Saturday, August 28, 2004

Busy Busy Busy

So--you can probably imagine, given how often I post, the pain of not being able to blog for almost a week. I actually had to say to myself, even though you don't have the internet, you can still write - on paper! or even just in Microsoft Word! I tried this. I didn't like it. This blog has become my writing space. Losing access to it was like losing a favorite journal or pen, or trying to write while riding the subway if you're used to your own quiet living room or favorite cafe. I couldn't express myself.

Nevertheless, I managed to find things to fill the long stretches of time vacated by not being able to blog.

At school, with the help of the other science teachers, I sorted and moved all the science supplies into cabinets and other storage spaces. We will have to do more work on that after school starts, especially because we are ordering even more supplies, but we got the classroom into shape for the children's orientation next week.

For those who are wondering about our early start date, my school is one of the new small schools that the city is promoting and starting. We opened our doors in 2002 and have been expanding into a full middle school by adding a grade each year. One of the stipulations in our agreement with the Region when we started the school was that we would get paid time in the summer for a week of teacher orientation and a week of student orientation. So far, they've followed through on their end of the bargain, and we've used the time to prepare ourselves and the students for the hard work that happens during the school year. We set the tone during orientation so that we can teach content on the real first day of school.

On Thursday, we split up into teams to plan orientation for each grade level. The eighth graders have been through two years' orientations and two years of school, so their needs are different from the brand new sixth graders and the mix of returning and new seventh graders. Ms. Pascal and I decided on a mix of diagnostic testing - 8th grade is a year of four huge state exams - along with icebreakers and an explanation of the changes to our school's procedures. The students are also going to work in teams to create PowerPoint presentations about each of the Core Values.

Friday, each team shared its orientation schedule and we went over other nuts-and-bolts issues. Since we are still expanding and in our infancy as a school, we cannot simply do things the way we did them last year. This will be the first year that we get our own lunch period, for example, and we are now so big that we're not sure what we will do with the students during recess on rainy or freezing cold days. I spent much of the remaining time on Friday working with the other returning teachers to make some key decisions on issues like the type of report cards we will use, how to solve the recess problem, and so on. It gets overwhelming when you begin to think through even a single day in a school - so many small but important decisions need to be made regarding use of time, flow of students, and so on.

Each day this week, I stayed later than the previous day, far more hours than we are actually getting paid for, and the work continues at home this weekend. Yet the time put in now is what makes our school run effectively during the year. I think teachers should work more days, especially before students come to school, so that we can prepare and problem-solve. Most teachers already work some in the summer on their own time, but the time in the building together is invaluable.

The transition back to school is has affected me physically much more than in past years. I guess I'd forgotten that when I eat breakfast at 6 am, I become incredibly hungry by 11 am, and again at 3. I'd forgotten how bone-tired I am by the time I get home each night. The other day I had to have a chai just to make it to the community center to pick up my veggies - and that was after an hour's nap! It's thrown me for a loop. We've been working (in theory) half days, without any children present. I still have no idea how some people manage to work a full day teaching and then go home and raise their own children. Adulthood is hard!

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