Saturday, August 25, 2012

101 Names

I get to meet my new batch of kids on Monday!

It's always kind of interesting beginning the year — you go to your school mailbox, pick up several pages of paper and are met with a whole bunch of names (currently 101 of them) that are complete strangers.  There's no faces that come to mind, no personalities discovered, no information yet of any kind…except for those names.

Some 180 days from now, I know these currently faceless students will be far from such.  I'll have many memories saved of their personalities, likes, dislikes, and stories.  However, right now, anticipation is all that's present.

I sit and wonder what this year will be like.  What kind of readers and writers will these names be?  Who among them will make discoveries about how much they like reading and/or writing (even if they aren't entering my classroom with those feelings)?

I'm excited, but also nervous.  Every year it seems the "battle" to teach the way these kids need is harder and harder.  In the face of new curriculum maps, pacing guides, administrators, and increasing test pressure, I'm gearing up for a potential fight this year.  Being the one who teaches differently, I know eyes are often on me.  The old administration had complete confidence in me and my teaching philosophy, but I have no read on the new administration's feelings yet and that current unknowingness is a bit scary.

Nonetheless, I know it's these unknown names on these lists that will see me through.  These are the kids who will bless me with the privilege to read their poems and stories, load me with book recommendations, and remind me every day why I undertake the battle I do.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tech Week for Teachers

I used to love working in the theatre — and really that shouldn't be past-tense — I still love it, I just don't have time for it anymore.

In college I spent many hours prepping for shows: constructing sets, painting, hanging lighting instruments and countless other jobs.  There were many late nights and many times, especially in the week before a show opened (i.e. "tech week"), I would spend more time working than with any other activity (including sleep!)  Tech week would drain me, but I still ultimately loved it! 

Of course, what's the point of this recollection?  Well, a number of months ago, I remember reading the following article:  10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success, and immediately thinking how true it was.  While I ended up 3 credit hours short of such a major, I learned much from my theatre days.  And two of the best things I learned that translate to this time of year were (1) how much can be accomplished in a short time and (2) how tech week is always survivable.

I remember beginning tech week on many shows where sets were still in basic construction, lighting wasn't yet hung, and to do lists went on for pages.  Nonetheless, we'd band together, put insane work hours in and by opening night somehow everything would come together.  And then once the end was reached, we'd crash for a day or two, and then turn around and repeat the craziness with the next show.  Yes, it was tiring, but the joy of opening night and the subsequent shows would always make up for it.

In many ways, it's very much like teaching.  I just completed 5 very tiring, seemingly endless days of work trying to get my classroom together while attending the many, many meetings the powers-that-be filled our schedule with too.  I'm short on sleep, exhausted from moving furniture, unpacking, stretching to hang and reach things far above my head, climbing up and down off countless chairs and the occasional desk (to reach such areas), sorting and organizing 800 books and…well, the list could go on and on and on!

BUT, just like tech week, the reward is soon to come.  We have orientation on Monday and our first full day comes on Wednesday — and then, all my hard work organizing and prepping our reading and writing space starts to pay off, and that part I'm already getting excited about. 

In fact, here's a first glance at 2012-2013's reading and writing space: 

Still a few little things to complete, but just about ready for a new batch of readers and writers! :)