On Saturday morning, I woke up thinking about this blog. Not in a panicked or guilty way, which would be valid since I walked away from it in June and didn’t look back, but in a ‘what am I going to write about after the first week of school?’ way. The first thought that popped into my mind? “I wonder if anyone has quantitatively researched whether the end of June teacher-tired is greater than the beginning of September teacher-tired?”
Yep. Important stuff.
But in a way, it’s an interesting question. At the end of June, you are just holding on through progress reports, field trips, final assessments, checked-out students, and grad. I am usually so tired, that the first week of July is literally just sleeping. At the beginning of September, despite having stored up a little energy and rest, it’s instantly depleted from the long days and late nights of planning, PD and meetings, the beginnings of soooo many school activities, and student energy. It really is a toss up!
And although I do use the summer to recharge and rest, like many colleagues, there is a lot of work to be done too. I was fortunate enough to take the Principal’s short course at the U of S, and it was a fantastic learning experience. I can’t say enough amazing things about the week! I also had quite a pile of books that I had borrowed, a mix of professional and personal reading. My favorites are still: 180 Days by Gallagher/Kittle, Culturize by Casas, and Innovator’s Mindset by Couros. And my favorite personal read is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I loved the main character’s voice and it had some plot twists that I just didn’t see coming (and I'm a good inferencer lol.) I read a lot of curricula too, as I have some new classes this fall, plus we have a split class for the first time that anyone can recall in our building. Lots to get ready for.
So I am working through unchartered territory in many ways, and it is TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY GOOD FOR ME! At our opening institute, our Director of Education, Lori Jeschke said, “We need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I could have despaired over teaching a split, but tried to see it as an opportunity to rethink how my classes are usually structured. I’m hoping that inquiry is going to be the modis operandi, and after a Social class last week, where the students took the outcome/topic, generated burning questions to answer, and then broke into partners to research them, I was totally blown away by the really deep ideas that they came up with. I’m equally excited to see how they choose to present their findings too, and hope to line up an authentic audience from the larger community for them to share it.
Besides teaching a split class, I have a few other new experiences this fall too. I have an intern (only my second one ever) and it’s a needed reminder of how much planning new teachers have to do with no experience and a full slate of classes. It’s also good to remember how students feel when they are put in uncomfortable situations each day with seating arrangements, group work, talking to the class, etc. I put a lot of thought into the mixers and icebreakers we do in those first days, knowing that not everyone is comfortable in sharing or being in close quarters with other people. (Okay that’s just me lol.)
Plus I teach grade seven, and they are brand new to the ‘big school’ with lots of anxiety and fears to allay. We invited them to move in a day early, on Friday before school started, and over half of them came. It was a small gesture with a big impact. I think I felt most uncomfortable on a personal level when I volunteered to lead a session in front of fellow teachers at our PSTA convention. That was intimidating! But it went well – considering it was on technology, none of the technology failed - and I gained the confidence in knowing I could do it if the opportunity arose again.
Of course, if all of these things had failed abysmally, there still would have been lessons to learn from them. In fact, on the first day I tell students: if you don’t make any mistakes this year, you haven’t learned anything. (And I've failed in my role!) And then I showed them a video of me learning how to wakeboard. It isn't pretty. Falling, and falling, and falling, and almost drowning, and falling again. And then finally being able to stay up! And this summer, even being able to cross the wake. It’s how we get better, and it’s how we learn. I know I’m going to make a lot of mistakes this year, but I'll also become a better teacher in the process.
One last note: on the Monday night before school started, I was at work getting things ready. Another teacher came. Then another. Then another. Altogether, there was likely 90+ years of teaching experience there that night. I took a picture of us for Twitter and joked that we were either super-keen or super-disorganized. I think it speaks to the life-long learners in all of us, always trying to improve, and wanting to create the best possible learning experiences for our students. I am so excited for the year ahead, the challenges that inevitably come with learning, but the successes that happen too.
P.S. Last year I chose to learn a word in Finnish and Cree, and to close out each blog post with it. This year I decided on welcome: in Cree ‘welcome, there is room’ Tawâw (Ta-wow), and in Finnish, Tervetuloa. There is always room here for anyone who wants to share in my thoughts, and a literal welcome for you in our classroom! Come say hi!
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