Sunday, September 4, 2016

a fresh start

School started last week and things went quite smoothly for us. We were early every day getting to school, no one needed a last minute weird school supply and everyone stayed in fine spirits. We padded our schedule with football games, a cross country meet and a dozen bushels of sweet corn that Mr. D and I spent hours shucking, blanching and freezing. 

How fast did I hustle this week? Well, Mr. B grabbed my phone Thursday evening to check his Pokemon Go stuff and set it down with the game still loaded on the screen. I picked up my phone to check the practice schedule as I moved across the kitchen to deal with supper prep and looked down to see this:

That's right. I move so fast my phone thinks I'm DRIVING.

On a related note, my kids ran pretty fast in the cross country meet Friday. Mr. T's time (19.09) was a PR and landed him a varsity spot for the next meet. About 5 boys on his team are vying for position, their times are within 20 seconds of one another. It was pretty terrific for him to get a turn on varisty and take a minute off of last year's time on the course.  Mr. B beat Mr. G by a second and helped the middle school team take first in the meet (Mr. G helped the team by pushing his brother, who was not about to come in behind him).

The biggest change in our world is me being back to work full-time. What's new in Room 212 this year? A lot, as it happens.

* The temperature was warm, not the usual blasting frozen damp air. I even discarded my cardigan. We don't understand why the change happened, but warm beats cold ALL THE TIME so no one on the second floor will utter complaint.  The heating/cooling system in the building is a mystery on par with Stonehenge.  When it works in our favor we celebrate quietly and fervently hope that if we keep our heads down the temperature will remain pleasant.

* Books! I got discarded books from a colleague of mine in another district plus castoffs from my home library and my mom's AND I ordered new nonfiction for AP Language & Composition to read this year.

* The academic day is super fast-paced at Happy Valley High, and only 4 minutes between classes adds to the general feeling of frantic panic. This summer I read some articles about being mindful and intentional and to that end I have started each day by piping in some baroque tunes on the SmartBoard while leaving the morning announcements on the screen. The kids come in and focus and settle. Each day went VERY well, they were not hyper or crazy, the "off-task talk" was minimal by virtue of setting up a good learning environment. I need to do this in the afternoon, too, but this takes more effort with the mall amount of passing time built in. That music really settles the students.

* My class sizes are only slightly unbalanced, I have about 130 students this year which is a tolerable amount, unless I'm grading 10-page research papers. Then I become oddly happy about the student who doesn't turn in work, which we can agree is a wrong attitude. First hour is enormous, 30 students. I had to get desks from another classroom. But I'd rather start the day with a huge class than end it that way.

* Changed up the first day by making seniors do a Human Scavenger Hunt. Everyone got up, mingled, talked and seemed to have fun with it.  Wonder why I didn't think to do this sooner.

* Only saw one cell phone, but it was an allowable offense as student a) was not there the first day to hear my rule and b) was fact-checking the article our class was reading.

* Pretty solid class discussion Hours 1-6, 7 and 8 got pretty sketchy. Some dim bulbs in the room coupled with it being the end of the day will require creativity and skill.

* I like the girls this year, though not quite as much as last year's class. Yet. Things could change on that front. This pleases me.

* The boys are fine, most are very nice, but a few have mean spirits. This troubles me because others won't take risks if they know they'll get kicked if they're down. Will need to proceed cautiously as I work to identify and neutralize the kickers.

* The day before school started my principal pulled me aside to tell me I have a "regular RtI." I won't bore you with the back story on what that means, but the short version is this: I don't have to work with low-level readers for a half hour three times a week. Instead, I have a room of sophomores with a silent study period. That's right, my principal reduced my work load. I don't know what I did to merit this favorable schedule or why he gave me the break and not one of my colleagues, but IT IS AWESOME!

* Going into year 3 means a lot of my unit planning has been established, so I'm not coming up with as much from scratch and that makes my life easier. And calmer. Plus I can focus on other components besides curriculum development.

In this moment I'm enjoying the long weekend. The Badgers won, the weather is perfection, I have a great book to read in my hammock and few household chores to do.  We watched Kubo and the Two Strings last night at the drive-in, it was transcendent. Go see it if you have a chance.


  1. I could read endlessly about your work life -- so fascinating! But I have to say I'm in a cooler classroom for once (not the 88-degree room), AND EVERYTHIMG IS BETTER.

    Congrats on shredding the first week back!

  2. I'm glad your first week back went so smoothly :-) Emma (a sophomore) would give a lot to have a quiet study-hour during her day. (As it is she usually does homework during her lunch hour.)

    Her school has a 5 minute passing period, which I thought was horrific enough. Four minutes?! When I was in HS we had 10 minutes --enough time to chat, stop by your locker for the next class's material, etc. I'm sad that high school students need to live such a rushed life. More mindfulness and leisure might make them all better students and people.

    I'm not sure how high school morphed from what I experienced to this prison system where everyone is rushed. I am, however, grateful that good people like you are in the classrooms.

  3. Transitioning your students with music (through a smart board, high tech, no less) is an excellent way to gently guide them into the right mindset for your class. If you need suggestions of composers or pieces, I'll be happy to suggest a few!

  4. Four minutes for passing from one class to another is too short of time! My hs junior tells me he has one passing period where he could only be on time if he was the only one in the halls, due to extreme ends of campus. I'd love it if my kids had you for a teacher!

  5. As a former HS teacher, i remember it as being exhilarating bu exhausting, so go YOU :)

  6. Now I'm adding the game against Wisconson (our next home game) to all the other games I am worried about. Congrats on a big win! Hope your school year continues to be calm :-)

  7. A reduced workload is pretty awesome! It sounds like this year is shaping up to be OK.

  8. Everything sounds busy and delightful. Everyone thriving. Hurray for all your runners! I wish I had you as my teacher in high school. You are heavenly! I do hope you find a moment or two to breathe now and again. ;)

  9. Hello there! I traveled over to see you from s mutual bloggers page. I was interested in your blog as one of my sons is s teacher. Middle school 9th grade. Thanks to AP courses he started university as a rising sophomore. Now he had taught for 19 years. This is my kitties blog. Mine is called Rsmblingon. 😊

  10. Was that a 5K time? He is super fast! Congrats on making varsity :-) Almost as fast as you with your kitchen walking speed that of a car...

  11. Sounds like you had a great start to the new school year. Hope that is still the case. I agree with you about the music helping. When the daycare kids were hyper or out of sorts, I put put on a soothing Classical CD and they would almost instantly calm down. It got to where one of them would ask to listen to it at other times.


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