Well, we're four days into the school year now, and I'm still alive. I feel like I'm treading water. I'm trying my hardest not to drown. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's also one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
A lot of the stress and craziness that has come with the start of school is just a result of my perfectionism and high standards for myself. I don't want to teach the way I was taught. I know what I want my classroom to be like, and while it's doable, it's also time-consuming. I've been getting to school at 7 and not leaving until after 5. Then, I go home and do more school work. I'm pretty sure that the hours I've been keeping would qualify me as a workaholic.
Honestly, the first few days of school have been great. I have a great group of students. Problems with schedules have made these first few days a little more stressful than I would have liked, but the problems are being solved. I've gone from teaching 3 Algebra 2 classes and 2 Algebra 1 classes to teaching 1 Algebra 2 class and 4 Algebra 1 classes. I'm also teaching a College Algebra course, but that hasn't changed any.
I'm really starting to wonder how all you amazing math teacher bloggers manage to find time to blog and tweet and teach and have a life. Since school has started, I've written half a blog post, not counting this one. Honestly, I would have put off writing this post a few more days if I hadn't gotten the e-mail with the second week of prompts for the new blogger initiative.
So, this week, I want to write about two goals I have for this school year.
1. Implement Interactive Notebooks (INBs) in my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes. From starting to work with these with my students, I can tell you they are a lot of work. I've spent hours creating pages, foldables, graphic organizers, and other exciting things. I think I use the paper chopper more than the rest of the teachers in the school combined. I never realized that gluing and taping and coloring and cutting could be so time-consuming, but, I'm already seeing the benefits. My students are more engaged. When they have created the foldable or filled in the graphic organizer, they are more apt to look back to it for help than if I had simply referenced the table or chart in the textbook. So far, my students love them.
2. Build relationships with my students. I teach in a small school. We have 150-160 students in 9-12. Everybody knows everybody. Except me. I'm not from this town. I've lived here a little less than a month. I know that a lot of my success as a teacher will depend on the relationships I develop with my students. They need to know that I am trustworthy. They need to know that I care.
I've been trying my hardest to learn all of my students' names. Students are aware if their teachers know their names or not. I practice each morning as students enter my classroom. I try to greet each one by name. When I collect exit tickets at the door, I thank each one by name. When I walk around the room and check for understanding, I call each person by name.
I used Dan Meyer's Who I Am sheet on the 2nd day of school, and the results I got from it were pretty amazing. As I learn more names and put names to faces, I want to keep reading back over these papers so I can have an idea of each students' background. I also had each student write 3 goals for this school year and 3 goals for the future on the back of their Who I Am sheet. Some of their goals made me smile. Others made me want to cry.
Another thing I did to try to build a relationship with my students is to ask them to help me learn more about the town. I did this as an exit ticket on the 3rd day, and I asked each student to write down 3 suggestions of things I should do/visit/see/experience to truly get to know the town. I learned more about the town. Several students invited me to sporting events. Some great conversations were sparked.
I'm so thankful for my student teaching experience, but teaching in my own classroom is entirely different. Or, at least I am approaching it differently. During my student teaching, I made an effort to learn my students' names. Some shared with me about their interests and activities. But, they were never really my students. I knew I would only be there for 8 weeks. They knew I would only be there for 8 weeks.
But, with my own classroom, it's different. These are my students. I find myself so much more motivated to help ensure the success of each and every one of my students. I take notes about things I have found out about my students. I'm going to implement a seating chart in my 2nd period tomorrow. I'm doing it because my students need one in order to have an environment conducive to learning.
The decision making I found so hard to do during student teaching has become second nature. My days are filled with one decision after another. From hour to hour, I make decision to tweak things. I take out an introduction. I add an extra explanation. I learn from what has worked and what hasn't worked. Every day is a learning process. With each lesson I teach, I learn how my students need information presented to them. Instead of focusing on what I should have done better, I focus on how to make my future lessons better and more effective. I learn from my mistakes. I am a teacher.