Thursday, August 7, 2014

Starting Anew and Regrets

I have 11 days before I am due to report back to school and 18 days until students arrive.

I am not prepared.

I have spent much of this summer recharging and rejuvenating myself.  I have spent time with my children, watching them play and enjoy the summer heat and experience the beach and the ocean.  I have done weeks of professional development, gaining ideas and support from colleagues from around the world.  I traveled halfway across the country to share my experiences and passions with other math teachers.  I spent a week in a hotel with math teachers working on better ways to provide feedback to our students.

I am not prepared for the new year.

At the start of summer, I made a mental list of the things that I wanted to do to get my class ready for this year.  I wanted to develop my Standards-Based Grading scheme.  I wanted to work on my classroom management to make it a more positive environment for those students who need that the most.

I wanted to start the year with a solid plan.

That's not who I am.

I am a man of the moment.  I live right now, thinking about tomorrow, but planning for today.  It's one of the things that I hate about myself, but have yet to change.

As a student, I always liked the first few days of school.  It was a time when I had nothing that I needed to do except show up with awesome new school supplies.

As a teacher, I dread the first few weeks.  Once the year is underway and the students know what to expect from me, the routines solidified, I am good to go.  Each day leads into the next and my style of teaching carried me through the year with minimal bumps.

But those first few weeks are awful for me.  I am almost constantly anxious and spent much of my energy putting on a good face for the students who are looking to me to impose my own order on the room.

Instead of using this as a motivator to push me to better organization, I find it paralyzing.  I find ways to distract myself, productively or otherwise.  I do the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears, shutting my eyes and yelling "NAH NAH NAH NAH!" to block out the impending change of reality.
I think my lesson plans are down here!

I don't regret the choices that I made this summer.

I am deeply thankful for the time that I was able to spend with my kids.  I greatly value the people I met and experiences that I had at Twitter Math Camp and the EnCOMPASS Summer Institute.  I am eternally grateful to my wife for finding a way and allowing me to spend 2 solid weeks on the road to make those experiences happen.

I do wish that I could make better choices about preparing for the coming school year.


  1. Hi Justin,
    I am the opposite! I love the beginning of the year from the shiny clean floors and virginal chalkboards/white boards, fresh and inviting and that's just the physicality of being there. My favorite part is spending the first four to ten days planning and plotting ( a little math humor) ways to understand who the students are as individuals, in small group interactions and how students perceive each other in the hierarchy that is middle school. I do this by setting up groups and not assigning seats, this lets me first notice who the outliers socially may be in the group. I then plan a "get to know you activity" that involves some true confessions about math abilities. I watch and listen and sketch out possible groupings for the next day. Each day is like a puzzle piece that needs to fit together. My ultimate goal is to get the class to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses, so that students can move past the petty, at least in my class and learn to work as a team. I often say, " you know, i don't expect any of you when you leave this room to be best friends, but in my class, we will learn to respect and help each other, because right now, we are in this together." Sounds cheesy when i type it, but my having faith in the class right from the get go has always served me well. I also am a really good baker and as you know, routinely feed my classes, which doesn't hurt.
    Wishing you a stellar year! I am really looking forward to reading your blog, and finding out about your classes this year.

  2. What I find fascinating is that what you love is, basically, a list of things that I don't have. My room MAY have been cleaned, but it will look exactly as I left it in the spring. The students schedules won't be finalized so the first 2-3 weeks of school will be spent having students coming in and out, making it almost impossible to set up a functional class dynamic.

    I don't say this as a way of complaining because it's simply the structure in which we must operate. It's just a way for me to move those things aside and try to find what I need to focus on during the first few chaotic weeks.


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