Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Week of School (5 Weeks Late)

Well, my first impressions of my classes were all good. I wish I had actually made a detailed account of my first week of school so I could remember my exact thoughts, but here’s what I can recall.

My mom came with me on day one and took care of some of my dirty business—making folders for those who were absent, alphabetizing work, etc. I’m so glad she was there because I’m not sure I would have functioned the next day without her. She got the ball rolling so that I could have a productive rhythm by the second day when she wasn’t there. She gave me a feel for what I needed to get done.

I’m trying out all new and/or revamped procedures this year, and so far they seem to be working wonders for the students’ grades and for my stress level. I’m structuring everything very highly--babying them, if you will. I never realized how little you can trust junior high kids to keep something with them and to bring their stuff to class until last year.

This year, they’ve all been provided with a two pocket folder and some stapled paper for their journals. This took lots of preparation on my part, of course. We also wrote the first few journals together so that they would know what I expect. They need to write complete sentences and be reasonably conversational. They also need to answer all the questions. It also helped (90% of them, those who were listening) them to learn how to format the journals (date first, don’t copy the questions, don’t skip lines, don’t skip space, write on the back of the page, etc.).

My journal scores as a whole were at an all time high when I did my first collection! I’m pretty excited about this. This is because they get their folder when they come into class, they write their journal response, put the paper away, and pass their folder back at the end of class. They never have the excuse anymore, “Oh I lost my journal.” “I left it in my locker.” “I don’t have a journal.” “I don’t have any paper.” Five weeks in, I still haven’t heard any of those excuses, and it is glorious. Let me tell you. Glorious.

I’m getting off topic, sorry. Let’s just say the changes I’ve made are working for me and for the students. I think the most Fs I have in a class is five or six, which is actually really good for me, and expected since there’s so little anchoring their grades. One absence makes a big difference.

We covered the disclosure and procedures in the first two days. We spent lots of time on procedures for the first two weeks of class because I realized I hadn’t spent enough time the past couple of years. It made me super stressed throughout the year that I hadn’t done that. Yes, it’s annoying for them and for me, but by golly, they’ll know my rules like the back of their hand when we’re done. Plus, seventh graders are just getting used to the policies and procedures of EIGHT teachers instead of just one. I had to take the time with them. They even had a quiz on my policies and procedures. They seem to be very on top of it, but I know that’s due to how much time we’ve spent and how much repetition we’ve had on everything (using the absent packet, using the website, borrowing a pencil, using a hall pass, the late work policy, turning work in, etc.)

On A day I have all seventh graders—2A, 3A, and 4A. My B day kids are a different story. I have eighth graders during 1B and 4B. My 3B is seventh grade too.

I didn’t have any behavior issues in the first couple of days. I could tell I might have some difficult students though. Even the “difficult” ones this year are nothing compared to last year, at least so far. The biggest issues are in my English 8 classes, but really, even the chatty kids are good-natured kids. They’re not disrespectful. They don’t have attitudes like my last year’s ninth graders. They’re on the path to perversion, but not quite as bad or crass or dirty-minded as last year’s.

Honestly, I don’t have any kids yet who I don’t like. Even the ones who take me getting in their face and repeating everything a fifth time for them are impossible for me to dislike. That’s not saying I don’t get totally frustrated with them, but I might rather have the challenges associated with younger kids than with the older ones.

I keep getting off topic. Ugh. So! After the first days of policies and procedures—they had time to create a 3x5 card. These were much more successful this year than last year, as I realized how much structure they needed rather than freedom to be creative, since so many will just do minimum, unsightly work. So when they finished those cards, we introduced ourselves. I still don’t have all the names. This is the worst I’ve done out of these first years I’ve taught. Normally, I’m much faster at picking up the names, but this year I just can’t do it for some reason.

My biggest class is either 35 or 36. I’d check, but I have no internet right now. My smallest, I believe, is 32. So it’s not too bad this year.

2A – My smartest seventh grade class
3A – Some pretty rowdy/obnoxious kids in there, but none who are a real issue
4A – Pretty good class for the most part
1B – Depends on the day, but for the most part they are the better behaved of my two eighth grade classes. They’re not too bright as a whole, to be honest.
3B – This class is really good at having discussions; I like it.
4B – A pretty rowdy bunch. Also not too bright as a whole. Even the rowdy kids are really likeable, though.

That was my pretty uneventful first week. Disclosure, policies/procedures, introductions. Getting the folders made and everything was pretty smooth, and so far things are really good.

I have no internet until Friday when Comcast comes to install theirs. I canceled my Qwest internet for today because I don’t want to pay even a partial bill to them. I figured I could hack it since I will be at work until 7:30 on Tuesday and Wednesday night anyway. But really, I feel so disconnected. I thought of a few emails I needed to send and other stuff I had to do online and then realized I couldn’t do it at all! I could on my phone, but that sucks really bad.

I think what I’ll do with my remaining internet-less hours at home this week will be to read, watch the Discovery channel, and do some writing—blogging or otherwise. Maybe I’ll even get to sleep earlier. Yeah, probably not.

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