Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's That Time of Year

I have my first required training of the new school year on Monday. That's just not fair. I mean my brain is still in the mind set where my biggest problem is what beach to go to. (I will be posting about vacation soon enough! Promise!) E,myself and I is hosting a teacher link up, and I want to get in on some of that.

This will be my 8th year of teaching. That means, someone gave a 23 year old a classroom. Full of kids. Are you kidding me? It was pointed out to me that my first classroom was in fact a gym. But that gym had 50+ students in it several times day. Throwing things. At people. On purpose. I don't see how that is any better than putting a 23 year old in charge of 30 in a classroom. Do you? If you are a 22-23 year old, and are thinking I am some crazy old lady for thinking that you are not responsible enough, come back when you are in your 8th year of teaching, and you will see. I felt plenty responsible and grown up too. Now I think my principal was crazy to hire someone a young as I was.
This is me. AFTER my first full year teaching. I was in Germany, not sober (if you can't tell by the drink in my hand and the red face) AND I am posing with a German police officer. This person was in charge of shaping the minds of today's youth. (Well, I was teaching them how to play team hand ball, Frisbee golf and how to throw a football, so that's the same.) But seriously, would you trust your child with this person? Would you feel better knowing that this same person slept in a train station in Belgium on this trip because we forgot to make any sort of hostel arrangements one night? Seriously, bad decisions left and right.

Any who, in these last few years of teaching, I have become a pretty decent teacher if I do say so myself. Each year I learn new things, and not the stuff they push on us at our monthly professional developments. I mean real stuff. The stuff that can only be taught in two ways: trial and error or by the most ruthless teachers of all, the students themselves.

I teach middle school. I am now out of the gym, and I teach health. Which I love. And luckily, most of the kids like it too. And, for the most part my students like me. Those two things make my job about a thousand times easier. I mean, there are kids who don't like health class (a girl told me it was stupid, pointless and boring this year) and students that don't like me (one time for saying that left handed people don't live as long as right handers- it has something to do with accidents or something. He apparently was left handed, and didn't like me after that) but for the most part, I have a leg up on things.

Here are some things I have learned:
*I finally have a decent system for absent kids/make up work. I have folders for each class period, if a kid is gone, I write there name on whatever it is they missed and I put it in the folder. Above where the folders are, is a piece of butcher paper that I list the notes we have taken each day. If a kid is absent, it is there responsibility to make up those notes.

*Our school focuses a lot on note taking-- well Cornell Notes. My 8th graders are pretty good at taking notes. Getting 8th graders to keep their notes has been a tricky one. I know in the future (assuming they still use paper in the future) keeping the notes they take is super important. Last year we started making little foldables for each unit that they keep their notes in. They turn them in at the end of the unit, and it has worked pretty well.

*Student work is hard with 125 students. A couple of years ago I had a sub one day. This substitute had been a teacher for 30 years and she is a wealth of knowledge. She did one small thing that had changed my life- she alphabetized my students work (by class) before it was corrected. That one act has made the  tedious task of entering 125 grades into the computer a billion times easier.

*Handing back work is also hard. I use a big 3 inch binder to hold my attendance and seating charts. Each period is separated by a folder. I put the graded work in the folder and hand it back during work times, or I give it to a student who is done early. It's not perfect, but it works for me.

*In the words of Harry Wong, "procedure, procedure, procedure."
If you don't have this book, you need it now- If you are a teacher that is
I have reread this book every year for the last 5 years before school starts. No joke. It was a required text book during college, and I didn't look at it for a couple years after I graduated, but it is seriously the best book I got during college. Procedures must be taught. How to enter the room, how to leave. (Push in your chairs, yo!) What to do when you get to class (bellwork) and what to do if you finish early. At first I hated to teach this stuff, I mean my students are in 8th grade, not 1st, but after a few bad starts to new semesters I realized: they aren't acting our because they are naughty, they just don't know what to do. Now I do it pretty heavy at the beginning of the semester, and we review at the start of each grading period. 

What I love about my job (besides the summers  students) is the fact that I am always changing and developing. Classroom organization is something that I struggle with. Those make up work folders and the binders are one small step in the right direction. This year I have also put together pencil boxes with art supplies in them, one per group, to try and keep tabs on my supplies. I will be numbering them to go with each table group. Hopefully that will work. 

Are you a teacher? What are some of your tips?


Lauren said...

First of all, I LOVE your process for absent students. I may have to steal it;-)

I also alphabetize before I grade. Something I find easier than shuffling through the papers at the end.

A few things I do:
*I have a basket for each class to turn papers in to. That way they don't just end up in a pile on the corner of my desk for me to forget about/lose.

*I keep all their past assessments (our district is REALLY into testing) in manila folders in milk crates. That way they can track their growth through the year.

Good luck with everything tomorrow!

Morgan said...

I do understand where you are coming from - 23 is young to be teaching. I was 21 when I started teaching high school (10-12) sciences and taught grade 12 chemistry and biology as well as night classes to adults. I am five years down the road and have learned a ton. I think any teacher, no matter what age they start teaching at, learns tons in the first few years. Of course I have made bad decisions in my personal life - I also know 30 somethings, 40 something and 50 something who make bad decisions. I know when I am in that classroom I am a great role model for my students, especially young ladies who see a young female in a male dominated field. I respect that we each have our own opinions, but I think that youth is a benefit in many ways, as experience is also a benefit.

Kristin said...

I have a folder I put on the absent kid's desk with everything in it so they can get everything the next morning (I just have 24 kids though in a self-contained room). I agree with PROCEDURE PROCEDURE PROCEDURE! I'm the Procedure Nazi. For real. Sometimes we have to line up 4 times before we do it right. Whatever. They need the structure!

Kristin said...

Oh, I started when I was 22, but didn't get a fulltime classroom until I was 24.
And prof. development? Yeah, I don't learn anything there. Everything is learned through trial and error.