Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school; I had one class of seniors, and two Concurrent Enrollment classes. Tomorrow I'll have another two sections of seniors and one class with 10th graders. I found myself nervous, though, because I have little idea of how to actually interact personally with 12 graders. I know how to create lesson plans, and I know which novels and writing exercises I'll be using this year, but I've never taught seniors before and I wanted to make a good impression.

When my first period class came in, I said that there were the usual classroom expectations: Be kind, be respectful, raise your hand, etc. Then I asked the seniors two questions, which I had them answer anonymously on a sheet of paper that I had them turn in before they leave: What would make the class less terrible, and what do they expect from me as a teacher. Most said that they wanted to be respected, and treated like adults. They wanted the material to mean something, not be mindless; a few noted they wanted to be able to ask for help. Several said they wanted to be able to listen to music while they worked, or at the end of class when the work was done; others said they wanted me to realize that they have other classes and other responsibilities; that they don't want to be here. In other words, they want to be understood and be recognized as the adults. I'll have an easier time with the sophomores, whom I had met this past Friday during their Orientation. (I have a 10th grade homeroom as well as a 10th grade English class.) I can be silly with them and that seems to be the way to get and keep their attention.

Yesterday I discovered that I could set up a message and/or an e-mail to all my students and their parents and have the message be sent at a certain time, so I set up an announcement for all my classes, and included course syllabi. I think it was a good move; by 7:20 this morning I heard from one parent of a 10th grader who told me that my class was all her son could talk about when he came home from Friday's Orientation, and that my e-mail this morning impressed her even more; she said some very much appreciated things this morning.

Another parent told me that his son would pretend to be too cool to be in class, but that the son secretly loved science fiction and would probably die a bit inside while reading Pride and Prejudice, but he'll survive, "in spite of Austen's complete refusal to use dragons, knights, or wizards." (I responded that this gave me the idea that students could choose excerpts and rewrite them into their favorite genre - that maybe the novel would be improved with dragons. The parent unequivocally agreed.) And a third teacher thanked me for having the course website that I planned to use, noting that it's helpful to notifying parents of due dates and homework.

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