Sunday, August 28

The First Week: Reflections & Musings

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to say in this post - not just for the five people who actually read this blog, but more for myself.  This past week has been a lot to process.  Consequently, I'm still processing and it has now taken me all weekend-long to finally finish this post.

Here it goes.  I apologize in advance for the incoherent ramblings.

My wonderful professors at UT prepared me for my first year of teaching, but they didn't really prepare me.  My semester of student teaching prepared me for my first year of teaching, but it didn't really prepare me.  I don't think anything can really prepare you until you find yourself in your brand-new first-day-of-school outfit, the echoes of the tardy bell still ringing in the air, standing in front of 25 adolescents, their expectant faces staring at you as if to say, What you got?.... and you just go.  You just become the teacher.

At the end of that first day, I wanted to jump in a time-machine and re-do everything.  Oh, man, I would have done everything differently.  Now that I know the students a little better, I know exactly how I would have handled things, how I would have approached introductions, classroom rules, seating assignments.  But there is no re-do button.  There is only the next day.  And the day after that.

One of the most challenging things about my particular job is that instead of teaching the same one or two classes multiple times each day, I teach four different classes every single day (and facilitate three different online courses).  Which means I don't have the luxury of improving the same lesson throughout the day.  Instead, I teach it once and then we move on. (Or rather, I teach it once, everyone is confused, and then I try teaching the same material again, only with less confusion.)  My first few days, though - everything felt like a bomb.  English 3?  Bomb.  English 4?  Bomb.  Spanish 1?  Bomb.  English 2?  Bomb.  It was like walking through a minefield while wearing a huge magnet strapped across my chest - explosions going off all over the place.  But every class period I dusted off the shrapnel left behind from the previous lesson and started again.

I love the students.  Sure, there are a few trouble-makers and rabble-rousers.  But on the whole, they are good kids.  Some even want to learn.  Amazing, I know.  I have one student in particular who came to me after school on Friday.  The student wanted to know if we could set up regular tutorials for Spanish.  I said of course.  The student warned that I would probably get really tired of helping them, to which I replied: "Hey - this is why I'm a teacher.  I want to help you."  The student left with a smile.  And so did I.

The hardest thing right now is wrapping my head around all of the little things I have to stay on top of. (It should come as no surprise that it is really bothering me that I ended that sentence with a preposition.  I suppose I could say "all of the little things on which I have to stay on top" but that would just sound pretentious.  Anyways.)  Grades.  Technology.  Readings.  Trainings.  TEKS.  Standards-Based Bulletin Boards.  A-1 vs. Traditional students.  Dual Credit English students.  Senior Capstone Research Paper.  Spanish Certification.  Oh, yeah.  And Lesson Plans.

Funny thing about lesson plans.  I have a general, vague outline of what this semester will be like.  I have a slightly less vague idea of what the next six-weeks will be like.  I know what all of my classes are doing tomorrow, and maybe even the day following.  But after that, the plans go back to being general, vague outlines.  I know where we are heading - the ultimate destination - but right now I have no idea how we are going to get there.  Maybe by plane.  Maybe by train.  Or we could be jumping in our canoes and paddling upstream.  Hope the students don't mind getting a little wet.

Coming home after that first day, I felt like I had been run over by a Mack-10 truck.  As soon as I walked in the door, I yelled out to mom: "Do we have any pizza or ice cream in the house?!"  The answer, sadly was no.  For the first three days I stayed at school until at least 7:00pm, sometimes later, working on lesson plans, organizing materials, making lists.  On Friday, though, I only stayed until 5:00pm.  That night I got take-out from Cheesecake Factory: a Monterrey Burger, fries and a slice of Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake.  Food has never tasted so good.  Of course, I woke up the next morning (after 10 glorious hours of sleep!) with a stomach-ache and a sugar hang-over.  We probably won't be doing that again for a while.

I think this Reflection/Musing has gone on long enough.  No doubt, I will have plenty more to ponder and process after Week 2.  That is, if I make it to the end of Week 2.  But for right now, my only hope is that I make it until the end of tomorrow.

Day to day, my friends.  I am living day to day.  Sometimes class period to class period.

But when I see those expectant faces tomorrow, staring at me as if to say, What you got?... I will stare right back at them and say, "BOOM!  I'm the teacher!  That's what I got!  Now get ready to learn and love it!"

GP & JS: Was that introspective enough?  Do I get my 10 points? :)


  1. I've been totally wondering how your first week went, I'm glad you're still alive.

  2. Oh, I'm sure you were better than you think! I hope you feel more confident for week 2, though. You can do it!!!

  3. yay! you're an edumactor! go get 'em tiger :) Love this post and love you!

  4. What an honest reflection of your first week! I look forward to (and dread) the first week of classes, if I ever land a teaching position!