Sunday, August 28, 2011

A delayed return

Due to Tropical Storm Irene's touchdown in Massachusetts this morning, my district's opening day for teachers has been pushed back to Tuesday. While this means that technically my summer vacation is one more day, the reality is I have one more of "my own" days to work and prepare for the new year before doing so in official capacity.

My district, like my wife's, only requires teachers to come in one day before the students arrive. As you likely know if you are or have been a teacher, one day is grossly insufficient to prepare for a new academic year. Aside from the literal logistics of unpacking items from storage and setting up the classroom, there's mental setup to do as well.

For me, that means reviewing the various notes I've made to myself from the previous year about what didn't work so well and what needs to change. It's also incorporating ideas from various journal articles, newspapers, and pedagogical texts that I think will engage the students and help me be a more effective teacher. Sometimes I'll scrap something I'm bored with, or try a different approach just because I'm curious about the results.

In no particular order, here are some of the things that I've either been doing or need to get done for the start of school:

- Print class rosters
- Create seating charts
- Review my syllabus and make changes to my "teacher expectations"
- Revise the interview activity I typically do on the first or second day
- Make any changes to my grading system I feel are necessary and put them in writing
- Revise my list of staff descriptions for the newspaper students
- Decide how I am going to assign and assess outside reading books this year
- Create a new non-fiction writing assignment that incorporates research
- Decide how I want to integrate the reading of newspapers into my classes
- Figure out what I want to do for the "Do Nows" mandated by administration for all 9th grade teachers
- Rethink how I teach vocabulary, and possibly introduce vocabulary videos.
- Revise the summer reading essay assignment I plan to give students  on the second or third day of school
- Create a survey to administer to my students about their previous experiences reading, writing, and speaking, both in and outside of school
- Decide exactly how I want to blog with students this year. Will we use Blogger? Something else?
- Tweak/create my permission forms for parents to sign (movies, blogging, YouTube)
- Remember to collect parent e-mail addresses
- Install the Smartboard software onto my computer
- Create new class folders
- Decide where on my boards I want to place the agendas for each class
- Think about how (if) I want to use Twitter this year to post assignments
- Finish updating my netbooks and classroom computers
- Write a letter to parents and students explaining my educational philosophy
- Place students' names on Post-It notes on my classroom desks so students know where to sit on the first day
- Put up a couple of labels describing the various parts of my classroom and where things are

And these are just some the things I want to do. My department chair will have other things, and so will my principal. Now, I enjoy my job. It's meaningful, important, and allows me to be creative and work with some great people and students. It also is a job. It's a lot of work. People who think teachers have it easy, or are overpaid, really don't understand what we do. And again, this is an incomplete list of things I need to do, notwithstanding creating engaging lesson plans, executing said lesson plans, designing assessments, delivering assessments, evaluating assessments, communicating with students, communicating with parents, communicating with colleagues and administrators, studying and implementing special ed accommodations and modifications, filling out administrator-mandated rubrics, deciding how I want to run a new mandated advisory group, overseeing production of the school newspaper, taking classes for a second master's degree...

The purpose here is not to devolve this post into a rant, but rather to illustrate some of the things teachers must do and consider before the school year commences.

Having one extra day to work on them is nice.

1 comment:

HappyChyck said...

Oy! That list is long! Come to think of it, my list, which was mostly in my head, had some of the same things. More and better. I've spent a lot of time thinking about new and different things I want to do with my publications students, but I just haven't gotten any of it worked out on paper just yet.

On your Do Nows...I might be off base, but it sounds like the warm-up we used to have to do, only we called them PrimeTime. Different ways to use it--review, practice small skills, or preview new concepts. I wiggled out of doing them a few years back because it sometimes took longer than 3-5 minutes, and that time was better spent elsewhere. Some days, I just needed to dig right in with direct instruction the moment the bell stopped. I found the courage to admit to my administrator that I was blowing it off, explaining how more flexibility in how I started off the class helped me maximize the instruction I needed to give. Whatever I said--the truth about my struggle to use it effectively--worked and she didn't bug me about doing it. And in fact...just last year, I heard her kind of pooh-pooh the once required practice in a faculty meeting. How the pendulum swings!