Why I Love This School Year

So, you know how my last post was all super-positive and about how great things were going to be?  Well, that day actually kicked off about 2 weeks of being sick.  I went from a sore throat to chest congestion and coughing to nasal congestion and coughing to more chest congestion to a day or so of what appeared to be a sinus infection to four days of mostly feeling ok, except when I would exert myself in away and start coughing.  I haven’t been able to do any cardio the entire time and the coughing actually got so bad that I was taking the elevator up to my 3rd floor classroom because climbing the stairs just led to coughing fits.

Even with all that mess, the past two weeks in the classroom have been a lot of fun.  The difference between last year and this year is pretty astounding, and it just shows how much students can accomplish when they are held to high standards.

Last year, most of my students started at the school before it was the very structured, high-expectations type of school it is now.  They went through the transition in leadership and the huge amount of change-over in staff and they weren’t really bought in to the culture and systems we have in place.  That, plus me being new and not fully understanding how to best utilize the systems and leverage the culture, made for a very difficult year.

My current students, however, have never known anything different at our school.  Where the older students complain that the homework system and the amount of rules is the school treating them like children, my current students seem to embrace pretty much every aspect.  They love snapping it up for their classmates.  They love doing claps and stops to celebrate things.  When I ask questions, their hands shoot up into the air, sometimes before I’ve even asked the question.

And it’s not just the behavior; these students are the more prepared academically than any class I have ever taught before.  I almost don’t know what to do with them.  We barely take any notes, because they seem to remember everything they learned last year.  In 9th grade, I started off the year with a unit that is essentially what I ended my 9th grade class with last year.  We used a bunch of short stories to review the concepts we had covered, but I decided to start with the short stories this year.  And you know what?  I’m asking essentially the same questions I was asking at the end of last year, and probably getting higher quality answers.

There’s still plenty for me to teach them.  Their writing needs a lot of work and they need a lot more practice dealing with difficult text, especially anything that was written more than 50 years ago.  But because I work so closely with their previous English teacher (she basically taught me everything I know about teaching), this has been an incredibly smooth transition.  And since I’m not spending so much time getting frustrated with misbehavior, we have plenty of time to do the work we need to do.

It’s kind of amazing.  I’m fully invested in the culture, and so is pretty much every other adult in the building.  We all truly believe that our students can do great things and that our systems and culture are instrumental in helping them do those things.  I didn’t use those systems well last year; I wasn’t sure how to or if they really worked.  This year I have proof that they do, and that they lead to student achievement in ways that drill-and-kill test prep never can.

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1 Comment

  1. Joel Altsman

     /  September 10, 2012

    Told you this year would be better! Keep up the great work. Those students are blessed to have you for a teacher.

    Reply

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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