For various reasons, the fourth week of school seems to coincide with a great groove for teachers and students. The students begin to feel acclimated to the schedule, school environment, and routine, while the teachers gain a familiar confidence in the rhythm of the school day and week. Yet more than anything, the success of this past week came from the connection gained between myself and my students.
This week was filled with great class periods as students engaged in class discussions, worked in partners and groups, asked thoughtful questions, and generally were a delight. While each day or week won’t be like this, a big part of the success came from learning more about my students. The growth in our teacher-student relationships allowed better dialogue and work by my students.
Part of this growth simply comes with time. The students learn more about my teaching style and begin to understand the pacing of the class. Meanwhile, I learn how to keep each particular class engaged. That may be a joke at a certain time or to get serious at other times. This depends on each class. Yet it is amazing to literally see their engagement level increase this week regardless of the reason. They smile, laugh, and ask questions with less trepidation than weeks before.
Why does this matter? Like any other social situation, the more comfortable the students are, the more they trust. With that, the more they trust, the more they become invested in the material. When this happens, they learn more. It sounds simple, but any teacher knows it isn’t and it isn’t something that just occurs and remains that way. This is a continual process that will be challenging at times, yet extremely rewarding as well. I look forward to the next week ahead.
The third full week of school is now complete and I am tired. The students, for the most part, are engaged and fantastic to teach. I love working with my colleagues, the school environment is fantastic, and I look forward to each day. Yet I am still a little tired. It seems to be the prevailing feeling among our staff as we reach the end of third week. What is the reason for this feeling?
Mostly it is trying to balance it all. Trying to teach, grade, spend time with my wife, put our new home together, and staying healthy seems like a lot right now. It is and it isn’t. Part of this scheduling is getting used to the school year again. With three weeks of school and a fair amount of content covered, there is a lot to grade right now. This is fantastic in some ways, as it allows me to evaluate the level of my students and give them some great feedback. On the other hand, it means less time with friends and family this weekend!
I felt very prepared for my classes this week which also contributed to my tiredness as I spent a good amount of time getting ready. It paid off for the most part as the classes went really well. We held a graded discussion in my junior Collegio on Thursday which provides students with a great opportunity to be evaluated in a non-traditional format. With two student leaders preparing questions, the teachers step back and simply observe as the students discuss a chosen topic as part of the unit.
Meanwhile I remembered why we have a rotating bell schedule this week as well. Currently on our ‘B’ day schedule, freshmen come in after lunch. Wow.
The attention span and overall energy level of freshmen after lunch is a spectacular sight to behold. Luckily this also provides me with a great learning moment and great learning. I can do some great lessons in which students get up and move around. I can provide great opportunities for writing or reflection at the beginning of class if I need them to sit more in class. It allows me a great opportunity to be even more intentional with my planning.
So the school year is here and not going anywhere. I look forward to getting some rest this weekend and being invigorated for the next week.
One of the strange realities of being a part of a cohort in a teaching program is the difference in schedules. While Seattle Public School started just a couple days ago, I am now finishing up my second full week plus a day! It sure feels like we are in the swing of the school year again; summer seems like a distant memory.
In many ways, that is a good thing. The beginning of the school year always feels a little disjointed and random with the amount of requirements pulling students in different directions. There are fire drills, seating charts, summer reading exams that take up class time, and general expectations to go over. The orientation for teachers and students in the first week or so can be both exhausting and endless. Thus it feels good now that we seem to be in the flow of the school year and engaging students in the curriculum again.
One of the challenges I faced this past week involved being in my third year as a teacher at Seattle Prep. With that experience can unexpectedly come lack of preparation in a strange way. While I work on lesson plans and preparing materials, there is also a feeling of ease as I have done some of these lessons before. For example, this week we are reading The Crucible in junior Collegio (integrated English and History) while studying colonialism with an early emphasis on the Puritans as historical context for the play. There is a great packet of information with questions for students to work on in groups dealing with the reason for the Salem Witch Trials including the disparity in wealth between Salem Town and Salem Village. It provides students with a great understanding of why this hysteria may have occurred in the 1690′s. I felt confident when assigning this work in class and went around checking in on groups. Unfortunately, I did not read the directions myself carefully again this year. I started contradicting the directions and essentially led all the groups astray. I didn’t feel too great at the end of that class period.
So how do you recover from that? In order to ensure students know the information and can be engaged with the material, I had to adapt. Instead of taking up more time to re-do my mistakes, I led a class discussion today to ensure students know the purpose of the assignment. Two things allowed the lesson to be saved in the end that I need to remember. One, admit to yourself that you messed up. Two, be flexible in your lessons. Lastly, it was a great reminder that when I am fully prepared (including looking over everything, even when you think you know it) it helps my mental state in the classroom.