Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Teaching, Again

I want so much to talk to someone about the first two days, but no one's around right now. I miss blogging. I miss my internet connection. So, here I am in a cafe with 19 minutes and 36 seconds remaining on the clock.

I love teaching.

Let me say that again.

I love teaching.

Today, I taught 60 students about microns, and how to find the diameter of the field of view of a light microscope. They didn't know that yesterday! Unfathomable.

Today, I observed the two new science teachers and saw, among other things, how far I've come as a teacher. I can redirect a child's attention with a look! Incredible.

On Monday, I taught PE for the first time this year, to a class of sixth graders. We talked about safety and sportsmanship and stretching, and then we practiced our stretching routine and ended with sit-ups and jumping jacks and it was all so much fun.

My school feels like home. Staying after to do my work - rather than bringing it home every night - is working out really well so far. I feel like a part of a community. We work, we take breaks and visit, we share advice, we help each other. I haven't collected any major assignments yet, but I can already tell that grading at school is going to be so much more manageable than grading at home.

I am so eager to get the first assignment back from my students. I'm not collecting homework this year, because it was just so much work. Instead, I'm checking that it was completed and doing my best to assign homework that leads up to long-term projects and thus is more meaningful than worksheets. For example, today and tomorrow the students are writing instructions for basic use of the microscope, finding field of view, and making slides, all of which they will combine next week into an instruction manual for the microscope. I can't wait to get those instruction manuals; my bulletin boards are empty and longing for student work.

I am worried about the new science teachers. Their classroom management instincts aren't terrific. But I have time in my schedule to observe them, and they have time to observe other teachers, and I have been pushing observation. One of the most effective ways to learn the subtleties of teaching is to spend time in the classrooms of more experienced, effective teachers and absorb their tone, just let it become a part of your being. They are very open to suggestions, but until they see how focused a class can be, how we wait to speak until we have our students' full attention, they won't really get it. The next few months might be a bit of a ride, no matter how quickly the new teachers get the hang of things.

I did something brave today.

Yesterday, my principal left at the same time as the students. Our dean stayed a little later, but had to leave to go to class. Several things happened after that point which teachers handled, but which really should have been handled by an administrator. I don't like the message it sends to parents, students, staff, and the Region to have our administrators rushing out of the building the minute the school day ends. I don't like being put in the position of telling someone, "She stepped out," or "I don't know where she is." I want to work in an organization where the leadership is among the last to leave, not the first.

Knowing that the longer I waited, the greater my discomfort and possibly resentment would grow, I decided to speak to my principal about it right away, particularly because leaving right after school ends is a pattern from the last few years which has hurt our school's culture (in my opinion). I am trying to "be the change" I want to see in my school - by staying to do my work on site - but I also need to speak up when I am concerned. That is something we agreed on as a staff.

So, I met with Ms. Dean and Ms. Principal this morning and told them my concerns, my hopes for the culture of our school, and why I felt we would have been better off with an administrator present yesterday. Ms. Dean was understanding and told me a bit more about her class schedule. Ms. Principal looked grim and couldn't look me in the eye. She said, "I hear you," and then ended the meeting. I couldn't tell whether she was angry or just hearing the truth but not feeling good about it. I think things might change, but I feel better either way.

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