Saturday, September 25

September Slow Down

The first two weeks of school have ended.  It has been a smooth start due to looping.  My class and I from last year moved from third to fourth grade together, so the transition has been easy.  They know me.  I know them.  We quickly got to work.  So, what is leaving me unsettled?

I’ve been reflecting on why I feel somewhat out of sorts.  I’ve decreased my responsibilities this year (I’m no longer doing side jobs like school photographer, maintaining the school website, etc.) in order to focus more on my teaching.  My work load is lighter.  Granted, training a new teacher has been time consuming, but I’ve loved every second of sharing.  Still, there has been this little bit of uneasiness…

I’ve been wondering if the students feel out of sorts as well.  September is a time of change.  There are new schedules, new routines and new expectations. How is everyone handling this very busy time?  Are families adjusting to the changes that this month brings to their lives?  Are many still yearning for summer?

I had one of my best summers ever!  Along with personal adventures, I learned and learned and learned.  I came back to school filled with an arsenal of new ideas and techniques to try out on my class.  Yet, I still miss my lazy mornings sitting on the deck and easing into each day.  Do my students miss summer, too?  Of course, we all love each other and couldn’t wait to come back as a group, but how are they handling the transition?

In my enthusiasm to jump back in and not waste a moment of learning, have I taken the time to look and listen?  Have I gauged their shift from summer to fall mindset?  If I’m feeling nostalgic for summer, are they feeling it too?  Most importantly, am I overwhelming them with too much, too soon?

I want to give my students time to adjust as well as foster a learning momentum.  If I slow down a bit, maybe the pay off in the long term will be even more learning.  My goal for Monday morning (along with the first math test) is to take a few moments to really look  at and listen to my students. 

I’m going to ask them, “How are you doing?”

Then, I'm going to take time to really listen to them!

Saturday, September 4

To Teach a New Teacher

I am helping a new teacher get ready for the school year.  She is bright, enthusiastic and completely overwhelmed.  Initially, I was letting her ask me questions and I provided answers.  Suddenly, it struck me that we were not approaching the situation correctly.  I was letting her guide me and determine what she needed.  This was backwards.

While I agree that sometimes students (and new teachers) need autonomy in learning, they also need someone in charge.  When I met with the new teacher again, I told her we were going to try a new approach – my approach.

I am a linear thinker.  I like to do things in order.  The new teacher was concerned about record keeping and report cards, which were months away.  I explained that we needed to prioritize.

Our immediate goal had to be her classroom.  (She thought she was just about finished.)  I walked her through my room.  Then, I walked her through two other classrooms.  I showed her how each room had the teacher’s personality and was “kid friendly.”  I explained that each room was set up to provide the teacher with what she needed regardless of where she was giving instruction in the room.  We discussed the importance of traffic flow.  Finally, we discussed how to use bulletin boards as interactive teaching tools.

Next, we moved onto the first big event.  At our school, the students come for “Hello Day,” which is one hour to drop off supplies, meet the teacher, and do a quick project.  The new teacher had no idea what this one hour entails – it can be very chaotic if you don’t have a plan.  Parents watch you to see how you manage it all.  We discussed at length all she needed to do to prepare, so the event would flow seamlessly and successfully.

Then, our next goal was preparing for back to school night.  At our school it is held the evening of the second day of school.  She needed a parent packet that stated her philosophy, goals, procedures and routines.  I gave her copies of mine to look over and use as a guide.  Next I will have her practice with me to help her feel more comfortable.

I gave her goals for this weekend.  Just as I do with my students, I needed her to have a more manageable, sequential way to approach the work that needed to be accomplished.  She wasn’t seeing the big picture, so I as her “teacher” needed her to see clearly the learning goals. 

The final part of the puzzle was that she had met with two other teachers a few times who were supposed to help her.  One was NOT familiar with many of our school’s routines and only works part time.  The other was a teacher who was retiring and was not using our school’s entire curriculum.  While both of these teachers tried to be helpful, they basically did not provide the detailed and concrete help the new teacher needed.  There were too many cooks stirring the pot.  When the new teacher came to me, she knew my agenda would be to help her shine.  I would be right next door and be her biggest cheerleader.

People in my life who are not in the field of education don’t understand the amount of time and energy I spend helping someone without being compensated for it.  They cannot grasp that, to me, if one teacher fails, we all fail.  My willingness to help the new teacher is because I love my profession as much today as I did 29 years ago.  Mentoring/coaching/helping a new teacher is a way to pay it forward to all of the teachers that helped me along the way.  All I need as payment is someone to say thank you and pass it on.

Most importantly, I do it for the students that will sit in her classroom.  

Wednesday, September 1


I have one of those cute little teacher calendars on my desk at home.  (OK… I have a bazillion little calendars collected from students over the years – love teacher mugs and calendars!)  When I sat down at my desk, here is what greeted me as today’s quote…

Originality is not doing something no one else has ever done, but doing what has been done countless times with new life, new breath.  Marie Chapman

Today I return to my classroom.  (We are a private school and we start later than the surrounding schools.)  This week is for setting up and getting ready to teach.  It is also the time for catching up with colleagues that I haven’t seen all summer.

I love this week.  It is filled with conversation and anticipation.  I can’t wait to see my kids, too.  I’m looping, so I have the same class.  We’re all moving to fourth grade.  I’ve spent the summer preparing to teach fourth grade. 

Now, because I’ve been teaching FOREVER and I’ve taught every grade, you would think this is a no-brainer!  All I would have to do is go into my storage room and pull out the box labeled fourth grade, right?  Oh no!  Not me!  I have to reinvent the wheel.  I have to be original! 

First, I went through the fourth grade box of materials that I’ve collected over the years.  Then, I looked at the curriculum materials/teacher’s guides required by the school.  (OK… I didn’t really look; I just moved them around a bit.)  Then, I got to work. 

What could I do differently this year? 
What could I do that would inspire and enrich their learning? 
What could I do that would so captivate them that they would rate this year as the best ever?

My goal: breathe new life into my teaching.  I love that every September is a fresh start!  This cyclical nature or our profession is precious to me.  I could never work in an office where the calendar starts in January!  September is the beginning of the year for me and it is a time of energy, ideas and new life. 

I’ve planned an outline of the entire year.  The key word is outline.  Some of my ideas might not work, some may.  Who knows!  I love the unexpected and discovering new ways as I go along.  I have so many new things that I want to try this year.  I have quite a few surprises up my proverbial sleeve…. 

Happy September everyone!  
I hope your school year is filled with originality!