Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First week back

We're two days in to the school year. I'm feeling a little nervous, a little hurried, a little over-whelmed and a little grateful.

It's so nice to be back with my colleagues. I've missed them over the summer and I'm happy to be able to see them again. Unfortunately, my next door neighbour moved one door down, leaving an empty class between us so I'm all alone on my part of the wing, a little isolated from everyone else, but it's a short hallway so it's not hard to go visit. There are only four teachers in our wing now.

We've spent a few hours the last two days in meetings and workshops on various topics. Yesterday was about common language and common practice for working in teams. Today it was reading records, beliefs and practices when it comes to discipline and some basic "how does our school work" discussion. Very useful and informative stuff. It's hard to sit that long though. Another reminder that I need to get my students up and moving because they must find it hard to sit so long as well.

In our non-meeting time, I've continued my classroom preparation. It's looking better. Yesterday I heard I had two new students. I was very concerned about fitting those two extra desks into my already crowded room. At the end of the day I took this picture:

I'll admit, I didn't go home in the best of moods. I'm not sure why those two extra desks made me feel so much more nervous but for some reason they did. 24 sounded like a lot; 26 sounded impossible. But today I was feeling much better about it. I know that with a large class, routine is crucial. I know that I need to give lots of responsibilities to my students to help the class run smoothly and I know that we can all write our class vision statement, values, rules, and make them meaningful so that 26, while a little crowded, is not chaotic and learning will still happen.

Today I found out I have one or two fewer students. But I feel like even if my numbers go back up, I'll be okay. 

What made me feel even better today was we worked out our schedule for the 3-5 wing. Last year the schedule was a nightmare. We had to juggle me teaching my homeroom, and three other classes of French. We had to make it work around the gym and music schedule, we bargained, bartered and begged to switch other times around to somehow come up with a schedule where we were all getting approximately what we needed. It took us 7 hours of meetings and in the end, the result was so complex that even by the end of the year I was not always sure whose class was where. 

One of the other teachers, when I brought up doing our schedules, was not at all happy and I don't blame him. I swore to him that it would be easier this year. It had to be. Nothing could be more complicated than last year's. And it wasn't. About an hour of easy talks and simple fixes, I have the most lovely schedule I could ask for. Whereas last year's, my students' schedule and my teacher schedule looked nothing alike, this year's the difference is very minor, only that when they are in math with another teacher, I am teaching pre-intensive French to one of two classes. And when they have music or gym, I have a prep. I get to take them to library. My Intensive French block is unbroken and beautiful all morning.

It could still change, but for now, it is golden and perfect.

My classroom time I spent today on my French library. Almost all of the English books are out of my classroom now. I'm storing them next door until February. Last year I had a hard time keeping my French book boxes organized. I sorted them by category and labeled the boxes but the students didn't always put the books back in the right boxes. You all know the drill. Then on Fridays when we cleaned the classroom I would assign a few students to organize the library. But they didn't always know which books went in which box and in the end, I would do most of the organizing.

So this year, each book box has a number, and all the books in the box have the same number on the front cover. So for example, this is box number 14 - Robert Munsch books. I also have an 'F' in the corner for fiction and all the Robert Munsch books have a 14 on their cover.

 This book box has hockey books, both fiction and non-fiction, hence the F & NF in the corner.
This is the end result - at least so far. I finished 25 of the boxes today and I'll hopefully finish the rest tomorrow or the next day. 

That's how my first two days went. One week from today I will have had my first day back with students! So much to be done before then but I know I'll get what I need to have done finished. How are your days back going? Are you focusing on one specific area you want to improve for this year? How do you get yourself organized and ready?

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