Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

You know that Summer is over when you sit though that first meeting of all faculty. Fortunately, I find our headmaster funny and appreciate the fact that our meetings are about growth and the school community - not how to properly fill out Form 527-z as opposed the old Form 527-j. We reviewed our summer readings in mini-book club formats and I think it is a testament to our school community that even the new faculty felt free to speak up and voice their opinions.

I have sat through worst.

More Stuff Teachers Need:
-a toothbrush that lives in your desk for the middle of the day
-extra extension cords
-hand sanitizer
-Clorox(tm) wipes

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Velcro and Hermit Crabs

A few words were spoken over the final resting place of Hermit Crab #2 and a moment of silence followed by myself and another teacher who was passing by. The dead fish smell was the final give away that it was not molting, as I had hoped, but moved onto a better place. Luckily, one can get anything on the internet and two new crabs are being fedex-ed as I write this post. I have already asked the receptionist to be on the look out for a box marked "live animals" and to not be alarmed. I ordered two just to hedge my bets - is that wrong?

Sixth graders arrived today for their orientation with a few new 7th and 8th graders in tow. I was in my class listening to Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" on audio books (great story so far - very subversive for kids!), tacking up more wall decor, and making sure my A/V system works. I poked my head out just in time to overhear on of my rising 8th graders who, acting as guide for the newbies, informed her charges that I was to be their English teacher. I reminded her to tell them that I was also mean and made kids cry; however, she summed it up best by just saying "...and he's weird."

I read "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future" by Daniel Pink for my summer teacher reading. I love it because I tend towards right brained thinking. The Science and math teachers don't seem to appreciate it as much - go figure. I highly recommend skimming it and dog earing the "portfolio" sections as they have great lesson ideas for ANY discipline.

Stuff Teachers Need:
  • Lots of Velcro
  • Access to a laminator
  • Scotch and masking tape
  • Collection of markers, colored pencils, and paper
  • Music
  • A tablet-style computer and
  • A Fujitsu "Scan Snap" scanner ( instant scanned PDF files directly to your computer and and literally as fast as snapping your fingers)
  • Pictures of your students that are small enough to fit on a standard sized sheet paper (I am visual, so my seating charts have my students' picture as well as their names on them to help me connect one to the other)
  • pictures and personal items on desk to show that you are human
Always ask for an "educator's discount." when I got supplies and stuff for our classroom's Hermit Crabs, I asked for and received a special discount on the spot from Petco just for asking. It never hurts - I even got new tires at 10% off just because the guy at the desk's mom was a teacher.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Velcro and the Beginning of the School Year

It's that time of year for all teachers to shake off the summer, be it all those little jobs we have to do to make ends meet or an actual two month vacation that they promised us in graduate school. For me, this was the first summer I have had off in over five years. Other than strengthening my online game playing skills, I am actually rested and psyched for the new school year. And on top of that, I am returning for a third year - the longest I have been with any school to date.

I have already ran into students form last year who are taller than me ad chatted with my incoming students for this year. As opposed the to the one parent who questioned my selections for summer reading, these young people were very excited about reading a book that they could actually relate to (thanks Dr. Bushman - I never doubted you!).

So how to get ready? For my third year, I actually feel better prepared on the one hand and still feeling my way on the other. Some routines I will keep and others will be either new or modifications of older ones. I am sure that all new and veteran teachers alike have their list of things to get done and for me it is still a work in progress.

Summer Prep Work
At the very least, I got to catch up on my reading. As opposed to summers past where I was training camp counselors and fending off middle camp management types, I actually got to take time to read stuff for me and keep up with what my students are reading. I had the chance to take a technology seminar to prep my "paperless classroom" model, get my first quarter planned out (more on that later), and learned a new word : luddite. I built a small, portable stage for my Shakespeare Unit and put together new tables for my classroom. And in between, my better half and I moved to an apartment on Campus top save some bucks - now my commute is 2 minutes of walking to school.

Getting the Class Ready
I love velcro. I spent this afternoon slaving over a hot laminator machine covering all my wall hanging in protective plastic. A few snips on a roll of industrial velcro, and now everything that goes on my walls stays until I move it. I have velcroed wires to walls, speakers to wallsm pictures, pens, and assorted toys, etc. Buy this stuff - and you will wonder how you got along without it.

I purchased trapezoid shaped tables and currently have my seating arrangement in a narrow "U" shape. The plan was to make the tables low to the ground and have the kids sit on floor pillows for greater comfort; but alas, the pillows are not working so this year they sit in uncomfortable school chairs. Maybe next year. I have my class guidelines up and the consequences for anyone who has difficulty with them. I have portraits of authors and poets from the past as well as some choice student work to offer as demonstrations for this years 8th graders. The one new thing I am bringing in is something living. Plants would not do too well with me, so our classroom will home to two hermit crabs who are yet to be named. Although, there may just be one little crab if this other is not, in fact, molting.