One week down. One real week, with a Monday and Friday and a host of real-life teaching hours between--a chance to sit comfortably into the routine of the school year. One week of a whole new schedule for our school that means a different thing each day and a new study class period twice a week. A week of looking at the clock an awful lot for pacing since I never know yet when the period will end.
My kids are great. I love my classes. Love. So far they're going swimmingly. And this is 50% because of the students, who are fabulous and doing exactly as they should, and 50% because I am teaching so hard right now, walking miles of circles behind the groups of desks in my room and wearing tracks in the carpet with my favorite Kenneth Cole wedges so everyone is like, oh, hi Mrs. P you're standing right behind me and yep, sure I'll put my cell phone away and get back to work following along with the reading, mmhmm. It changed my teaching life a while ago when I realized that the behavior of any class period was totally dependent on the effort I put into it. I'm sure that sounds stupid. But if there are problems, I can always trace it back to my own lack of planning or something else I didn't do. So as we start school, I'm putting that knowledge (again) to good use, and working my tail off to start the year on the right foot. To teach them I mean business. To establish routines. To be consistent. To set a tone, especially since I'm looking at a different group of kids.
But I won't lie--that's no easy task. Every day in the beginning of the school year is about proving yourself to 185 watchful, critical pairs of eyes. Imagine if you had to meet 185 strangers on the street tomorrow and get them to trust you enough to listen to what you had to say.
Oh, and you'd have to learn their names.
So we've been busy. It's much easier to keep things moving rather than to give anybody any free time to think too hard about what they don't like about what we're learning. (Heaven knows we've got more than enough to do.) And, actually, I'm teaching a piece that I like quite a bit--an excerpt from Krakauer's Into the Wild--which is interesting enough to hold the attention of 40 or so sixteen year olds at a time. So that's fun.
But the real thing that has been taking it out of me, the thing that I'm feeling in the aches of my shoulders and lower back, is trying to build relationships with those 185. Trying to learn names and remember enough little details to make them feel welcome, remembered, wanted in my classroom. Of course they are, but making them feel it--making 185 humans feel that on a daily basis, or even successfully reaching half of them--is quite a challenge in the beginning, especially when they come through the door in batches of 40. It helps that I had many of them as freshmen, but that also comes with an expectation that I remember many small details that have already slipped through the cracks of my memory in the last two years.
School is good. Teaching continues to teach me every single day, and it challenges me more than I ever thought it could, this many years in. There are days I wish it just got easier--that it was possible to coast. But on the days when everything comes together and I can see it all working, I'm glad for the challenge.
The other day before school a few of my freshmen from last year ran across the quad (yes, ran) and hugged me. It took me by surprise because I'm not really a hugger with my students, but also because these were kids that would stand at my desk last year and roll their eyes, kids that would mumble "what-ever" under their breath and stomp away. Not kids I thought I was reaching at all. But one of them (after she run-hugged me) looked right at me and said "I'm going to come to you this year when I need help in English, right?" I told her of course. I could see on her face that I'd made that connection with her--that golden thing we're hoping for, where they believe that you both know what you're taking about and that you are somebody that they can trust. It gave me hope about getting there this year, too.