Monday, January 5, 2015

Day 78: Back To It

Over the last two weeks of break, I slept very well.  Last night I did not.

When my alarm went off this morning, my bed was the most comfortable it has ever been.

When I took my shower this morning, the hot water was as comfortable and soothing as it has ever been.

Both my bed and my shower begged me to return to them, beckoning me with promises of ever-lasting love and peace.

Then I went to work.

I got my room ready for the influx of students, got a cup of coffee and filled out a survey I've been putting off for a few weeks.

My first interaction with a student in 16 days was the following:

Me: "Good morning. Welcome back."
S: "Aw man! I was hoping you would be out today!"
Me: "Happy New Year. It's nice to see you."

My second interaction made up for it.  Two students from geometry hunted me down to give me a box of cookies.
"You said it's important to remember teachers during the holidays!"
I was deeply grateful and told them so.

I think these two events, happening no less than 60 seconds apart perfectly illustrate what it is to be a teacher.

My homeroom was small.  Several of the buses were late picking up students and one never showed at all.  In addition to being the first day back from 16 days out of routine, my class had the extra disruption of someone joining us every 5-10 minutes.  There was a fight in the hallway between first and second period.  I covered a class third period.

Today was a very difficult balance between getting kids back into the habit of learning and remembering that they are out of practice.  I spent much of the break talking with other teachers and thinking about my practice, but they have not.

It would be unrealistic for me to expect them to hit the ground running at 7:40 today.

I expected it anyway, but allowed for leeway and lack of focus.  I tried to be patient when redirecting them back to task and understanding about them not being back in school mode yet.

As the day went one, however, they clearly remembered where they were.  My 8th period was ready to learn by the time they got to me.  In general, that group seems much more ready, willing and able to take notes when given a specific format.

During my prep, I walked in on a conversation between some of my students and another teacher about white privilege.  They were already heated when I got there so I tried to calm everything by being the voice of reason.  It became quickly apparent that no one was actually listening to anyone else, so I pulled a few students aside to make them feel heard and calm them down.  I suggested that they take a break and revisit the conversation later.

I'm not sure they heeded my advice, but it was important to me that they felt heard and I accomplished that.  Many of my students are VERY passionate about social justice issues and often let that passion push them faster than they can handle.  I consider it an extension of what we are doing in class, in terms of problem solving and critical thinking, to help them channel that energy into productive ways.


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  2. I LOVE that your kids are interested in social justice issues. I teach at a school where students have a great deal of apathy about the world around them so that is something I see as a definite plus. Helping teach them how to effectively communicate their concerns and conduct dialogue in a way that is likely to produce results is a challenge for sure, but one that it is an honor to have.

    Also, I've been thinking about the struggle you have with your classes. How they seem to crave the repetition and structure of direct instruction/lecture/notes/guided practice, while you are longing to push them into areas of cooperative learning/critical thinking/problem solving. (I realize I am oversimplifying and throwing a lot of edu-jargon into that description, but I think you know the tension I'm referring to.) Perhaps it is a matter of easing into it. Maybe start the year with the kind of instruction they seem to be demanding, build that sense of trust and structure, and then gradually introduce more and more of the kinds of activities that you know they really need (one day a week, then twice a week, and so on) with a lot of build up and explanation about the fact that you are going to step out of their comfort zone into areas that will test their ability to be persistent in the face of struggle. Moving more rapidly in your Geometry classes of course. I don't know. Just a thought. It seems like some of the resistance goes away when you teach in that way, but I know that's not where you want to end up...which I can totally respect. Think of the year as a marathon and not a spring or whatever cheesy metaphor you want...but take them from Point A (where they are comfortable and "compliant") to Point B (where they are effectively working outside of their comfort zone) on a more guided journey. Just a thought. If it resonates, great. If not, scrap it. ;)


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