Sunday, September 11, 2011

2 days down, 178 to go!

The first two days have gone well, but an astute coworker deemed this the honeymoon period.  Especially with freshmen, kids are scoping things out for the first few days and personalities haven't come out yet.  But, so far, so good.

I am meeting some of my goals so far - I called 21 parents on Friday to introduce myself, choosing the kids from each class who won our tower building contest in class to start with.  Parents seemed really receptive to hearing good news about their kid and some offered some tidbits of information about their kids.  It felt better than calling about bad news, for sure.  So hopefully I manage to continue the practice of calling for good reasons and make myself allies with families this year.  I hate talking on the phone, even personal calls, but every teacher I know says it's worth the time and effort.

There are a few kids that I'm wary of.  D in my homeroom who is already faking sleep in class and writing one word responses when I asked for two sentences.  J in second period whom I taught for the second half of last year and seems to be alternating between being determined to do better this year and resistant.  The table of boys in third period who loudly protested my announcement that uniforms would be strictly enforced with detention but then proudly won the tower building contest with the brilliant idea to flip the table on its side to get extra height.  And of course I am automatically wary of anyone who has not showed up yet for the first two days, since that's usually not a sign of a model student.

I also already have some favorites.  D in second period who drew hilarious stick-figure pictures of his hobbies and concluded his Wrap-Up writing with "Thanks for the class today, Ms. Pippi."  J who is apparently repeating the 9th grade from another school but has an amazingly positive attitude, urging her group along when they resist getting started.  M who fixes his gaze on me so intently that I don't know what to think of him.  And strangely enough, those third period boys who flipped the table to build a 210 cm tower are also tentative favorites, since they have the potential to literally turn class upside down in a good way or a bad way.  It's up to me to find a way to channel them into greatness.  Wow, that sounds corny.  But I do believe it.

It's going to be a fun year.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The unknown

I did some setup in my classroom today and while I feel more confident and clear-headed than I did a year ago, there is still an overwhelming feeling of not knowing what I should do.  I mean, I can make a very accurate to-do list, but there are so many decisions that I just don't know the right answer to.  Desks in clusters or rows?  Or a U shape?  Or something else I haven't even dreamed of yet?  Baskets to collect homework near the door, or near my desk, or maybe I shouldn't collect the homework at all, except last year giving homework points without collecting papers became so time-consuming.

I think this is the real problem: last year I did some things, and some of them (most of them?) didn't work as well as I wanted them to.  But I'm a different person this time around, figuratively speaking, and my students will literally be different people, and so it's possible that those things would work this time if I give them another try, or if I make minor tweaks.  It's hard to know what to do.

I do know that I have a few major things I want to change this year:
  • Fix the tardiness issue.  Give detention to anyone not in the room when the bell rings.  No excuses.  This was a HUGE problem for me last year and I'm hoping that being strict early in the year will help.
  • Call or text parents more often, and for more positive reasons.  I said I'd call every kid's parent to introduce myself when the year started last year, but it didn't happen.  This year I have a lot more kids but I do really want to do it.
  • Have kids clean up the room BEFORE class ends.  This has a direct relationship to my ability to wrap up class activities in a timely fashion (which actually partly goes back to the homework issue at the start of class).  I wanted to be better about this even before I got my revised schedule, which has me teaching 4 periods in a row.  There is literally no time for me to clean up a trashed room or reorganize supplies before the next class comes in, which is how I got through last year.
  • Get kids to actually listen to each other and have meaningful class discussions.  This is part of why I might want a U-shaped desk arrangement.  Also I made a poster of "Discussion Sentence Starters" and I plan to ask kids what they think about each other's comments rather than saying right or wrong myself after I call on someone.  Oh, and I want to do cold calling (my #1 takeaway from Teach Like a Champion
    ) to try to keep kids engaged and paying attention in whole-class discussion.
I am dying of impatience to meet my new students.  That's the biggest unknown right now.  Only 6 days away, eek!