Monday, May 28, 2007

And so it begins. . .

Another school year, another summer vacation. I remember hearing my parents joke around with their fellow educator peers about the 3 favorite parts of teaching: June, July, and August. Not until the end of my 3rd year in education did I finally understand their sentiments.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t better or more rewarding components to the teaching profession, it’s just that those 3 months we have off are not entirely meant for the students to shut off their brains from learning. Those 3 months are VITAL to the survival of teachers. Without a break, I doubt I would stay in this profession much longer.

Granted, this year wasn’t exactly easy. I can honestly say that I have never worked harder in my entire life, but I also feel that I have never felt a greater contribution or a have influenced a greater amount than this year. July of last year, I transferred schools. I was at a very accomplished middle school here in Sarasota County and felt that if I stayed, I wouldn’t be challenged (the school is 98% Caucasian) and I wouldn’t therefore be able to move up and accomplish much else. When I sit back and digest my 2 year stint there, I realized that there just wouldn’t have been much room for advancement. So I applied for a multi-grade position, 7th and 8th grade science, at a more diverse campus. After being notified that I was offered the position, I now had the new task of packing up my science classroom. You want to know what the weird thing is? I had a feeling I would not be back in my old classroom after school let out for the 2005-2006 school year, so I had taken down most of my things.

Oh yeah, did I mention I also got married last summer? That is in itself a major change, especially since I am an independent brat.

Before I was able to move into my new classroom, I hit a snag – the science room was not ready. I had packed up all of my things, loaded up my Trailblazer and drove across town to find that my room was for Arts & Crafts time for the YMCA summer camp. YEAH, my room was a freakin’ disaster. Luckily, my friend, the guidance counselor, allowed me to dump all of my crap into her office. Thank heavens she had a large office.

So the night before Parent Night or Welcome Back to School Night (or whatever the heck it is called, doesn't really matter), my floors were waxed and dried and finally ready for me to move in. I was at school until 10PM then back in the morning to finish at 8AM. We also had the last interview for the math position on our team. Yeah, the d-bag who was supposed to return as our math instructor decided to take a leave of absence 2 days before school started. Thanks a lot, d-bag.

Oh yeah, did I mention I had high school volleyball tryouts that week? We found out last minute that the tryouts had to be moved because they were resealing the gym floor. Then, we had to change the tryout time to the afternoon because the Boys and Girls Club had double booked the gymnasium.

Ok, so the whole transition between one school to the next wasn’t exactly smooth, but I was finally on a team that worked together to create integrative units of study! My team was awesome – we had a very experienced LA teacher who was ready to disseminate all of her collaborative knowledge, a young and hilarious Social Studies teacher who quickly became my best bud and a rocket scientist (literally) for a math teacher. We had the recipe for success.

When I look back on the all great things we accomplished with the students, I shake my head in amazement. Creating collaborative and integrated units takes a lot of work on each team member’s part. A LOT. I cannot even describe the amount of hours it took for us to plan out schedules to complete certain aspects of each unit. The good thing was, the framework was already done for us by the previous teams, we just had to tweak it and make it work for us.

We tie-dyed t-shirts for chemistry and studied Edgar Allen Poe. The students researched the gold rush, careers in science and created websites on our solar system. We transformed our classrooms into 4 major habitats found here in Florida and lead groups of 4th graders through our habitat museums. We read To Kill a Mockingbird, a Short History of Nearly Everything and My Brother Sam. Our students even reenacted the Ellis Island experience for our immigration unit, complete with checkpoint stations and costumes.

And just for the record, we didn’t have any gifted students, for those of you who wonder if we were able to achieve so much because of the caliber of kids we were given. All kids can be successful, it just depends on the environment you provide for them to learn.

Like I mentioned before, I have never worked so hard in my life but I have never felt better about what we were able to accomplish with our students. This is the first summer that I have truly needed so that I can recharge my batteries, collaborate with my peers (that’s right, plan for next year!), write grants for my classroom and just relax. It is so nice not to have a schedule to follow or papers to grade or lessons to plan. I can talk with my fellow educator friends about new ideas and gossip on who our principal will be for next year.

Well, I suppose I will have to take the “no schedule” comment back because our team has to move into new classrooms and we can’t move in until the walls are painted, the floors waxed and the prior inhabitants move out too. At least the YMCA won’t be in my room this summer. I am also taking classes for my gifted certification, am beginning my +45 courses, am being trained on the ACTIVBoard so that we can train the others at our school and am going to be presenting to the county principals on how to effectively use the ACTIVBoard in the classroom. I guess I am going to have to retract that relaxing statement too.

Ok, so maybe my summer won’t be as relaxing as it seems, but I swear to you, it is so nice to be able to do the things I am unable to do during the school year. Dentist appointments, pedicures and taking my dog to the Venice dog beach are just a few of the things I am able to do on my own time, without too many restrictions.

This is going to be a good summer.

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