It’s Year 22 for me. The 22nd first day of school. Only three more after this, and I’ll be looking for what to do in my dotage. It seems funny that each year still feels like the first one. I wonder how the kids will be, what to do the first few days while we’re getting acquainted, and how to make the long months of September and October be months of team-creating and positive routine establishment. It’s easy to forget that’s what I need to do at this time of year, sometimes, because often I’m just figuring out how to get through the week. Or day.
I start each day with a plan. I think we will do certain things, and they’ll lead to the things I’ve planned for the next day. But really, it’s about learning who the kids are, where the seating charts will need to be tweaked and what the students are really capable of doing. I tend to ascribe to them more capability than they actually possess, at least at the beginning of the year. I guess they just take a while to figure out how they are supposed to behave in middle school, because a lot of them definitely come in not doing it right!
This year I have three groups of students. I am teaching an eighth grade Spanish Literacy class, for native Spanish speakers. Last year was my first year with this class, and I thought they’d be able to do way more than they could in fact do. This year I’m on it. We’ve learned the alphabet and are working on the countries in which Spanish is spoken now. Numbers are next, then a unit on Independence, both personal and political. They don’t really want to speak Spanish publicly, but pretty much insist that I do. I have hope that they will come around in this area. This is my biggest class, and I am relieved that it is first period, before their eighth-graderness is fully awake.
Next I have a two hour block of Intermediate level eighth grade ELD. These students are already known to me, either because they were in my class last year or in my daughter’s class. We already get each other, and the start has been smooth.
One of the boys in this class was suspended for three days already because he touched one of the girls in an inappropriate way last week in my class. I called him on it, he denied it, I turned him in and all the witnesses confirmed it, so he was sent home for three days. He came back without any rancor toward me; he just dove in and asked for the work he’d missed. We get each other. If he misbehaves, he receives a consequence and then we all move on. I wish more adults could be like him, actually, and not carry around old blame for things past. It is doubtful that this will be his only suspension this year, but I hope it is. He is already in a gang, or wants to be, like his brother, so the road ahead could be a little rocky. I’m sorry about that, but can’t change it, so I just look for what else he is and work with that.
My last class, another two hour block of beginning seventh grade ELD (2 students) and intermediate seventh grade ELD (18 students) is the one that is giving me a run for my money so far. The first couple of days I came home with my head spinning, imagining them hanging from the non-existent rafters in my room. They just seemed to be everywhere at the same time. Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks with them, I realize that it’s going to be about three or four of them that will need my special focus. Apart from them – and they are significant – the biggest challenge will be teaching two completely different levels in a way that supports the needs of all the students.
I have begun using Interactive Student Notebooks. I’m not exactly effective at this yet – I haven’t quite figured out what to do with the student side of it, but I am confident that we’ll get there. We collaged the covers of them the first week. Covering my notebooks was the most fun I’ve had this year so far. Theirs, well, not so much. But they seem okay with it. I love the idea of using a different color of duct tape on the spines of each class’s notebook, (thank you Pinterest) and to this end have bought several rolls of colorful tape. Now I just have to decide which color goes with which class, and probably not use the red at all. It’s too gang related, unfortunately, which is too bad because I love how it looks next to the turquoise and purple.
I also have a slight problem with curriculum. I have some, (Keystone) but I’m not crazy about it. I used it last year, and the intervention piece was way bigger than the reading or writing pieces. They use lots of novel excerpts rather than short stories and I don’t like that. They seem to have no beginning or ending, which I find frustrating, and certainly difficult to teach plot! I guess this is okay as long as I only use it for that, and work real reading and writing in on their own.
I’m waiting on using the iPads until things calm down a little. And until may be we have WiFi, although I could be using a couple apps that don’t require it, once I decide what to have them do. Besides, there is no way I’m putting iPads in the hands of those seventh grade boys yet. But I’ll get there…
So here we are. We’re off and running. I’ll let you know how it all develops, what I figure out about the ISN’s and the curriculum. Also how I learn to balance the newcomers with the misbehavers in a positive way. Fingers crossed! More to come.