Saturday, September 15, 2012

Three Weeks in Surburbia

Hi, all!

I just wanted to post about how things are going and focus on what I've been teaching this school year.

Though I'm still not sure if teaching is for me, I have noticed that I have a lot more energy than I ever did in my two years working in PG. I do end the day feeling a little tired, but not like how I felt there. I would get home and just want to collapse on my bed, not wanting to do any more work - even though there was always a lot to do. While I never will think teachers get paid enough for what they/we do (I still am not sure I consider myself a "real" teacher), this year, I feel like what I do, I get paid for. (Whereas in PG, to be fair you'd need to pay a person 150% as much for the loveliness that they have to deal with.)

This year has felt very cleansing for me. Teaching in PG feels like a different life and I feel like I'm starting all over again. First of all, this is the first year that I have been allowed to teach inside the school! For my two years in PG, I taught in temporaries (portables) outside of the school and I didn't really feel like I was a part of the school community. I never knew what it was like to see kids transition between classes and I didn't make friends with the other teachers at my school (aside from the other fellows who I began this crazy journey with). In some ways, the latter is my fault, because I knew I wasn't going to stay in the area and generally speaking, I found it difficult to become friends with/respect teachers who taught in a county that was terrible, but didn't leave because they were comfortable with the terrible and didn't feel the drive to fix it.

Anyway, back to the now. My co-workers are good people. People at my new school pull their own weight. It's fabulous. I feel safe in communicating with them, we often work together and collaborate, and I feel like they support me (and vice versa) and try to make my job as easy as they can. In the bio department, we all work well together. We're probably not to be the best of friends, but I do feel quite lucky. I have a classroom in the school building and I enjoy watching the students transition from class to class. I am the only one who, in my hallway, cheers the kids on to move faster to class (it's the PG in me) and the kids definitely find that odd, but I like to think that it supplements my quirkiness as a teacher.

My current classroom theme is Harry Potter (year 3!) and while some of my students think that I'm obsessed with HP at an unhealthy level, I know that some enjoy it and think that it makes the class more fun. I began in middle school, so sometimes I do have a middle school flair to how I teach (stickers on "A" grade papers and exclamation points on worksheet directions), but I don't think that it's detrimental to my students. (If I ever came to feel that way, I would edit the way I run my class.) The biggest difference is that I feel like I spend the majority of my time doing teacher things. I no longer have to deal with the same ridiculousness that I used to. I focus on my teaching and my students, which is obviously the way it's supposed to be. I am still working on finding the balance between how I taught in PG and how I teach here. I don't want to forget that what I learned in PG is valuable and I don't want to let my kids now slide because they behave so much better than the kids I previously taught. They may be better, but they are certainly not where they should be.

Well, now, this post has been more focused on what I've been feeling about my new position, so I'll save another one to talk about my biology lessons :) Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

3 Ways to Integrate Character Education into your Classroom

It's no secret that I'm a fan of KIPP schools. I think that their approach to education is on the right track and I would love to practice a lot of the same things they do in my own classroom, but it can be boggling as to where I should start from. One of my favorite aspects of the KIPP classroom is character education. This year, I decided that I really wanted to try to begin integrating it into my daily teaching. Fast forward three weeks to the now and I have barely even acknowledged that it's on my radar. It's probably best to start small so I don't overwhelm myself and then give up, so below are the three (I originally said five, but then got frazzled!*) things that I would like to try doing in the next couple of weeks:

1. Having a class (45 minutes) focused on a character strength in between units.
2. Having a character-based open-ended question on our weekly quizzes.
3. Linking a character strength to our daily class objective.

* The thing about character education is, I think that it is super important. However, I feel that you have to have a sort of "cheese" factor to successfully integrate it into your classes. I'm kind of cheesy... but not enough yet. Basically, I can talk the talk, but I'm having trouble walking the walk. In my mind I believe that purposefully dialoging on the importance of character is a necessary addition to classrooms today, but I'm not sure if I am able to be the loud cheerleader that character education requires.