First Day Eve

It’s here, finally. Tomorrow my students arrive whether I’m ready or not. Or, as my custodian said while clearing the building this Sunday morning of stragglers, “If you’re not ready now, you never will be.” After 5 1/2 work days and 3 hours this morning, I almost made it.  Except for my desk, which is piled dangerously high, the periphery of the room is ready, and the Harmony Hornet agendas are on each desk.  Team boxes are supplied with pencils, white boards, staplers, and markers to complete their nametags and glyphs. My graffiti wall for golden lines is up and ready for the first entry, thanks to Donalyn Miller and The Book Whisperer.  School, team, and birthday bulletin boards are ready for postings.

I have sticks with names for each block, ready to pull for volunteers, jobs, and music selection.  Teams are color coded and ready to have their daily points recorded on the white board.  My ‘Status of the Class’ poster for writing workshop is ready.  My nearly 1500 books are on the new shelves, ready to be checked out. Pillows and chairs are ready for readers.  My room has no windows (last hired gets the dud room) but I have lighting and even found flameless candles with timers at Pier One! http://www.pier1.com/Outdoor-LED-Candles-with-Timers/PS36801,default,pd.html

New this year are a Twitter board, a chat room on http://www.edmodo.com/,  and teaching honors classes!  The Twitter board I got from http://pinterest.com/Twitter Door- have a laminated strip for every child and they get time to tweet about something they learned, liked or happened during school that day! Gets them writing and ties in something they're probably already interested in!Choose 10 students at the end of the block to write a tweet on the door about what they learned that day.  I think it sounds so fun – I hope it actually works!. Also, on edmodo (a facebook-like but safe educational chatboard) students can earn ‘badges’ (you create them) by bringing in papers on time, publishing a story, completing 5 novels, etc.  I think it sounds motivating for 7th graders but we’ll see.

All I need (after I go in early to clear my desk 🙂 is the kids.  I can’t wait.

Comfort Zones

Over the past week I’ve had several conversations with fellow teachers in which we all came to the conclusion that if we were graduating from college now, we would never choose teaching as a career.  How sad is that? These are not the grumbly and negative teachers who gripe in the teacher’s lounge either. These are dedicated teachers who attend conferences in the summer so they can become more effective educators and reach more of their kids this year than last year, teachers who put a lot of their conversational energy into figuring out what works best for kids, asking themselves the hard questions and then trying to find the answers by tapping into the brain trust that other veteran teachers hold. 

I’m not sure the general public (or politicians) realize just how much time teachers devote to thinking about, talking about, and reading about effective instruction. Many of my teacher friends spend much of their summer reading professional books – I know because they post them on Goodreads!  When we have lunch, that’s what we talk about (OK- there is a little time spent on the latest school scoop, too). Teaching never has been and never will be a job where you can leave everything at the office and turn out the lights. It’s way more intense – not quite 24/7 but pretty darn close.

Through these conversations I’ve learned something. Good teachers like to be pushed out of their comfort zones a little bit.  If their adminstration doesn’t do it, they do it to themselves.  New grade levels, new schools, new duties and responsibilities, new leadership roles – the really good teachers respond with, “Bring it on!” (OK – first they might say, ‘I can’t do that!’ but after awhile, after talking to their support network and getting boosted a bit, then they’ll say ‘Bring it on!’) The next step is to figure out how to do this ‘new thing’ well. That’s where those great conversations happen.

So…this got me thinking about our students and their comfort zones.  We talk a lot in education about high expectations but isn’t that really another way to say moving out of their comfort zones? Don’t get me wrong – I want my students to feel safe and part of a community but I also want them to take risks, try new things, make mistakes, solve difficult problems, see other points of view, and yes, maybe, be a little uncomfortable once in awhile.  Then maybe they’ll learn something that really matters.

“Come to the edge.” he said. They said, “We are afraid.” “Come to the edge.” he said.  They came to the edge. He pushed them and they flew.

 Guillame Apollinaire