I would describe my first week back as smooth. When I compare this week to the first week of last year, it is like night and day. I have had a great week and am so glad to be back among the familiar faces of my students and teacher friends. The vibe is very different--Admin has put out many new initiatives, plus we have many new, young, enthusiastic teachers (i.e., they still wake up in the morning thinking "I'm going to make a difference today!"). I was that teacher a year ago and my fall from idealist to realist was a difficult, but important one.
Just a few things that are different for me this year:
1. I have confidence. I've done this, and while there is always room for improvement, I did it well last year and I know that I want to continue teaching. It also means that I don't take anything a student does, personally.
2. I made the expectations clear Day One and continue to review them. I made the mistake last year of assuming that the students knew how to behave. Silly me! Another thing I figured out is that students have seven classes. That means seven sets of rules and expectations. That would be hard to keep straight for anyone. So we will review expectations daily until I am sure they've got it.
3. I am no longer shocked by student behavior. It's amazing my chin wasn't skinned up from dropping to the floor so many times my first year. I am much more in control of myself, which means I am more in control of them.
4. I am more proactive. My 7th period this year is very similar to last year's 7th period. Ironically, I came to really enjoy those kids, but only after I figured out how to manage them. I remember last year about 3 weeks in, when I finally lost my cool and yelled "SHUT! UP!" There was stunned silence for a minute and then....laughing. This year, I started with incentives (such as raffle day) right away to encourage good behavior. For example, we had a fire drill today. I know how students loved to dawdle on their way back. I told them the first ten students back in the room would get raffle tickets and the ones who didn't come back in a reasonable amount of time would be written up. I did just that. Ten kids got raffle tickets; two kids got a written warning and a phone call home.
5. My class is more rigorous this year. While my kids ended up doing well on the SOLs, I think I was too easy on them. It felt like pulling teeth to get them to do any work, so I think I dumbed it down a bit. I'm not doing that this year. I made them start five paragraph essays on Day 2.
I'll end this post with a story about Daniel, whom I can already tell is going to be a challenge this year. The first day, Daniel was loud and disruptive from the time the bell rang. I finally pulled him into the hall and told him his behavior was unacceptable and that he could settle down and rejoin us or I would call an administrator. He opted to come back in. He kept demanding to go to the bathroom and finally when he had finished his work, I wrote him a pass. Twenty minutes later an administrator returned Daniel after he was found wandering the halls. I asked Daniel to stay back after class and instead, he ran off. I wrote him up, called his mother and left a message and then talked to an administrator and a few other teachers who said he'd frequently been in trouble last year.
Before the bell rang, I saw him in the hall lingering before coming in my room. I called him over--I could feel him bracing himself for being chewed out. Instead I said, "Daniel, what do you want to do after graduation?"
He responded, "Go to college." I then told him that if he wanted to go to college then he needed to pass my class as well as the SOL. I told him that his behavior the day before was going to get in the way of his goals. I informed him that I had given him a written warning the day before and that if I had any trouble that day, he was going into another classroom. I said all of this in a very calm voice. He wasn't perfect in class, but his behavior was markedly better than the day before.
As Sister Pollard said, "My feets is tired, but my soul is rested." I left the building today with a week behind me, feeling confident and excited about the year to come. This is a hard job, but it really is worth it.