Sunday, August 28, 2011



The first two days of school with students - and more importantly, my first full set of lesson plans for the coming week - are finished. It's been such a whirlwind that I don't even know yet how I feel about everything. Depending on when you asked me in the past 4 days, I might have felt overwhelmed, overjoyed, overtired, overworked, or very much overly excited. Probably all of the above.

After the excitement of meeting the students at Open House, Wednesday was looking to be a great, great day. Then, I got to school and something unimaginably, ridiculously awful happened to me. I discovered that the USB flash drive I have everything - everything! - I've ever made for teaching on it was not being recognized by my computer. It had gotten bent and was, as it turns out, broken. Granted, there is still hope that the Geek Squad at Best Buy can recover the data, but once I take it in it may be several weeks and as much as $500. Needless to say, there were hysterics, tears, and approximately 17 meltdowns. Not a good way to finish the last day of teacher planning week.

However, the first day of school went relatively well, considering no one in the entire school really knew what they were doing. I have figured out that it takes approximately 10 minutes to do a bathroom/water break (waaaaay too long), and a full 5 minutes to get my class where they need to go (also insanely long). It also hit me that I really have no breaks during the day. We eat lunch in the cafeteria with our students, and our specials period isn't until 2:10 p.m. For the first two days, we stayed with our students and went around to meet all of the specials teachers, so I had no break until after carpool duty. I was literally punch drunk by the time the last car pulled off on Thursday (around 4:30 pm!) I know that all teachers work hard and deserve credit and all that, but there is a serious difference in the amount of planning/free time available to elementary teachers vs. secondary.

All things considered, though, things went pretty well. I don't appear (famous last words) to have any major behavioral problems - as in defiance, overt meanness, etc. - in my class. I have a few lovely darlings that I can tell have serious attention issues, but that's par for the course. They all impressed me with their desire to try and follow what I ask them to do, even if they don't succeed.

I went into this new school thinking it would be very much like my last school in New Orleans, partially, I think, to ease my anxiety about all this change. In many ways it reminds me of my old school - the crazy overachieving type-A teachers, the administration that puts faith in you to do what you need to do, the focus on the arts. But so many things are different.

For instance, at my last school, the "average" student was in fact very much above average. We had 100% pass rate for the 3rd grade on state testing, and most of the kids read above grade level. Plus, I was working with the gifted literacy kids. The population at this new school is much more varied - I definitely noticed a wide range of kids' levels. It's going to be a big adjustment not being able to assume a certain level of knowledge, and honestly, it's the thing that most terrifies me about this year. I am terrified that I will fail these kids who are coming to me below level. I have always had an easier time working to challenge the gifted kids. I lay awake the other night wondering to myself, What if I don't do them justice? What if I can't get them where they need to be? I put such pressure on myself - state testing and guidelines aside - that I am scared I will drive myself crazy.

The other big adjustment is not being in a school where if I sent an email to parents asking for X, Y, and Z for the classroom, five Xs, Ys, and Zs would be in my room the next day. By contrast, after two days of school and twenty students, I had eight pairs of scissors and only five boxes of tissues. I can tell that these are dedicated, loving, involved parents, but they do not all have resources. I am currently snacking from a giant tub of Goldfish I bought because a girl in my class told me she wouldn't be able to bring snack until her mom got paid. Don't get me wrong, this is not a super-low-income, incredibly needly population, but it's definitely a change from where I was.

Here's hoping the rollercoaster evens out as we build up speed.

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