Starting Over: If Not Easy, It’s At Least Easier

One week in to the school year at my new school, and can I just say that I am pleasantly surprised by how smooth the transition has been?  I am almost afraid to write this post for fear that the proverbial other shoe will drop, but here it goes.

I promised a post on the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting over at a new school, but fortunately, I don’t have too much bad or ugly to tell you about.  I suppose the most challenging aspect has been simply figuring out where the students are educationally at my new school.  I’m quickly figuring out the line between too easy and too hard, and I think the students are figuring out quickly what I expect and rising to the occasion in return.  I suppose another challenge is re-establishing my reputation amongst students and parents, but I find that the best way to do that is just to be honest and forthcoming, work hard, and enjoy what you do.  I have also found that being honest with the students about the fact that I’m new and I’m bound to do things differently or make some mistakes in the beginning goes a long way towards getting them on board and getting them to see me as human.  Finally, I think the last big hurdle is one to which many, many students can relate: finding friends – work friends, that is.  I had so many great colleagues at my former job that I miss terribly at times, but I know it takes time to get to know new faces and find a circle of work friends.

I am loving my new schedule.  Our school operates on a rotating schedule, so while I see all my students each day for 47 minutes, I see them at different times.  It’s great because it changes things up for me and my students.  The students also get an “academic prep” period in the morning (a study hall but also time to see teachers) and a help session (if they need it) at the end of the day for make-up tests/tutoring before sports and other activities.  This allows students time to see teachers and really get the help they need.  It’s awesome!

I also am enjoying the general policies and procedures.  The students seem to know the rules and abide by them for the most part.  I have yet to have issues with disrespectful behavior, etc.  Now, I did have some students who failed to follow directions with an assignment, but when I explained that they would be docked some points, there was no arguing and the issue was over.  (At least, I think it’s over. :))

While I think my new school and its people has a lot to do with the easy transition, I think I didn’t take into account that my previous 8 years in the classroom would make starting over much easier.  I was expecting to feel like I did 6 years ago when I began teaching upper school history – lost and overwhelmed.  I didn’t account for all the experience that I had under my belt. Let’s hope this easy transition continues into my second week!

Please Share This With Your Students

Tomorrow, on the first day of school, I will be sharing this article with my new students.  It’s important whether you already teach in a 1:1 environment or not.  Electronic devices – whether phones, tablets, or computers – are no more and no less than tools, and all tools can be used in ways that profit learning or take away from that same learning.  I won’t be telling my students not to take notes on their computer, but I will be sharing what some of the latest research says so they can make informed decisions about how best to use their devices.  While some students may do just fine taking notes on computers, others will not, and at least according to this study, it seems like the majority will not.  Whereas in the past it seemed students who needed or wanted to use devices needed to get permission to do so, now I fear the pendulum has swung (too?) far in the other direction.  Students who do not benefit from the use of devices need the permission and even encouragement to forego the technology, at least for note-taking.

Welcome Back!

My endless summer is coming to a close mere moments after it began…or so it seems to me.  “Endless” because I packed so much into the last eight weeks both personally and professionally.  “Mere moments” because it never seems like enough time either personally or professionally.

I purposely didn’t blog over the summer because I needed to make time for other things in my life, but also because, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit burned-out with it all.  I planned on publishing my first post of the new school year on August 1, but August 1 came and went  without anything new.  I had a mild case of writer’s block, but it wasn’t the kind of writer’s block in which I had nothing to say.  Rather it was the kind in which I had too many options in terms of things to write about and I didn’t know which to write first.  It also just felt a little strange sitting down at my computer and beginning to write a post after so many weeks away.  So instead of using this post to explore one topic, I thought I’d use it to give my readers (and myself) a roadmap of some of the things to come over the next few weeks.

  • The “seven-year itch” as it relates to teaching
  • “Teflon learning” – how to recognize it and what to do about it
  • Starting over at a new school – the good, the bad, and the ugly
  • What museums can teach us about instructional practices
  • Adventures in local history
  • Advice and tips from the book Make It Stick

I hope you find something useful from these posts over the next few weeks.  Enjoy your last few days of summer, and I hope your new school year gets off to a start with a bang!