Monday, May 20, 2013

Wherein Heather From 2007 Helps Me Out:

Things are, as I said, wrapping up.

Today I had lunch with a small group of kids that I taught during the 2009-2010 school year who are about to graduate high school. That class wasn't my first time teaching freshmen, but it was my first time teaching freshmen in a long time. Probably since my first or second year teaching, when I didn't know shit about what I was doing and I was just faking my way to 3:15 every day. But four years ago I decided I'd take on the challenge--and make no mistake, teaching 14 and 15 year olds is exactly that--of a different grade to try to improve freshman skills and grades at our school, and these were the first group I cut my teeth on.

They drove me nuts.

But I loved them. They were goofy and fun and they helped me to see what it is that I love about teaching freshmen: they change so much from the time they enter high school to the time they leave my class. They need someone who can teach them how to do high school, and how to take notes, and how to write, and how to get organized. And it's a privilege to see them in the halls for the next three years after I teach them.


So today I made good on a promise I made to one particular group when they were still in my class, and we had a pizza party.

But next year it's just not in the cards to teach freshmen; it was more important to me to teach fewer things while I finish my thesis next year, even if it means switching grades. So just as I'm hitting my stride with this grade and feeling like I really know what I want to do with my curriculum, I'm switching back to 11th grade--a grade I taught for years and years and years until I was so sick of it I didn't want to even look at an American Lit book for a while. So this should be fun. I'm thinking of all the ways I can reinvent my own plans from scratch.

Which, you can imagine, feels a little bit overwhelming. I'm excited about the prospect of creating something new. Writing curriculum, planning, taking a skill back to its most simple and basic point: these are my most favorite things about teaching. But admittedly, it's a lot to think about at once, creating a whole school year all over again.

So today I set to work looking through all my old unit binders, and I decided I'd begin the process of opening up old lesson plan files on the computer. I decided I'd start with the most recent year I taught juniors, 2007.

And God bless 2007-Me, because she sure made 2013-Me feel better about what I'm facing next school year. Sure, next year I'll be writing my thesis. Sure, next year I'll be graduating from an MFA program and trying to publish and teaching an unfamiliar grade with a schedule that's not exactly what I'd hoped it would be. But when I opened up my daily lesson plans from 2007, you know what I saw?

In 2007, I was teaching FIVE preps. That means I taught five separate classes every day, each one with its own lesson plan. Every day I was writing (and teaching) plans for these five classes:

AP English 12
English 11
Jazz Dance I
Jazz Dance II
Dance Composition and Performance

Every. Damn. Day. Every one of those classes was doing something different. Plus I was directing our school's dance company, which was about a ten hour commitment a week (plus all the additional years it took off the end of my life in high school girl drama). Five separate written lesson plans a day. And I wasn't winging it. 2007-Me was bad ass. There in my computer were daily plans for each class (even the dance classes--damn, Heather!) for the whole year. Never mind that in 2007 I had a 5 year old and a 2 year old. And a husband in law school.

I did learn that year that I couldn't say yes to everything at work anymore. E and I almost got divorced in 2008, and though I know it's not solely because of my crazy commitments, I know it wasn't unrelated, either.

But opening that file today and seeing all my organized hard work made me feel like I can do this. Like 2013 is going to be okay and as long as I stick to what I know--my silly charts that everyone laughs about and budgeting my time like a madwoman--someday I'm going to look back at 2013-Me and wonder how she did it, too.

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