Saturday, September 5, 2009

In the Classroom

Things in Baltimore have certainly picked up for us. Kelly's been promoted at work and just finished a huge project at the store that required him to go in at 5AM for two weeks straight. It made me ornery just because I had to drive him there that early, even though I got to come back home and sleep for an hour longer. But Kelly is always cheerful, even when waking up at 4:30 in the morning. (No human being should be awake between 4 and 5 AM unless they are mobsters planning to whack the chief of police. Seriously.)

When I'm actually conscious, things have certainly gotten busier, but also more enjoyable. I went from sitting in classes hearing "scaffolded learning," "differentiation," "classroom management," and "let's capture [fill in the blank here] on paper while we're thinking about it" over and over again (Capture. Everyone says it here. I don't know why.) to setting up my classroom and then finally filling it with students.

Teaching is so stressful! When I was in high school I never realized how hard teachers work. Lesson planning, setting up a classroom, dealing with that student who writes "F--- this class" on your classroom sign in, writing worksheets, and looking up that stuff you don't remember is a lot to do. (Thank you to all my teachers!) I always thought teachers had it pretty good: holidays and summers off, off work at 3. The only part that sounded not-so-fun was being to work at 7AM. But really, I've stayed at school late, and then I come home and work on teaching stuff here, too. But despite the stress of trying to give my students the education they deserve, at the end of the day I feel good. I'm doing something useful, and hopefully will be able to help a few of my students. I know I'm not exactly meeting the "excellent teacher" bar yet, but at least I'm passionate, and my students already know I care about them.

My classes are 100% African American and I've heard a lot about being white. One student told me I am the only white person he's ever liked. They like to laugh at me when I don't understand their slang, or even just the way they say things, and get frustrated when they don't understand my white/Utah accent. But we get along pretty well. They just love teasing me about my baby face, but I refuse to tell anyone how old I really am (especially because I have a few 21-year-old students.) One guy said "You guys! A real lady never tells her age, and this a real lady here."

The school I teach at is brand new this year, so a lot of things are not yet organized, including the scheduling. For the first week, they just grouped kids together and put them in some classes, so I have juniors and seniors in my 9th grade US History class, and they were not happy at all. I had a mini riot on Tuesday in 2nd period, because they were all frustrated with the lack of order and some classes they need to graduate are not yet offered at the school. We haven't hired a gym teacher or any foreign language teachers yet, although both classes are required for graduation. I was able to talk to them and they realized that I'm there to help them graduate, and even though the school is still disorganized, they just need to remember it's brand new, and I'm trying to make my classroom as functional as possible and we're all in this together. We ended up having a discussion and getting the principal and guidance counselor to come in and talk about the classes they need and getting everyone the right schedule hopefully by next week. The school tried a new temporary schedule partway through the week and as I was walking down the hall right before school started I passed a group of girls from one of my classes and they said "Hey! Mrs. A!" and then grabbed their new schedules and said "I hope we still have her!" I don't think they meant me to hear that last part, but it made me feel so good!

I started teaching content on Wednesday, because I already went over my syllabus and rules and procedures. It went so well! After I taught the material they got in groups and worked on posters about Reconstruction. I gave them National Geographics to cut up and markers and glue and they turned out so great. So anyway, I made it through my first week, and so did all of my students and now for some PICTURES!

The back of my classroom! (the front is just a blackboard and my desk full of paperclips and a latest-in-Soviet-Technology computer on top.)

My favorite poster--I had to edit out the names, though.

Well, there's a little update from the Aherns! We're still living happily and we're very much in love. Oh yeah, and we are nursery leaders in church now. Sometimes I think my 2-3 year olds are better behaved than my high school students, though. :) Love you all!


Georgia said...

I'm so excited to leave the first comment on this wonderful post! I'm so proud of you, Dani Girl! The very, very best reward for being a parent is having a child grow up and be productive, positive and happy. Those kids (both your high school students and the nursery children) are so lucky to have you as their teacher. Keep up the good work. If I didn't miss you so much this would be perfect.

Love You!!!

Margie said...

It is so much fun to catch up on this adventure Dani. I'm certain you are the favorite teacher. What an experience for you and Kelly. I hope you two are doing well and we are excited to see you at Christmas. We miss you too!!

Nariman said...

Haha, reading this made me so happy! I'm glad you guys are doing well and can't wait to come visit!