Thursday, September 15, 2016

The First Week of School or Complete Insanity

And so I started school last week.  On the first day back, with no kids yet mind you, I drank a bottle of wine when I got home.  Don't judge.  Thursday, the first day with kids, lasted 87 hours.  It did, I swear.  And now 4 actual school days with kids under my belt, I am already looking forward to the first 4 day weekend, like a sailor looking forward to shore leave.  Why? I like my job.

Look at me teaching.  I look happy and engaged, right?  I do.  I'm animated, enthusiastic, gung ho.  But I am completely shot.  I wanted to go for a manicure today between the end of school and Parent Welcome Night, but I forgot my wallet at home.  I don't remember the last time I did that.  And while we were standing in the hallway chit chatting, we all realized we're beyond done.  On the 4th day of school.  And then it hit us.  It's September.

The worst month of the school year is March, hands down.  It's really long and there are rarely days off.  In NYC, it is also test prep time.  It's bad. The weather is bad.  Everyone is tired and cranky, but we all expect it and power through.  September is a close second.

I teach 6th grade.  My kids are brand new to junior high.  For the first time, they have multiple teachers. May and June were a joke filled with field trips, graduation practice and senior activities.  They haven't been real students in about 4 months.  So now they're back in school, dazed and confused.  They need a lot of help, they're not sure how to do anything.  They think school is the same party it was in June.  Getting kids back into a routine is a Herculean task.  And that's why I'm so exhausted, just like every other 6th grade teacher I work with.

But knowing your problem is half the battle, or so they say.  It always passes, the kids remember how to be students.  I remember my wallet and can get a manicure.  And we all learn and grow together.  I hope I make it!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hard Work; Is it its Own Reward?

As the school year gets ready to start once again in NYC, I start to go into full on panic mode.  September 6th is my first day back and I anticipate getting a solid 2-3 hours of sleep tonight.  Why?  This is my 16th first day of school.  I know what I'm doing.  I'm a good teacher.  Why the anxious, nausea inducing feeling that I've gotten nothing done?

It must be because I'm panicky by nature, and I am.  But it's also that I always have to have something cooking, brewing, you know a new project in the works.  I've been teaching for 16 years, right?  I should have every lesson down pat, memorized verbatim, ready to go.  But that bores me. I teach ELA and I have quite a bit if freedom in the books I can use in my classroom.  I could use the same books year in and year out, but I don't.  The one unit that always remains in my non fiction unit on animals, it's a personal passion, and even there I switch it up with one new book every few years.  Last year I added Oogy, a book about a former bait dog adopted into his furever home.  And at the end of the year, I added Cinder.  

Two new books in one year.  That's a lot of work.  This year I'm adding Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and Breakout Edu boxes (I'll share that in a future post).  This is hours of work for me.  Frustrating, cursing, wanting to throw things across the room work.  So why do I do it?  The kids love the books I used last year, my kids this year will love them too.  Why add all of this extra work, when really I'm the only one who knows?  

Because I'm a masochist.  Most teachers are.  But really it's because I like the challenge of completing a project.  I like seeing a deadline and working to get my project done by that date.  And it keeps me connected to my kids.  They are always working to finish something on time.  It's difficult to work hard and know your only reward is a good grade.  That's not tangible and we all know kids love tangible.  It's takes a lot of strength of character for a 10-12 year old to sit and work when there's no immediate, physical reward, and yet they do it.  The hard work is its own reward.  

By constantly updating my repertoire, not only am I keeping my teaching fresh and new, introducing great new books to my students, but I'm also connecting with them on a more subtle level.  Yes, you have to do this assignment.  Why?  Not because you will get in trouble if you don't and not because you might fail, but because you will get a feeling of accomplishment that will carry through to adulthood.  So yes, hard work is often its own reward and that is one of the best lessons I teach my kids every year. 

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