The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 10 2011

The First Day… Come and Gone.

Today was the first day of school. It was definitely chaotic, as the last few weeks have been, but it was so good to have my students in front of me and finally be able to articulate to them what we are going to do as a class this year. It was by no means perfect – we practiced procedures and we got to everything I wanted, but it was more haphazard than I would’ve liked – but it was the day one and I think we adequately, as an elementary school team, set the tone for our students.

That was honestly the biggest challenge: setting the tone. So much upheaval has occurred in the past few weeks and months with my placement school. It was taken over less than two weeks ago [you read that correctly] and the change was greatly intimidating and even enraging to many of the area families. Many of them showed up today with their children, not just to drop them off but to see what was going on with the school. It was a heady and tense way to begin the morning but we got through it with about as much grace as one can muster under fire.

I’m so thankful for my previous job. The trial by fire in learning how to adapt with grace and speed was the most heavily utilized tool I had in my arsenal today. I’m more of a planner, so sometimes just wingin’ it makes me uncomfortable, but thankfully that job has helped me to understand how to adjust to change really quickly and keep rollin’. There is no better personality trait at my placement school, in my opinion, than being flexible. We had no schedule today, and no rosters until we’d already split up our students amongst ourselves, and there was just generally no structure. We will have a better schedule by Monday, an unfortunate casualty of the very recent takeover and the stress that the new school administration is under, and we will get it together, but either way, it’s good to know that flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t always end in a crash.

This year I am one of two 3rd grade teachers at a K-12 school. Our 3rd grade was slated to be 52 students but with all of the drama of the past weeks, we only saw about 22 today. I teach math and science and the other teacher is ELA/social studies instruction, so we have our homeroom students at the beginning of the day until just after lunch, when they switch classes to pick up their other subjects. It’s going to be fun getting to know my kids. I had 12 in my homeroom today and my colleague teacher had 10. Those numbers will grow as our school’s reputation is restored but probably not significantly. They are rambunctious and gleeful and excited about third grade and school. Only one of my students (so far) has articulated to me that he doesn’t like school, which is a big blessing considering this summer, and I look forward to changing his mind.

I am most worried about differentiating content down the line. They had a couple of “Early Finisher” worksheets after their Do Nows were completed and… the math skills are all over the board. I gave them some sample beginning-of-the-year 2nd grade material for their Do Nows and there was a lot of confusion. Some of it can be chalked up to the summer they’ve just had, many of them doing very little in the way of academics, and some of it will just be an uphill slug. I have one student who barely reads – and by that, I mean, doesn’t understand phonics and sometimes gets his letters confused – and another who is a reader but is on about a 1st grade level (this from independent observation, not official assessment). It’s kind of comforting, then, that my classes are as yet so small because it gives me hope that I will have the opportunity to work with them in more focused and differentiated groups. We talked about goals, and the importance of keeping the end in mind, and I think constant conversations about the importance of planning and hardwork will serve us well.

It was an exhausting day. I ate two apples for lunch and was pretty dehydrated, but I have a better system in place for tomorrow and am anxious for the day. My kids, while energetic, are amazing. They will be a joy to teach most of the time, and the rest of the time, still a privilege. Today, the morning seemed to go a little slow and then I looked up and it was 4 pm and time to dismiss! Time flew by really quickly, but it is just such a blessing to be a teacher, in a classroom, doing what you know you are supposed to be doing. I look forward to seeing how the year goes. I hope I can serve them well.

One Response

  1. sp

    These kids are so lucky to have Ms. Williams as a teacher, and you’re so lucky to have them too!

    Love love, and keep up the good work!

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