From Lady S:
Yesterday started the Sunday of summer.
June is Friday night, so much time ahead of you. You make lists of things you need to accomplish. You start to stay up later and dress more comfortably. You are still ready to get up for work and attack the day.
July is Saturday. All day long, nothing to do, getting stuff done, but wasting some time. Staying up late, getting up late. Wearing whatever you want, eating when you are hungry, not when the clock tells you you have time. Still a whole other day to spend getting things done. All thoughts of school sort of a blur.
August is Sunday. Just before you have to go back to school. You didn’t get everything done that you needed to. Rushing around to find something to wear. Thinking about what you are going to do tomorrow. Getting to bed earlier. Gathering stuff together.
God, is this all-too-true!
I feel like the summer has whizzed by without any input from me. I don't know how or why time keeps escaping me like this! First the year, then the summer!
I am completely in denial. I have placed all my teacherly resources in several large and messy piles on my floor, in hopes that it would encourage me to actually read and use them. So far? Outlook not so good.
I've made some notes. I've thought about which things must be covered before the dreaded exam in January. I've written a welcome-back newsletter, which includes a supply list and a classroom conduct contract, as well as my email address and homework website. I've contacted agencies for the big field trip this spring. I've talked through discipline and vocabulary strategies with my ex-teacher boyfriend and educator parents. I've been shopping, as I've mentioned. Most of my spoils are still in the car, figuring that I don't actually need it sitting in my apartment, making a bigger unused mess on the floor.
But the rigorous thirty-day planning that I did last summer, the fretting, the daily dreaming and nightmaring, I haven't done this year.
That's gonna have to change, as reality of time is setting in, no matter how much I ignore it.
I'll be at school either tomorrow or Saturday. In addition to my regular classroom duties this year, I'm going to be in charge of the book room. I actually volunteered for this, because I value having resources, and the state of the book room, well, it is pitiful and disgraceful at best. So I want to help myself and my colleagues by cleaning, organizing, sorting, identifying, and then eventually sharing the wealth of the secret book room.
As of today, it is one week until everyone is officially back in school.
Which brings me to this:
From Ms M:
This year I feel like I am starting all over. Not only am I going to a new school so I don't know entirely what to expect, but I plan on doing things a lot differently than last year. ...There is still so much to think about and plan though. And, I've never done writer's workshop so I am kind of worried about that.
Next week I hope to sketch out some ideas for routines, organization and planning. The week of the 28th I plan to be in my classroom getting set up the whole week. Then the next week school starts.
I am excited for Ms M, to get a new year started, a year that should be much better and more fulfilling. I think she'll do a great job, and it'll be a good adventure, and I can't wait to hear about it.
Unfortunately, instead of seeing similar excitement or luck wishing in the comments for this post, I saw bloggers that completely ignored the post itself and shamelessly politicked, jumping back on the boo-contract wagon that, hello!, should be OVER. Yes, parts of the new contract suck, I agree. But that fight is way over and done with. The contract was ratified and put into action, and now we have to deal with it.
So just deal with it already. I'm tired of the constant whining and the vindictive compaining. Many things suck about this job, yes, and sure, venting is necessary. But there's a time and place for that, and eventually you've gotta suck it up and deal.
The issue about going into school on one's own time is NOT political. It is personal. Simple as that.
No one, especially a still-new teacher like Ms M, gives a shit about her administration in August. She, and we all, are worried about ourselves and the upcoming year.
Teachers are not required to be in the classrooms in the summer. True. And believe me, I don't want to change that.
However! Teachers do not escape the classroom just because they're not inhabiting it at the moment. Teachers get to relax and do something else (whether it's a vacation, a second job, or what have you, is up to the individual's situation), but that doesn't mean that the brain doesn't jump back to school at least occasionally.
I know that I've been having first-day-nightmares on and off for nearly a month. Every time I go shopping I end up looking at things, and thinking about things, for school. I started planning units back in June. I attended a week-long workshop on literacy in July. I have bought several piles of books and supplies for school during August.
Is this required? Of course not. Do I still do it? Absolutely.
Do I do this for the administration? For the mayor or the chancellor, to prove what a dedicated educator I am? Don't be ridiculous.
I do it for my own peace of mind, because I'm interested in education for its own sake, and for the children. Would the kids like this novel? Would I be able to help the kids learn vocabulary with this book? If the answer is yes, then I'll do it, within reason of course.
Do the kids need to see a pretty room the first day of school? Not really. Would it be nice for them to see a warm, print-rich room? Sure. So yeah, I'll do that too.
But more importantly than putting up colorful posters, I've got multiple shelves of classroom books, binders full of lessons and handouts and other resources, piles of previous good student work, odd/incomplete sets of decorations, stacks of teacher books, and bins and bags full of everyday supplies like overhead pens and paperclips.
Do the kids care about that? Decidedly not. Do I? Do I ever. I want to get that stuff unpacked and ready so that I concentrate on other, more important things.
Teachers have a billion things to do at the start of the school year. And meeting students and then teaching them is the last thing on that list. We all know that.
We have to do things like set up seating charts, prepare welcome letters, get copies made, decide on benchmark assessments, figure out our curriculum and the resources we'll use, balance the actual curriculum with the other pieces we want to get in (like spelling and vocabulary), fill out paperwork about each and every student if you're at my school, organize the classroom library, put up charts for reading, decide on a management plan and put up whatever materials that will require, organize the teacher desk and all the assorted materials in there, figure out the set up of the room, draw up conference forms, think about how in the world conferences will fit in with all the other parts of the curriculum we're supposed to have, start planning field trips and other extension activities, begin prepping gradebooks and grading programs, planning for bulletin boards, think about possible Do Now activities...
And then the students walk in the room. Suddenly we have to do or use all those other things, but now worry about memorizing names, separating problem students, effectively applying your discipline/management system, the timing of your lessons to the bell schedule, assigning and grading homework, grading classwork, contacting parents, updating homework web sites, getting to know the students as people, mediating conflict, easing student nerves, finding bandaids for recess scrapes, continuing to plan and modify lessons and curricula...
Who in the world would be crazy enough to not get that first list done with, or at least majorly started, before the second list began? Why would anyone start working before everything was all ready and neat?
Yes, teachers work hard. WE KNOW THAT. Yes, teachers don't get paid enough for their important work. WE KNOW THAT TOO. Yes, New York teachers don't "have" to be in the classroom until August 31. WE GET IT! Yes, that's earlier than ever before. Yes, that sucks. But it's time to move on!
Because what kind of teacher would we be if we didn't prepare ourselves, at home and at school? What kind of teacher doesn't prepare at all? What kind of teacher puts their irritation about the system above their actual job? What teacher ends up caring more about an abstract statement than their peace of mind and, oh, I don't know, actual students?
Come on, now.