Monday, August 30, 2010

Because Teaching is Never Just Teaching...


School is going wonderfully! The students seem to be settling into their new routines. Now if only the teachers and administration could do the same!

Today's entry has two topics that are closely intertwined. And to begin the story, let us return to the first Friday during workdays.

It was the day of the faculty meeting. Tensions ran high in expectation of doom and gloom. Administrators paced nervously, trying to prepare themselves for teacher reactions. Teachers sat in tight groups, gossiping about their summers and sharing rumors of what they heard about the meeting. This was my first clue to one of today's topics.

Despite the pre-meeting apocalyptic feelings, the meeting was surprisingly pleasant. There was far less doom and gloom than was expected, and teachers' moods were quite high at the end of the day. The only snag in the meeting was when the assistant principal assumed control over the meeting. Suddenly the teachers' guards popped back into place. The change in mood was almost tangible.

In following conversations, I would find that many teachers did not approve of the assistant principal. The rumors I heard would lead one to believe that he was a stereotypical administrator: not recalling his days as a teacher and never considering the point of view of the teachers. Yet, I held my judgement.

Fast forward to this Thursday past, the second day of school. I was going over some warm up questions with the students and my co-op was doing work at her desk. With a brief knock at the door, in comes the assistant principal. He proceeds to discuss something with my co-op, but now my students are distracted by his nearly unannounced arrival. I eventually regain control of my students' attention. The assistant principal leaves and I notice a sour expression on my co-op's face.

During planning, my co-op explains that he wanted to let us know that he wants me to go on both the 7th grade field trip and 8th grade field trip. Now, I had been warned by my co-op on my first day at the school that someone would probably ask me if I would chaperone the 7th grade trip as there is usually a lack of male adults wanting to go. I had told her at the time that I would love to, but I needed to consult with my college supervisor as I did not know if I would be allowed or not. She said that was fine and that was the end of the conversation.

Well, now my co-op and I find that the assistant principal decided to call my supervisor himself and ask. I had not gotten a chance to talk with my supervisor about it, so she didn't have any idea about the field trips at all. Now, my co-op and I both feel that I should probably only go on one of the field trips, because I need to have as much time in the classroom as possible. Also, my co-op felt that the assistant principal was just trying to use me as a free chaperone, as I'm not a teacher. This situation is still working itself out.

Fast forward again to today. The principal decided to have a meeting with all of the 7th graders this morning, so my co-op and myself took our students down to the theater where the meeting would be held. All of the teachers sat in the back, where they could see the students. During the meeting, the assistant principal comes in and asks me to come with him. We walk to the entrance to the of the theater and he asks me if I would be willing to work the concession stand at one of the sports games next week and to work the gate for one of the games next month. Of course, I didn't want to say no to someone who is very much like my boss.

Upon returning to my seat at the meeting, my co-op asks me what that was about. I told her and she was not very happy. Apparently, teachers are only required to work one game per sports season. Again, to her, this was another attempt to use me as free labor. Now, she will be speaking with him about it, with a probable follow up with the principal and my supervisor.

So, I start to form my opinions of some of the administration that I haven't had much interaction with so far. I'm thinking that I don't particularly care for the assistant principal. And those are my own instincts, not the opinions of my co-op. I will try to always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone, especially when other people don't have high opinions of a certain person.

And through this all, I couldn't help but notice how my co-op and the other teachers in the school seemed to take on the characteristics of the students they taught. The teachers seem very prone to gossip. Also, there is a certain tendency towards the dramatic. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is very interesting to me to see how the work environment really manifests itself within the teachers.

Despite all the drama, I continue to keep my overall goal in mind: keeping the students' best interests at heart. Past college experiences have given plenty of experience in dealing with people that I don't necessarily like, or with excessive drama. I'll take things in stride and keep moving forward!

The Tenderfoot Teacher

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Day of School!

Hullo there!

Today was the first day of school for the students. And it went fantastically! I had such a great day that I have reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher.

First up, was homeroom. All we really had to do was get the students into alphabetically order so we can start to learn their names. Then we passed out a LOT of paperwork. We went over what homeroom expectations were going to be and soon enough, students were off to their first class.

Just so everyone doesn't get confused, our school is on one of the weirdest schedules I have ever seen. The day is broken down into eight periods (at least I'm pretty sure it's eight). But the major academic classes are in block scheduling. Then the spare periods are left for electives and lunch. It was very confusing to me at first, but it's not too bad.

So, first class. We arranged the students and then had to work our some locker stuff, which are assigned by first class and not homeroom. Then we proceeded to lay out some of the classroom rules and expectations. Next, it was time to get into some math! My co-op placed me in charge of doing warm ups. For our class, our warm ups are all basic skills that the students need to be able to do without a calculator, so they are prepared for their end of grade test. So, I got the students all set up with their warm up calendars that the 7th grade math teachers decided to use. After they finished, we collected them and then went over the problems. It was interesting to see how rusty the students multiplying and dividing skills were after a summer. Following that, we started a diagnostic test (AKA a pre-test). There wasn't enough time to finish, so that will be on tomorrow's agenda.

We covered the same things in the second class, but it was very different for me. The way that the schedule was split up, we have class for a period of time, then they go to their elective classes, while we have our planning period. Then they come back to us for a while, and then break again for lunch. Finally, they come back to us for one last time. It was so convoluted. But we are going to rotate our schedule weekly, so it's not the same group of students that has a broken up class like that all of the time.

During our planning period, the returning 7th grade teachers made the new 7th grade teachers lunch, which was extremely nice of them. We sat down and ate in the workroom and then did some scheduling for the computer lab. For lunch, we go down to the cafeteria with the students and watch them to make sure that they are perfectly well behaved angels.

Finally, the third and final class of the day arrived. We did the same things with them and there were no problems.

What I did find today, is that teachers down South are able to say things that most teachers in the North wouldn't be able to get away with. Some things are just more acceptable to say to students. I guess it's just another culture shock for me. My co-op is very sarcastic when talking with the students, which is interesting because the students are only just starting to learn the subtle nuances of sarcasm. Most of the time, it went completely over their heads. That is going to be fun and interesting this semester!

But at the end of the day, I looked back and realized that there wasn't a point in the day where I was nervous about anything. I take that to be a combination of the experiences that I've already had teaching and that I am naturally made to be a teacher. The classroom seems to be an environment that I can thrive in. Helping people learn something new or reinforcing something old is something that I like to do and find fun.

I hope that the rest of the school year is just as fun and exciting as today was!

The Tenderfoot Teacher

Monday, August 23, 2010

Open House, AKA hours of sitting on your ass!


Well, after a relaxing weekend, I woke up this morning with a feeling of excitement and apprehension. Yes, today was open house, where parents bring their students in to get their schedules and meeting their teachers. If there's one thing that every new teacher is cautioned of, it is the parents.

The morning went smoothly, as open house didn't start until 12:30. I did a little more bulletin board work, put up some posters (that didn't want to stay up), and had a planning meeting with the other 7th grade math teachers to create a pacing guide. Then, lunch was provided for us.

Finally the hour arrived. Parents were beginning to arrive.

Previously, my co-op and I decided that we would introduce me as "another teacher" in the class room, and not as a student teacher. We will be teaching gifted students and my co-op explained to me the mind set of the parents of gifted students. According to them, any problems the child has are because of the teacher, never because of the student. And as far as these parents are concerned, student teachers would just mess everything up further.

Well, needless to say, I thought this might be a bit of an exaggeration. And for a while, it seemed as though I was right. Parents came and went and were more than happy to meet me and my co-op without any questions. Some even surmised that I was a student teacher and wished me luck.

Then, one mother came along. We gave her the usual introduction, and she looked at me and said something to the effect of "Oh, a student teacher??" with somewhat a nasty tone. Not wanting to lie to a parent, I told her yes I was. Her reply: "Oh. Great." She then proceeded to look at me like I was something she found on the bottom of her shoe. So, one parent already hates me, and everything will be my fault.

But the team that I am teaching in all said not to worry about it. Some of them had interactions with this particular parents before and they said she just likes to make waves. Even the principal was supportive and told me to come to her if I was having any issues with this particular parent.

Other than that, open house was much better than I was expecting. Of course, I got a little tired of sitting there for 6 hours without really doing much. But meeting the parents was much better than I figured it would be. Seeing some of the students and parents was definitely a little more eye-opening to the new culture I'm in. I saw a few mullets on some kids... Yikes.

I'm just really glad that I was placed in such a supportive environment. My co-op, the other teachers in our team, and the principal have all made it clear that they are hear to help me have a great student teaching experience.

I really can't wait for Wednesday so I can get into teaching. It should be interesting getting used to this particular block schedule, but more on that later! I'll probably have more to share on Wednesday!

'Til Then!
The Tenderfoot Teacher

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The First Week!


As of right now, I have finished off my first three days of student teaching. But first, a small introduction to the blog! I will be keeping everything anonymous so I don't get sued or anything! So, all I can tell you about where I am is that I'm down in the South. This is something different for me, as I was born and raised in the North. Here is where much of the hilarity of the blog should ensue!

Well, on to it! I arrived just over a week ago and moved into my new apartment. After setting everything up, we had a meeting with our supervisor on Monday. We basically introduced ourselves, and she told us some things that we can expect this semester and about living in the South in general. We also met a teacher from the school we are teaching in who went to our college.

Wednesday was our first day in the school. No students were there yet, as the first week here are work days for teachers to get their rooms in order and such. I met my co-operating teacher, and she is fantastic. She is every bit as sarcastic as I am. She has been teacher for over 10 years and I am her first student teacher.

Me and my roommate are both in the same school and our co-op's families are best friends, so that's pretty cool, as we have a bigger support system! On Wednesday, I got a tour of the school and learn a bunch of the teacher's names that I don't stand a chance of remembering for a while. I also took on my first duty of creating and putting up bulletin boards (thank you Residence Life).

On Thursday, I met the principal for the first time, who seems to be very nice. I continued my work on some bulletin boards and helping my co-op around the room. We also had a meeting with the other 7th grade math teachers (probably should have mentioned I'm in a 7th grade math room) so we could plan out the semester and what order we were going to teach in.

Yesterday was devoted to a faculty meeting. Yes, the dreaded faculty meeting. However, it was not as bad as I would have thought. My co-op later told me that the meeting was much less doom and gloom than it usually is, which could have been it. But after three years of Res Life training, I think long boring meetings are easy to handle! I did get mad at the janitors/custodial staff (just what are they wanting to be called nowadays?). They decided to paint during the meeting, but didn't put any wet paint signs up outside of our classroom. I leaned on the wall and got paint all up my back. I rushed home to change and put those clothes in the wash and was able to salvage the pants. The polo I was wearing still has lots of paint on it. But I was more worried about the pants anyway!

Last night, my co-op invited my roommate, his co-op and family, and myself to her house for dinner. It was a great time. We were really able to get to know everyone more. It has really made me more excited for the rest of this semester!

Monday will be a half a day of classroom work and then its Open House in the afternoon! Meeting the parents should be an interesting experience!

For now, my dinner is ready! So, until next time!
The Tenderfoot Teacher