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How to Survive Back to School Night

27 Sep

Step 1: Spend the week ahead stressing about filling in the syllabus template.

Step 2: Shamelessly copy the syllabus template last year’s teacher write, making a few modifications.

Step 3: Spend the days before modifying the slideshow you used in the past.

Step 4: Borrow slides from the slideshow shared by a colleague.

Step 5: Share your slideshow with a colleague new to the grade, building and school district.

Step 6: Teach all day the day of BTSN.

Step 7: Drive home, thankful that you have end of the day plan, to walk and feed the dog.

Step 8: Change clothes, then drive back to school.

Step 9: Eat dinner (provided by the PTO) on the balcony attached to the staff room, laughing with colleagues.

Step 10: Go overtime on your period 1 presentation because 10 minutes is really short.

Step 11: Repeat presentation five more times, but finish before the bell.

Step 12: Drive home.

Step 13: Take some time to wind down before going to bed.

Step 14: Wake up Friday morning with a headache.

Step 15: Be thankful you planned a writing sample for all Friday classes.

Step 16: Go to bed really early Friday night.

Step 17: Make it a two-nap Saturday.

Step 18: Feel normal by Sunday.

Second Best Monday

20 Sep

“Was today your best Monday or your second best Monday?” a smiling colleague asked me as I walked down the main hall towards the parking lot at the end of the day yesterday.

“Second best,” I replied.

It was, in fact, only the second Monday of the school year, marking the start of our third week at school, and it was definitely not as good as the previous one. It was, mostly, my own fault.

I’d gone to bed at my normal time and fell asleep quickly, as I normally do. Unfortunately, two hours later my phone, which sits in the kitchen at night, not my bedroom, blared with an Amber alert. It took me a while to get back to sleep.

I keep the radio on low all night, set to NPR because the sounds of people talking is soothing to me. From 11 pm until 5 am, my local station broadcasts the BBC. I often wake around 3 or 4 and it lulls me back to sleep. Yesterday morning however, the Queen’s funeral was being broadcast. When it happened yesterday just after 4, my brain registered this fact and I listened. I gave up at 5, only 15 minutes before my usual wake-up time and decided to watch.

Needless to say, I arrived at school, not feeling my usual perky morning-person self. Fortunately, i had a better sleep last night.

It takes all types

13 Sep

There’s a lot to learn when you start middle school so we, like most middle schools, guide the new 6th graders gently. I won’t even start touching anything remotely curricular until sometime next week.

It doesn’t mean we are just goofing around. Today we learned how to write an email to a teacher. Here were my tips:

I then asked my students to send me an email telling me something fun or interesting about themselves. I promised I would write back. I should mention here that I have 6 classes of 30+ students. By the end of the day, I’d responded to almost two classes. I discovered some expected, and some unexpected facts about my new students.

  • Lots play sports, but one student does acrobatics
  • One student likes to stay up late
  • Several are worried about how much homework they’ll have
  • One likes to bake
  • A girl likes heavy metal, especially Queen and Metallica
  • A few speak more than one language; Many speak a language other than English at home.
  • Pets so far include: dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and one axolotl
  • A few have lived outside the US; many have visited outside the US
  • There are many artists, and one needle felter
  • One person prefers the outdoors and
  • One student read for  7 hours and 23 minutes!
  • Another is part of the lgbtq+ community
  • At least one is left-handed
  • One is a pescatarian
  • Several love pasta
  • Several others love pizza
  • One person called herself “the grammar police”

It’s a lot of work to reply to each email, but it is totally worth it. I love seeing the diversity of their interests.

The Hot Seat

6 Sep

“Did they forget to turn on the air conditioning?” asked a parent at Wednesday evening’s ice cream social.

A number of other parents asked similar questions as they entered my classroom where I stood fanning myself. It was so hot in my room that my eyebrows stopped working. Sweat ran right through them and into my eyes.

A stretch of 90+ degree weather had heated up the school and our AC was clearly not working despite assurances from the district office to the contrary. Their remote sensors told them so. Some teachers in classrooms near mine were collecting data. The highest classroom temperature was 87ºF. For most of us, it was around 84º.

The custodian had complained to the powers that be. Teachers complained. The principal complained. At Wednesday evening’s ice cream social, we encouraged our parents to complain.

Thursday morning, someone finally showed up. Yes, the air was circulating but something was up with another system. A button was pushed and we started cooling off.

When students show up today, I’ll be back in the hot seat. Fortunately, I’ll have a a little more control over how I feel.

Day 1, Year 34

30 Aug

It’s hard to be believe this is my 34th year of teaching since I am only 35. hahaha

Teachers went back yesterday and my learning curve was steep. We had an all day training and I was 100% focused for the first half. But I am a morning person and we were sitting on those folding cafeteria tables, so I struggled a bit in the afternoon. Fortunately, our presenter knew her stuff and planned a lot of talk and movement for the afternoon.

The staff at my new school has been super nice and I am discovering all sorts of things about my new home. Yesterday’s exciting discovery was this:

In my seven years at my previous school, I had a sink in my room for two. No sink in my new room, but a water bottle filling station is just down the hall. It’s the little things that make me happy, like new gear.

Back to school socks 2022

23 Aug

I’ve written before (2019, 2018, 2014) about my tradition of knitting a new pair of socks to kick off a new school year. Sometimes I am inspired by events, a pattern, a yarn. I’ve knit socks to match the color hall I taught in. Since I am at a new school this year, I decided to knit socks in my new school color:

As I shopped for yarn, I was torn between two similar skeins. One of the advantages of being an older teacher is that you can afford not to choose. I bought both. I don’t have any aqua/turquoise socks and I am really excited about this change. Yarn purchase rationalized.

I’ve started the first pair and might even have them finished in time for the ice cream social the school will hold next Wednesday. It might be too hot to wear them, though. Regardless, I will get started on the second pair after finishing the first and will wear both happily once the weather cools.

Third Time’s the Charm (Reprise)

16 Aug

Way back in the Spring, I wrote about a former neighbor asking me to verify his application for an Irish passport. He and his wife had hoped to hear in a few weeks.

Two weeks ago he contacted me to ask if I’d mind repeating the process. Although he sent in the right forms the first time, they were asking for them again. Of course, I complied.

On Saturday, I saw a new email from him. As I opened it, I assumed it was news that everything had been approved. It was not. Apparently, the documents had been lost by USPS. My old neighbor was wondering if I would mind signing a third time.

He stopped by on Sunday and we had a lovely chat and laugh about the hoops one has to jump through to get what one wants. I encouraged him to sit down and write about the experience on a terrace somewhere warm and European. He said it was a good idea and might help others He was in and out in under ten minutes, anxious to get to a DHL office where he’d pay a little more to expedite the delivery, but feel more confident about its delivery.

I am hopeful that the next email from him will contain a photo of he and his wife in that warm and European locale.

Third Time’s the Charm

9 Aug

After not getting the two jobs I interviewed for, I resolved I was done. And then a great job appeared in the district postings. I applied and was selected for an interview the following Tuesday. The day before the interview I questioned my sanity. Why was I doing this to myself? I wondered.

Just after 5 pm on Interview Eve an email came from the principal.

I doubted my sanity even more. Then, I got to work.

I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but I had done my homework in the days following the invitation to the interview. I had researched the school and learned what I could about the IB program and the Middle Years Program. The IB learner profile seemed the logical way to organize my presentation. I also needed some chutzpah, so I started with a bold first slide:

On each of the next slides, I named two characteristics and added an image for each that would inspire me to talk about how my life and career reflected the IB learner profile.

During the interview, the presentation took 11 minutes. No one noticed. the rest of the interview felt more like a conversation about teaching philosophy. When I left, they said they’d make their final decision after an interview the next day. Then they’d need to check references and HR would call probably Thursday, maybe Friday.

All day Wednesday, I hoped for a call. When the end of the business day came on Thursday, I felt a little disheartened. At least I hadn’t received the “thanks but no thanks” email. There was still hope.

At 8:30 pm, my phone rang. It was a school number and the HR person on the other end offered me the job, which I accepted enthusiastically.

I will go in on Monday to relabel the boxes I had packed to change rooms and get them ready for a new adventure.

Bittersweet

2 Aug

Turning the wall calendar
to August
yesterday
felt bittersweet.

Suddenly,
there is a square
filled with the words
“Teachers’ first day back”.

It’s not a bad thing,
but I do so enjoy
the languid days of July,
made even more so by
our recent heat wave.

Before too long,
the bustle of
“back to school”
will be upon me.

It comes before my official
first day back.
Having lost the energy of a school day
to the halcyon days of July,
I need to rebuild
my stamina.

I will go in for a few hours
to start unpacking boxes
I so carefully packed
in June
and forgot about in July.

With each emptied box,
my strength and anticipation
grow
until I am ready
and eager
to face a new group
of students.

Finding balance

26 Jul

As I looked up and started tying the poop bag, I noticed a car park along the curb about 20 feet ahead of us. I paused for a moment. Should I cross the road to avoid the person? I wondered, Or should I just wait them out? It’s a dilemma I face multiple times every walk.

A few weeks ago I read a Twitter thread by a young woman who, for a few weeks, deliberately did not step out of the way when someone was walking towards her. It was a mini experiment she was conducting, mostly to confirm her belief that white men did not step out of the way for others. I’d been taking note lately of who moved out of our way as Richard and I meandered along the sidewalk. In this game of sidewalk chicken, I usually caved first, desirous of the six feet I’d become accustomed to during the pandemic.

As the driver opened the back hatch of her SUV, I debated: Wait or walk around? I saw her finally, emerge, hands full of grocery bags and a baguette. Walk around, I decided, just as the baguette fell from her hands onto the grassy parking strip.

“I’d offer to help…” I said, trailing off.

“But the dog might steal the bread,” she finished for me, smiling.

“Oh, he’d definitely steal the bread,” I replied as we stepped off the sidewalk and walked around the vehicle. “And I have poop in my other hand, so it’s a no brainer.”

She picked up her baguette, laughing, clearly grateful for my lack of assistance. She turned towards her house and climbed the front stairs, groceries balanced precariously.

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