Thursday, June 18, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Wors-- "Most Challenging" of Times...

As my school year draws to an end, I looked back over the past 9 months (because that's what they teach teachers to do, "reflect"), and realized that this was both my best and, I don't want to say worst, but definitely most challenging school year.

I say most challenging because we all know that with great freedom, comes great responsibility. In Howard county they give you great freedom with your lesson planning. In fact, all they "require" or give you is a list of topics and objectives. So here's what you need to cover, this is what we want the kids to know or be able to do after studying the topics. The responsibility piece of that is writing a gazillion lessons. You've heard my complaints about that over the course of this school year. It was definitely a challenge that I was not prepared for. As a result, this was my most challenging school year so far (out of 4, haha, but still). It seemed to take forever, I was miserable many times for feeling overwhelmed by the workload, and I can't say I'm not a little burned out on creative lesson ideas. I know for a fact that there were some peaks and valleys in my creativity and I'm sure the kids noticed periods where we seemed to do some of the same activities over and over again. With life happening at the same time, it became really hard to sit and create two fabulous lessons every single day. Not to mention that a lot of fabulous lessons require significant planning ahead in order to have materials and equipment ready. Those things just didn't happen for me this year. So I am more relieved than I've ever been that this school year is over because I am finally out from under what felt like a never-ending dark cloud. I really can't describe the stress of having lesson plans hanging over my head 24-7 for 9 months straight.

At the same time, despite all of my many complaints, this has been by far my FAVORITE school year. Oakland Mills is a wonderful school. Some of the teachers there have their complaints, and I'm not saying they aren't valid complaints, but I guess there's a lot to be said for perspective. I just know that coming from Banneker Middle School, Oakland Mills is a dream. There are problem students, there are issues that still need to be addressed, it's not the prettiest building in the richest neighborhood, or any of that. But it is a good school. The administrators care. The teachers care. Many of the students care. Kids are involved, they have pride in the school, and a lot of them are incredibly talented. I attended graduation a few weeks back and in the program they printed each graduate and what their next step would be (either what school they were attending, if they were going into military service or a work field). There were students who are attending ivy league colleges, one girl is going to Harvard. So despite being referred to as a "ghetto" school and people thinking we've got nothing but throw-away kids at OM, we've actually got a lot to be proud of. Maybe I just got lucky, but my students this year were great. There were a few that I could have done without, but overall I had a lot of fun with them. That is something I could not say at Banneker. The lessons were the easy part, it was the kids and lack of administrative support that stressed me out to the point of dreading each day and NOT looking forward to another year.

So, as happy as I'm for the year to be over with, at least I can say I'm looking forward to next year. I have a lot of new ideas that I want to try. I've already started thinking about ways I want to add to and change my lessons - and I really feel like next year I'll have the opportunity to do that without the pressure of creating something from scratch every day. I guess what I can say I learned this year was first, what a real first year of teaching is like, but second and more importantly that it's true what they say: "There's no place like hOMe"

Ok, I'll spare you any more of that mushiness :] We have a big fun weekend coming up: we're babysitting Josh's cousin on Saturday, then going out to Howl at the Moon (our FAVORITE bar in Baltimore) with Phil & Daniella that night, and Sunday of course will be spent with the dads. Are you ready for a big photo post on Monday??? I hope so!

One more thing before I go.... If you use an iGoogle homepage (which you should), I highly recommend a gadget called "Turtle." I've included a photo below. It's two turtles swimming around and when you click your mouse it puts down food for them! SO CUTE. They will swim toward your cursor waiting for food and chase down any food that you leave for them. I've had a good time making them race to get to one piece of food. It's endless entertainment!

My only question is -- what to name my turtles????

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