When I was in high school, I remember looking forward to the ends of breaks – new semesters always had a little bit of the newness of the first day of school, with a few new classes and the excitement of getting a fresh start. Plus, I was bored when vacation got too long – I was so ready to get back to the business of learning.
I must have been crazy; now, when I am paid to go to school, I am not remotely excited. In fact, the emotions are more along the line of weariness and trepidation. Can I really make it five more months and not destroy any hope of my students’ educational futures?
Today is a faculty work day; classes start back up tomorrow. On my way in this morning I saw one of my students walking back from the high school with a backpack on; apparently he didn’t get the message. Bummer. My day started poorly too, with leaving my ID badge and keys at home and needing my principal unlock my classroom for me. That’s a bit embarrassing.
Christmas break was a time to relax, recover, and reflect on what has and hasn’t been working so far. Here’s a short list of what will be changing:
- My bathroom policy. Previously, as long as no one was talking to the class as a whole, students could get up and take the pass whenever they needed to. This avoided students interrupting class with a raised hand, or students missing anything important while they were gone. This policy has, unfortunately and predictably, been abused. Some students leave my class several times a week, and because I don’t always track who goes when, students can disappear for ten minutes or more. I will remedy this by having a sign out sheet by the pass with a time in and out; they can still get up and go without asking, but at least now I can track who goes every day or for too long. I will have to buy a little digital clock to hang by the sign out sheet, as many of my students can’t read analog clocks. (Seriously.)
- Planning the day’s lesson at 6:30 AM the same day. I had outlined lessons for the first half of the semester, so while I still did a lot of same-day prep work, I at least knew what each day was going to look like. This also enabled me to do cooler lessons, as I could do a little more planning for them. Since Thanksgiving I’ve been in survival mode, totally making it up as I go. Will we discuss current events and call it analytical thinking? Will we watch Super Bowl ads and call it part of a persuasive unit? While this mostly worked (at least, I don’t think my classes could tell), it didn’t work for me. A new year’s resolution will be to NOT do all my planning the same day. At least, not the majority of the time. I promised my students that I would post lesson plans on my website by 10 PM every Sunday night for the upcoming week. While I know no student ever CHECKS this, I will try to keep to that promise.
- Missing/Late/Grading work. I was very bad about grading things in a timely manner this past semester, and I was really really bad about returning work to students. I recognize that many just glance at the grade and throw the assignment away, but they can’t improve if they don’t see what they did wrong. I now have a designated folder on my desk where all graded work will go, so I don’t lose work in the piles that are my desk.
- Seating charts. Because I move my desks so frequently, it has been close to impossible for me to maintain a seating chart. While this is okay in my smaller, more well-behaved classes, it has caused absolute havoc in my three largest classes. I arranged my classroom so the desks face in towards a center aisle; I don’t anticipate using the board as much this next six weeks so it’s okay that they don’t face it. This should help with the desks breaking too; I think one reason my desks have broken so much is that students didn’t have someone directly behind them, so they could stretch and break the back panel off. Now they’re in mini-rows, so they can’t do that or they will have their hair in someone’s face.
Now if I could just get the final exams graded and entered, we’d be golden…