Monday, August 31, 2009

First Week Observations

One year and one week into my teaching career, there continue to be 10,000 new things that I notice everyday. Just as I want to work on my students' skills around what's important to "notice" in math, I continue to think about the ways that the things I'm noticing are actually serving to improve my practice.

Useful things I've noticed:
-Cooperative learning and inquiry thrives when the content is based in multiple representations (geometric, algebraic, verbal, graphical, situational, etc.). It gives every student an access point and a challenge and which is which varies by individual student rather than status. Now the challenge for me: where can I center instruction around multiple representations in mathematical situations where other representations aren't very meaningful?
-Kids on the Peninsula are different than kids in the East Bay. Can't yet put my finger on how they're different, but there's something happening.
-School-wide policies and support structures (that aren't crazy) mean a lot less work for the individual teacher. Read: I love mandatory study hall that I don't have to organize myself.

Happy, but maybe not super-useful things I've noticed:
-Second year teaching, even in a completely new school, is infinitely easier than first year. If things keep getting easier at the same rate, by Year 5 I'll be able to teach in my sleep.
-Kids are cute no matter where you go.
-I'm pretty into advisory. Maybe not so much for the purposes it was intended for, but because I think my kids are cute and I like hanging out with them.

Things I've noticed that really I already know but have trouble actually putting into practice:
-My summer bedtime and social habits are not conducive to a successful teaching lifestyle.
-Staying at school for 12+ hours a day (plus weekends) is also not conducive to a successful teaching lifestyle. Or any lifestyle, for that matter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Quiet

I love the feel of a fresh school year and a fresh classroom. The tables are arranged and chairs are still pushed in. The signs I've taped at each seat have yet to be picked at and drawn on. The markers still draw bright bold strokes and they even all still have caps. Even the white board has been cleared of that residue from ink that wasn't erased soon enough. There's so much promise.

Especially with ninth graders, the students are still fresh and crisp as well. I've already met a lot of them through orientation, so they're still in that place where I know their faces and have seen them smile, but they've yet to divulge their sordid histories of mathematical, academic, and emotional wounds. The only thing I know about them is that each has the potential to be the greatest mathematical genius or the most supportive group member or generally the most awesome kid the world has ever known.

But soon everyone will reveal their true selves. I'll immediately recognize that my five-year old cousin would roll her eyes at D.'s immaturity. I'll agonize over how to ever get S. to do anything ever without first telling me "no." E. will subtly make it known that she thinks she's too smart for my class. I'll find my brand new rulers snapped in half. I'll finally kick a kid out of the room.

Yikes, it sounds like I'm approaching the school year with an all-down-hill-from-here attitude, but I keep reminding myself that the revealing of true selves is what actually makes me like the kids (not so much with the broken rulers, though). Like last year when I found out that L. had never been so proud of her math grade, or when A. would come visit me at lunch even though she'd moved on to Algebra II. The quiet, anxious, peaceful uncertainty of a new year can be so comforting in that there are no labels to place on anyone yet, but in many ways it's those labels that make the classroom complete.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Theme from Jaws

Remember that song? The way the creepy music gets faster and faster and scarier and scarier as you feel the deadly shark approaching? I would say that this pretty accurately represents my life's soundtrack right now. And that deadly worst nightmare creeping up on my with ever increasing speed is, of course, the impending school year.

Really, it's already started. It started on Tuesday (exactly two months after we finished in June--who says we get three months off?) with three days of "New Teacher Celebration" at my new school (because saying "New Teacher Orientation" isn't bright and sunny enough). Really it started a good three weeks ago when I first met with my geometry planning partner to map out our year. At first it wasn't too bad. Planning was actually kind of fun. I wouldn't call New Teacher Celebration "fun," but it was good to meet other people and get a lot of my questions answered.

Now the Jaws Theme is picking up speed and I've been hit smack in the face with the 10,000 thing I need to plan, create, sort, arrange, write, clean, set up, photocopy, revise, update, decide, and just do before kids come on the 17th. And it doesn't help that a not small part of me feels like I should take advantage of these last days of summer by doing things like lying out by the pool and BBQing. The music speeds up and the shark approaches.

Don't get me wrong--I love teaching and can't imagine a different career. Unless I could be a professional summer vacationer.