Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Middle schoolers FTW: Awesome Poet

To be perfectly honest, my day wasn't what one would call stellar. How I feel about my day as a whole is dominated by one period, my last of the day. We've had a rocky two days, so my last two days haven't been stellar. Whenever I get down, I try to find a nugget of goodness in my day. Luckily, I struck gold today.

One of the students in my 8th grade class came to me during transition time...3 hours after she had already seen me. I thought she forgot something, so I passively nodded her into my classroom while talking to another student. She stayed put as I finished up with the other students, so I figured something was wrong.

"J" hands me a piece of paper and asks me to read it. I start to look over it, and I realize that it is a poem. (By the way, folks, I'm not an ELA teacher nor do I pretend to be one.) As I read it, I'm moved by the fierce confidence projected from whoever's voice it is. This piece was a statement of individuality and pride in one's beliefs. To be honest, I'm generally not a fan of poetry, but this piece of poetry hooked me in to the point where I kind of neglected my hallway duty.

I finished and the only thing I could say to "J" was "Wow. Who wrote this?"

"I did, Ms. [Insane]. I wanted to share it with you first before turning it. Did you like it?"

Uh, YES! Two things struck me. First, power and confidence of the piece of student-produced poetry. Heck, let's just call it poetry. Second, she wanted to share it with me first. I can't pinpoint why, but it meant a lot to me that she sought me out to share her work. J totally made my day. I'm bone tired, but looking back on this, I endure for these nuggets of gold, when I get to see a student shine. These shiny moment light up my dark days, so in the words of my school's creed, "I must press on."

Middle schoolers FTW

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Dangerous Wands"

For teachers and/or Harry Potterheads (like me), check this out. It has provided me my laugh of the night.

Teaching Fails of the Week #1

I think as a way to commiserate with other teachers, and hopefully, make other new teachers feel better, I will share my fails so far. What they don't tell you in teacher education classes is that it is 100% guaranteed that:

- You will not be efficient.
- Your to-do list will NEVER empty.
- You will feel like you are running in place.
- You will NOT be an awesome teacher your first few weeks (months?).

Without further ado, I present Insane Teacher's fails of the week:

- I fried my kids' brains. I thought teaching independent variables and dependent variables would be easy, especially because I had them set up an experiment on Friday with the intent to refer to it as a live example. Nope. Twenty minutes into 1st period, I knew that I would have to scrap my lesson plans. 2 weeks into the school year, 2 lesson plans altered by Wednesday.

- I learned to never to labs and hands-on activities without at least a day's worth of prep beforehand. Friday was hectic, and it was all because I didn't think my lab set-up through. I'm about to commit the same faux pas tomorrow, it seems, as I have scrapped tomorrow's activity in favor of another.

- If you are doing a lab with fire, please know what you are doing. I'll post the picture later on what happened. Let's just say that I'm happy that the incident happened on the weekend and out of sight of the students.

- Grad school + full-time teaching + being a first year = INSANITY. This is all caused by idiocy on my part. I'm now questioning my decision-making skills :)

There are more fails I'm missing here, but these are the biggest ones I've made. Despite my fails, I'm learning from them. Theoretically, the number of fails will decrease each week. However, as I've learned in my first two weeks of teaching, the theoretical rarely matches to the actual. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hobbies: Education

I'm two weeks into this gig now, with this week being the first week of instruction. After getting the administrative nonsense out of the way, I pleased to say that my first day of actual teaching went awesomely. Little did I know that seventh-graders would react to this


as awesomely as they did. The discussion completely blew my lesson plans, but who cares when they totally understood the thorny nature of inferences in science from what was meant to be five-minute aside? 

Teaching is Insanity has been neglected as a result of my job, because teaching is busy. If I wasn't giving a pre-test tomorrow, I would be lesson planning and fretting for sure. As it happens, I will have a time on my hands, so I have the opportunity to have leisure time. How am I spending my leisure time? Writing here (about education), and reading my syllabi for this upcoming semester's class, particularly the one for my Teaching Practicum class.

Teaching/Education has apparently taken over my life. I'm tired. I've spent the last hour chatting with friends while responding to school emails. Even now, my mind is wandering towards my lesson on Thursday and the unit plan I need to finish within the next week. Apparently, I have no hobbies beyond education now, so here's to getting a new one: Sleep. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pre-Game Thoughts

I'm going to (try to) make this brief, as I have still have some preparations to do for this week, but I can't do much more without stopping and reflecting over the past week and the upcoming week.

Last week was professional development with the entire staff. As with all other things that happen at this school, the schedule given to us on Monday was not what exactly occurred over the week. Yet, this was okay. In fact, more than okay; it was great! It allowed some of us (i.e. the newbies) time to ask questions and get them answered by the school veterans in an honest manner. It also allowed us to take everything in without the inconvenience of having to edit our thoughts when in the presence of everyone.

 The details of PD would be boring to most people, but I'll say this. After getting my classroom finished (pics to come soon), meeting with my team, getting our hallway together, and meeting with some of our students, I'm less nervous and more pumped. I feel as if I have no time to be nervous, as I'm just too busy to feel it!

However, I'm not too busy to feel the anticipation of kids coming in on Monday and to feel the urgency to get the items on my never-ending "to-do" list checked off. And there you have it. This is where my mind currently is.

It's also on the "Mad Men" Season 1 episodes I want to finish sometime soon.

The two most common questions asked of me this week were "How are you feeling [about your class] [about the school] [about everything teaching-and-learning related]?" and "Are you ready [for your class] [for the students] [for who-the-heck knows]?" I haven't been able to properly articulate myself when responding to these questions. Because I've been BS-ing my responses to these questions all week, I'll answer them honestly now. 

Answer: If I have to assign a feeling right now, it's an unlabeled zen-feeling. I'm calm, yet I have this underlying sense of urgency. I'm not rushing, yet I'm ready to go into "grinding" mode things get settled. I'm nervous, yet I'm more focused on things, so I can't really feel it. The same goes for my excitement. 

[The BS answer: "I feel great!"]

Answer #2: As ready as a young, recent college grad can be to teach and take on a good deal of responsibility for 130+ seventh and eighth-grade students. Actually, is anyone ever really "ready" to do this? Yup. That's what I thought.  

[The BS answer: This one is closer to my real answer than the previous answer, "Yeah, I'm as good as I can be."]

I feel better (and more prepared for tomorrow!) now that I've taken a brain-dump (one of the teaching strategies I learned this week was "Dump and Clump"). Bring on game day!