Three weeks

The school year is just three weeks old, and we’re pretty settled in, I guess.  I learned almost everyone’s name pretty fast this year; the seniors I mostly knew because I taught their class, if not all of the same students, when they were freshmen, and the juniors have been around for long enough that I knew many of them casually, or knew the name and just had to attach it to a face, or knew the face and just had to attach it to the name.  I do have a few name glitches that I hope will smooth themselves out: I have an Alex M. in one junior class and an Alec M. in the other.  And they look a little alike.  I also have a handful of younger siblings, and have slipped a few times calling them by the older sibling’s name.  But nothing too serious, I hope.

Meansomething Index:

Number of students: 61

Courses this year: 4

Number of AP practice essays graded so far: 26

Lunchtimes so far this year: 13

Lunches eaten with colleagues at lunchtime: 4

Lunches eaten at meetings: 3

Lunches eaten alone outside normal lunch hours: 6

 

Quizzes and small bits to grade for Monday: 54

 

College essay season

Lots of spare moments this week have been filled with helping seniors with their college essays.  It’s fun to watch the essays evolving (usually) toward better, more engaging, more specific reflections of the people they are and the stuff they care about.  There’s a lot to say for having to construct a meaningful story about yourself as you get ready to move on to the next stage.

And on Tuesday I heard about the first college acceptance.  That student was admitted early to his first-choice school, so the process is over for him.  It’s a longer road for others, although by early December many kids will have received at least one acceptance.  I guess I’d better get moving on those letters of recommendation.  I have only received four or five requests because I taught so few juniors last year.  That makes a nice change!

Quiet loud

With all this technology that IT has been handing out to people, and the various moves, and the new folks, our department was a little behind on security for the technology.  So the week before school began, I polled the department to find out who needed laptop locks installed at their desks, and wrote an email to the very nice, highly competent woman, Iris, who handles the workflow of the security staff, laying it all out for her and for the security staffer who typically does the installations.  (It sounded like no one in IT had mentioned all the new hardware to security; I get the sense that security would want to know about all that, but feel I’ve done my part in tipping them off.)

Anyway, the woman I wrote to responded that she was creating work orders and would try to get the locks installed soon.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I haven’t been alarmed–the first weeks of school are a busy time for everyone, and the safety of people is more important than the security of equipment–especially when a lot of those people are new, young, and a bit lost.

My mistake, I guess, was not cc’ing on our email correspondence all the people whom I’d polled about their needs, because today, after two weeks of nothing happening yet, Romola wrote (and cc’d me on) a rather terse email to the overall head of security–the guy who oversees the safety of the entire campus and the over 1,000 people in it–saying that “she and Lucinda” had asked for laptop locks, this had not yet been done, and when might they expect them?

I was mortified on the behalf of the department, and on my own behalf, even though I know Romola is an adult and responsible for her own relationships with all of these people.  I thought about not doing anything, but I was afraid that the two staffers would feel caught out in front of their boss–even though I thought it was much more likely that all three of them would roll their eyes at her imperiousness.  (I also did consider the possibility that Romola was trying to take initiative and handle something without getting me involved.)  So I wrote a quick follow-up saying that I should have cc’d her and Lucinda on my original email to Iris, that Iris had generated seven work orders for locks for our department alone and probably a lot more for the rest of the campus, and that if we were contributing to the problem by constantly moving the laptops around (between rooms and also taking them home, of course), they should please let us know.  And thank you.

So now Romola probably thinks I am an interfering micromanager, and if she’s not feeling that, she’s probably feeling rebuked.  Or both!  However, she did send a warmer note thanking Iris for all her help and promising to “wait patiently.”  Still, I’m ruminating about the incident.  Is she a little blind or am I a little too touchy?  Or both?

Happy days

I am not doing one of those #100happydays things, but I tell you, if I were, today’s might have been “Went to the frosh-soph volleyball game and all the varsity girls came and sat with me to watch.”  I felt like a mother hen with her chicks.  (Very tall, athletic chicks.)  I couldn’t stay for their game–it was delayed because the opposing team’s bus was late, and the junior varsity squad had to play first, and I had to go meet the Snork Maiden.  But I’ll catch one soon.

 

Walkabout

I have just one free prep period in my own room this year.  I teach four classes in it, Orsino teaches two, and Lucinda–despite the fact that she’s only teaching two classes–teaches one.  (She is now sharing a room with my former roommate, Romola.  This is a win for Romola, because although she doesn’t get her very own room, she has about as much peace and quiet in her room as anyone in our department has–including two prep periods on her own.)  Penelope and I decided to prioritize Romola’s teaching in the room over Lucinda’s, in part because ninth graders need the structure and consistency just a little bit more than tenth graders do, and because Lucinda got lots of consideration in the scheduling of her two classes so that there would be days when she didn’t have any classes at all and would not have to come in to campus.  So there are days when Romola has the room entirely to herself, although both Lucinda and newbie Olivia teach in there too.)

Anyway, back to me–this is not very much time in my own room, and I’m learning I need to be pretty organized about what I carry with me when I walk out.  At a minimum, I take the ThinkPad and a pink folder into which I am putting, essentially, the stack that normally lives on one corner of my desk.  It contains things I need to look at, respond to, and file–I can’t file when I’m not in my room, but I can do the other stuff.  And actually I could scan many of those things and file them electronically.  Hm.  I also have separate grading folders for each of my classes, and I’m making an effort to plan when I grade, not least because I can’t rely on “when the spirit moves me” if I don’t have the right things.

I might, actually, designate a cloth bag–maybe one of the many AWP bags I have lying around–for things to go with me when I leave my desk.  That would be a helpful item.

Here we go, Week Two.

Labor Day

I like the three-day weekend part; the part I’m less fond of is the four-day week that follows.  It always feels a bit crammed.  There are only four days’ worth of classes, true, but it seems as though there are still five days’ worth of conversations, decisions, meetings, etc.

I need to pop in and visit all three of my new teachers’ classes, for example.  And I need to try to do it at times when we will be able to speak for a few minutes afterwards.  Which means that one or two of them will almost certainly be at the end of the day, which isn’t most people’s best time–but then, I am not trying to see them at their best time, necessarily.  One reason for doing this, frankly, is to give them the impression that I am taking their evaluation seriously.  My demeanor tends to express “You’re great, everything is awesome,” so I probably need something as a corrective to that.  I would rather reassure them than worry them, but I also don’t want to come across as if my main concern at this moment is reassurance.  My main concern right now is see how they are teaching in this environment, and where necessary, to help them adjust their practices so that they will have the most success possible in the first year. So they need to see that I am looking to see how they are doing right now.

 

Showing up

The Saturday of the first week of classes was kind of an extension of the workweek, in that I had a breakfast meeting for a special committee and then spent 2.5 hours on campus, prepping for next week, answering emails, and working on some of the things that I couldn’t get done amid the unpredictable demands of the first week.  But now it’s Saturday evening and there are still two days left of Labor Day weekend.

I hope to blog more, but for now, I’ll leave you with this nice Edutopia article on the value of connective instruction for promoting student engagement.

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