Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

The time has come to bid my summer break farewell. Yes the warm weather is still here, and summer activities still fill the calendar, but alas I am returning to work on Monday. Please don't think I'm complaining, people LOVE to remind me that I'm luckier than most to have summers off. Trust me, I know. But there is a totally different feeling at this time of year for teachers than for anyone else.

Surprisingly after all the interviews and the heartbreaks this summer I am honestly excited to get this new job started. I've gotten little tastes over the past week but I know as I meet the other staff members -- in particular the ones I'll be working directly with -- I'm only going to feel more and more excited. I haven't felt this way since I was beginning my job at Banneker 3 years ago. I feel like I've learned a lot and grown a lot in that time. I've always started the school year with a new plan and new ideas that I couldn't wait to put into place. But in Montgomery county there were always other factors defeating me. For example- students who had failed all major academic subjects for all four quarters were promoted to the next grade level. Why would that student ever do his or her work? Also, any attempt at an assignment could earn no less than 50% credit. So students wouldn't try any harder than that.

Here are some things I'm excited about at my new school:
1. Teaching older students! I'm really looking forward to students who are a little bit older and a little bit more responsible. There will always be babies and clowns and others who make themselves annoying, but at least 9th and 11th graders are thinking about college and know that the classes really count for something so they generally take it a little more seriously.
2. Teaching 2 subjects I love! I've always adored US History (ever since the days of this Mr. Barnes fellow back at LHS) and can't wait to study it in more depth. I'm also teaching modern world history which I also really like. World War II is one of my favorite times in history. When you're interested in what you're teaching, that's when your lessons become creative and fun.
3. Working with an enthusiastic faculty! Every person I've been introduced to at this school has said to me, "Oh, you're going to love it here." I've been told that this staff is very young and they love to do social things together outside of school. There were some young people on the staff at Banneker, but only one or two were really good friends who I'd hang out with outside of work. And most people there hated the place. That made it really hard to have any school spirit or pride in my work. It's really hard to stay enthusiastic when everyone around you is constantly complaining. Don't get me wrong, they were totally justified, I'm just saying that it will be nice to be in a school where there's not so much to complain about :o)
4. A new way of teaching! I have been reading this book called The First Days of School by Harry Wong (he was the guest speaker on the first say of NTO this week). It's really intended for first-year teachers, but so many of his tips and tricks could be helpful to anyone. So I've been reading through it and picking out things I want to try. I'm really looking forward to implementing some of the strategies to see much they help both me and the students.
5. Tons of professional autonomy! My curriculum guide is basically an outline of topics with key objectives to meet and an assessment for each unit. We were told to create lessons as we wish, create assessments as we wish, use the assessment in the guide as part of our grades as we wish... we're professionals, we know what's best for our own students. This is revolutionary compared to Montgomery county. There, every lesson is scripted down to what you're supposed to say. I used to use it loosely as a guide and create some of my own activities in addition to using some from the book. But then we were told that we had to have the exact same lessons worth the exact same points as the person teaching on the other team. Since my counterpart on the other team was a more experienced teacher than myself, I wasn't going to tell her she had to do my activities because I wanted to use them. Thankfully she did not do that to me either. As a result, we just strictly followed the curriculum guide day-t0-day.

I'm sure you remember that I was originally not interested in this job at all and admittedly I was disappointed when I was offered it. But now I have all of these things to look forward to. How about that? I'd bet you're even excited for me :o) Unfortunately I'm still not looking forward to starting classes at 7:25 which pretty much means getting up at 5:30 to leave by 6:30. Yes, the day is over at 2:10 but I'll be falling asleep by 8, so it won't matter!

One last update: Ben and Jenna have chosen Turf Valley as their wedding location and will be tying the knot on May 29, 2009! <3

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