Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am still here

For some reason, it seems like the school year started at about 85 mph. Despite this being my sixth year in the classroom, I feel like I've been treading water since day one. My students are great, classes are going well, but I'm struggling to find momentum.

I suppose a large reason for this is it's still early. In the beginning of the year I spend more time than usual talking, directing, and explaining. I'm trying to teach my students a variety of systems, protocols, procedures, and expectations, all while trying to delve into content. It's a balancing act that's confounded by picture day, fire drills, standardized assessments, and assemblies.

And then there's technology. One of the first things I have students do is create individual class blogs where they will post writing over the course of the year. For a few, the blog setup is quick and painless. For most, though, it's fraught with login errors, buffer overruns, browser freezes, e-mail attachment failures, and Internet crashes.

The key is anticipating and adjusting to the learning curve required to get the most out of the school's older technological devices. It's figuring out how to print, where to print, when to print. It's knowing when to log off or shut down, it's remembering to hit "save," it's opening a Word 2007 document in Word 2003. It's transferring text from Word Perfect to AbiWord to Word to a blog. It's learning the difference between "Publish Post" and "Save Now." It's understanding what a URL is and how to e-mail a link.

It's skills, competencies, strategies, and ways to navigate, manipulate, move, and display. It's systems and procedures and a good way and a better way and the best way. It's all happening in 55 minutes. That and homework and vocabulary and literature and a warm up responding to a quote. It's following an agenda and taking out a planner and writing notes and finding the tissues. It's where do I sharpen my pencil and how do I leave for the bathroom and is there any scrap paper?

It's all of that and so much more. Every day. Questions and needs. Problems and solutions. It's "what did I miss yesterday?" and "can you repeat that?" And there's a lot of "wait." I notice students say "wait" a lot. Am I going too fast? Is this too much? Stimuli flying at 85 mph nonstop in every direction.

Finally, a bell. Pack it up, put it away, bundle it for a journey to the next room. A new routine. More stimuli. Different variety. Again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Then a short reprieve, followed by practice, or work, or both. Then homework. Late nights. Early mornings. The shuffle and cycle of students moving through the machine.


Ms. Tokolish said...

I love your posts and entire site! Thank you so much for your motivation and knowledge! Your dedication is inspirational.

Q6 said...

Hang in there, B-G. We'll both look back in December and wonder what the hell we were complaining about. We'll make it.

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks Ms. Tokolish. Best of luck to you this year. I hear you Q6. My intent wasn't for this post to come off as a complaint, but rather an acknowledgment of the frenetic pace of public education. There's a lot that goes on in our edu-worlds.

Jackie said...

Yes-- every year, September is just so frantic and hectic and crazy, and every year I try to tell myself, "The whole year won't be this nuts. It will get better." Hope your September slows down soon!

Lyn said...

I Love your blog too Mr B-G. For me, I am at the 'slowing, down' end of the year (In Australia) . Funny how it actually feels just like your beginning! Frenetic and so much to learn - our Year 9 students just got laptops as part of a State government roll out to provide one-on-one laptops to all year 9 students!

Mr. B-G said...

Jackie, thanks for the moral support. It's good to know this feeling is not unique to me.

Lyn, yes, the end of the year can be just as hectic as the beginning. Fortunately for you, there is a respite in sight. As for me, well, I'm making slow progress, but I am going forward! While there could be more momentum, what's there is taking me in the right direction.

Your laptop initiative sounds fantastic. At my school we're using laptops that are five years old and encounter problems daily. The computers in our computer labs and library are painfully slow because they get constant use and aren't very well maintained.

The five-year-old laptops are better than the newer lab computers because they don't get as much use.

Over the years I have picked up second-hand computers for my classroom. I now have seven student computers, all online and networked to print to my classroom laser printer. I've found students can accomplish the most when we work in my classroom using a mix of laptops and my class computers.

Also, because I have administrative privileges on my classroom PCs, I am actually able to troubleshoot and solve my own problems!

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