Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 23 2010

Day 1

I told myself that I was going to take a deep breath right before first period and say to myself “remember this moment. You’ll never be this inexperienced again.” … but I forgot. Probably because at that time I was still frantically trying to get the copier un-jammed—because the $40 I spent at Kinko’s at 1am (which, by the way, overdrew my account) didn’t make me enough copies of my survey and parent letter to get through the day! Ridiculous.  … This job is just a LOT of paper, still.  And no recycling bins! Who runs a print/copy store without recycling paper?

My principal summed the day up saying “it was scary good.”  I probably wouldn’t go THAT far, but I tell you what—my first day did NOT suck. At all. It was good. I had a good first day! I wonder if Harry Wong would say the same…

The best part is, now I know better than to be giddy about it. I’m so, so happy to have Institute behind me so I know from first-hand experience that first days are crucial in a thousand ways, but indicative of nothing. This first day is like a first attempt at knitting a sweater. It has its basic form, I could definitely wear the thing, but it’s got weird loose spots that will cause the whole thing to unravel at a moment’s notice if I don’t watch out. So I’m giving myself the bus ride home to reflect, and then hitting it HARD the moment I get home—because I have to patch some things up, to follow up on things, to put my money where my mouth is… and I’m really, REALLY not prepared for this week.

Also—these people are just high schoolers. They sat, they were marginally respectful, and they basically did what they were supposed to do. Shame on me for letting all the hearsay about this school and these kids and this side of town get to me.

Mistake: assigning seats based on post-its on student surveys. For some reason I thought they wouldn’t care much where they were sitting, or that they wouldn’t catch on? No. It just became a traffic jam at the handout table because everyone was sifting through them looking for numbers close to their friends’. Duh.

Novice moment: definitely didn’t have enough material planned. I whipped through my important points like wildfire in first period (they probably don’t even remember that I HAVE rules or procedures), and didn’t fill up my minutes effectively enough. I had to fudge new activities in my other periods, which helped a little.

Oversight: Also didn’t remember that kids in my Geometry classes have a very good chance of being in my Intervention classes or Credit Recovery, as well. They’d already heard my schpiel, already taken my survey, already been assigned my homework… I’ll need to remember to plan special for them.

Curve-ball: Who knew the teacher for Credit Recovery was supposed to have made a custom course for each student with this computer program thing? Oops. But the program wasn’t working anyway, so it didn’t technically have any major repercussions.

Expert moment: Definitely thought up three activities on the fly to soak up time today. One for the “free period” they got in Credit Recovery, one for my 8th period kids who were also in my 2nd period, and one I thought up during lunch because my rules talk was really heavy on the me talking and skimpy on the student participation. I’m glad I can see those giant red flags when it’s looking like kids aren’t going to have enough to do. Before Institute, I wouldn’t have understood just how big of a deal it is.

Moment of Glory: my 8th period was very, very chatty. Unabashedly so. I’m proud to say that I didn’t accept the noise level, I didn’t let it slip—by the end of the period, they were working on their “thoughts on rules” activity (see ‘expert moment’ above) pretty well, and it was silent for almost a half-minute. Score. But I knew the true test would be when the final dismissal bell rang and I was in the middle of a sentence—three kids stood up, but SAT when I said “Nope! Sit down.” Then I milked it a little and waited for real quiet before I would finish talking about the homework. : )

6:45am to 4:15pm on my feet in heels, one bathroom break, two hours of sleep, and all of it again tomorrow. Woo!

2 Responses

  1. cindy tennant

    Leslie, just now getting a chance to read these! I know things are better and worse by this time! You are doing great and I know you will conquer! I’m reading more, and maybe not comment on each blog…but I’m here! Love you and keep it up! cindy

  2. Ms. Math

    “6:45am to 4:15pm on my feet in heels, one bathroom break, two hours of sleep, and all of it again tomorrow. Woo!” Oh youthful idealism!!!!!! Does this not make you kind of laugh a little? To think we believed we could keep doing this through October. You had a lot of good things going on your first day though, learning learning learning all the time.

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