), common assessment data discussions, etc… It’s all good stuff that good teachers do, but somehow it doesn’t feel exactly natural. Like we are expected to go through the motions of being a teach in hopes that someday that will be true.
I don’t have a problem with data collection and using it to steer classroom instruction, but right now this isn’t feeling as authentic as it could. On the other hand I also feel like I might be learning a thing or two about formative assessment that I might not have wanted to know. We’ll see. This data collection and use is something I’ll be looking at during the year, if I can find time to reflect on it.