Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day Two, Year Five

My license expiring next June reminds me that this is indeed my fifth year of licensed teaching. Wowza. I'm amazed at how quickly time flies. I remember all of my fears and hopes of my first year, during this first week. I remember the spasm of my muscles of the first day. The panic that came each year, planning new lessons for new classes. Now, in my third year at one school, I am finally teaching a semester full of material I've already taught. Last year, I was assigned a new class that I had absolutely no experience in. And although I am indeed teaching a class I've never taught before this year, it isn't until second semester and it's very similar to the ones I'm teaching now. Making workshop week so very pleasant. (Except, of course, the absence of my partner in crime, Molly.) I am finally beginnging to feel confident and comfortable in my abilities. I am a little surprised sometimes at how others are born with the confidence. Maybe they know more than I do. Maybe they have better self-esteem. But I am still very much a rookie. I learn new things each and every day from both my students and my fellow staff members. And although I am happy to give advice, help, etc. when asked for it (and sometimes when not asked), I am still far too green to be considered any sort of expert. The coordinator of mentoring asked me to be a mentor for second year teachers. The responsibilities are nil, it's more of a social contact than anything, but the idea of being someone's mentor in any capacity freaks me out this early in my career. The person assigned as my first year mentor at this school had been teaching as long as I had, two years at the time. But because I was new to the district, I got a mentor. Which is fine. The meetings were more social than anything and it's a great system, but it seems there could be a better name than "mentor". Especially when there was observation involved. It felt like, "We've been teaching the exact same amount of time...who are you to tell me what to do?" Oh, well.

My classroom is ready to go, save for deciding how to rearrange the desks to accomodate the two new student table desks (2 students per table, for now...). My largest class size is 35, larger than any class I've ever taught at any school before. I think of Molly, however, and her classes of 40+ at her new school, and I don't feel quite as bad. For me, the worst part is the discrepancies in numbers. I am teaching the same class five times a day. In one class, I have 35, in another, only 21. This might be okay in other classes, but since this is speech class, it adds an entire 2 days to speech presentations. What will my class of 21 do for those extra days? Watch a movie. Is this educationally sound? No. But to move them along in the curriculum not only makes my job more difficult, but also seems like a punishment to those students who just happen to be in the small class. There are so many problems with scheduling, of course, and I understand everyone has their own preferences, requests, etc. To have them all fulfilled is pie-in-the-sky optimism that would truly be impossible.

I haven't revised my syllabus, written lesson plans for week one, or any other teaching type responsibility in the past two days of workshop. Instead, during the small amounts of time between meetings, I have first organized my room in order to feel more prepared spatially. It will help me to concentrate, I believe, not having piles of randomness throughout my space. Tomorrow, after more meetings, and then again Thursday, after more meetings, I will begin to form the schedule and activities for this fifth year. I'm both reluctant and excited. I miss sleeping until 10 already, but I enjoy the prospects of the year to come as well.

Despite my "easy" teaching schedule, I worry I will lose my sanity this fall, as I am finally finishing my Master's Degree as well. Between a Monday night class and the writing of my alternate plan paper, I have a lot of outside work to be doing. I have asked my husband to help me stay focused. He adorably responded, "Like...how?" I told him just to remind me to be productive, check in with me about my homework, and when he sees me watching Sex and the City reruns on Wednesday night instead of researching, tell me to get off my ass and get to work. "Okay, I think I can do that," he said, and we kissed. I really do love being married.

It's odd how I feel like there are hundreds of other things I should chronicle as I begin this year, but I know I will begin to bore myself quickly. In general, in case anyone asks, I'm feeling positive, hopeful, and more worried about stress than actually stressed as I begin this school year. I leave you with the quotation I put on my "Staff Yearbook" form under "yearbook quotation" (lame, I know, but I participate in all things lame, usually): Always say please and thank you.

I think it's good advice, and never gets you into trouble.


Molly said...

Ah, the beginning of the school year... I too will finish my master's degree this year: thank goodness. I hope to also get a lot of work done toward my re-licensure, since I may be going incognito after this year. And forty plus isn't so bad; they don't expect you to grade a lot of papers. I'll just have to keep it very discussion oriented.

Medea Zorba said...

You know, this post reminded me why I have so much respect for you and consider you my "adult" friend. It's funny to hear (or read, as it were) you talk about your lack of confidence. It just goes to show you can feel any way you want, but that's not necessarily what you project. You, my dear, have never projected to me anything but confidence in your teaching abilities. You never cease to amaze me. And I love you for it. I am choosing to ignore, however, the fact that you have been teaching for five years, because I'd rather not think about why I'm only just starting a career. I hope to soon start playing at grown-up. But you are one. You're awesome.

Anonymous said...

Heather Said:

Funny, I think you are a confident person too...yea to five years and a masters! I hope you love your life- it looks great from here!

On a side note...35 - 40+ kids in a class, no wonder over 700 MN schools are now failing the NCLBA (see Today's 8/31 Star Trib). I also love how as a 'sanction' for being a 'behind' school, they yank funding. Because now we can really improve!

To my loving teacher friends (Molly, that is you too), I applaude (sp?) you and pray for you!