Tag Archives: new teacher

First week of school and my unexpected surprise…

Hello all! I’m excited to be back on here to update you on my adventures as a second year teacher. School in my district started this week, which to be honest seems way earlier than when I was in school. Summers don’t have quite the same connotation to teachers and students as they once did. With that said, I did have a great summer regardless. I finished up my master’s program (CADRE) in June. I went on a 2,800 mile road trip with my hubby and 3 sons… it was awesome! All-in-all, my summer was pretty full and rewarding.

Anyway, back to the topic of school. I met all of my new 8th graders and was able to easily determine on the first day those who will be quite the handful, lol. It’s always those attention seeking kiddos who are the most trying. By Friday, I had already assigned them one homework assignment, given them a survey, and had small group activities to work out our “Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible” classroom rules. They think I am a little tough, which means I’m doing my job 🙂

So, about that unexpected surprise… yesterday I didn’t quite feel right. I was kinda sad and felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I noticed that I’d look at a student and would mention that so-and-so looks like so-and-so from last year, or talks like that person, or acts like that person, or has the same name. By the end of the day I was worn out and depressed, but I didn’t know why… then it hit me. I was mourning the loss of my students from last year. They were gone and I wasn’t going to see them again unless they visited me. This revelation caused me to start crying like I lost a loved one. It was horrible and not something that I’ve ever heard another teacher talk about. In fact, I’m crying right now writing about it. What’s even worse is that I was practically shoving them out of the door on the last day last year… now I want them back. I think that what this shows me is that I truly care for my students and that we built some really strong relationships with each other. I hope that this will be the case for me this year as well, and maybe instead of pushing them out the door on the last day, I will savor those last minutes with a new sense of knowing that I may never see them again but that we made a difference in each other’s lives.

Well, I need to get back to working on my class syllabus and preparing for open house. I will post again soon.

— Stephanie

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It’s not the end… It’s just the beginning.

I apologize… I thought I had posted about my last days of school awhile ago, but I can’t find that post… darn iPad app, lol.

My last day of school, with students, was on Wednesday June 1st. My time teaching 8th grade has been very interesting and educational, not just for the kids but also for me. But now, I need to take the summer to reflect on the past year and plan for the future.

I was surprised by how emotional the kids were… although, I think some of the girls thrive on drama and really played that part well. 🙂 There were lots of hugs and tears, and some surprises… One in particular really caught me off guard. One of my students, who was new to the school this year, wrote me a letter telling me how much I made a difference in her life and how appreciative of me she was. It was really amazing actually. I have never received such a humbling and heartfelt gift!

Then, on June 3rd, I presented on NBPTS’ Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. My presentation focused on creating classroom rules based on Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible (this was discussed in an earlier post). The presentation was done in the presence of other teachers, administration, family, and friends. I feel like this was a great way to show off my final portfolio and to listen to what my fellow CADRE members learned over the course of the year.

I finished the CADRE program on June 30th. I have never been so relieved in my life. I loved having the opportunity and privilege to get my Master’s Degree through the UNO CADRE Program… it has been the best and hardest time of my educational career… so far. I hope to continue my education, but I think it’s time for a little break.

Have a great summer everyone! I will post again soon.

— Stephanie

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Closing out a wonderful year!

YAY! I made it! … well, almost. We don’t get out for a little over a week, but it’ll be a breeze. This year has been amazing, educational, insightful (both about myself and my profession), and really hard; however, I wouldn’t give up my first year teaching for anything. I believe I have been blessed to have such a wonderful group of kids this year. I have been fortunate to have a great cohort of teachers to help me through my Master’s program. I have definitely been lucky to have had the stamina and strength to handle all of the challenges and pressures that come along with teaching 13 and 14 year olds.

Today my fingers itched to start taking down my bulletin boards and posters, to pack my boxes of teacher paraphernalia, and to begin the process of planning for next year, but, I didn’t start. It will be hard for me to say good-bye to this bunch of kids, but it will hurt them to see me putting the year behind me before they are gone.

Tears will be shed, but they will be tears of joy and excitement. Hugs will be shared, but they will be hugs of congratulation. High-fives will fly and knuckle-pounds will explode, all because we made it… students and teachers alike. Good-byes will be said, and for some it may be for good… but for me and my fellow teachers, we will hope for a future glimpse of the student we taught, just for a second, when they were developing into their adulthood.

I am so proud of what I’ve done over this last year, and I’m proud of who I’ve become; but, most of all, I’m proud of the lives who have touched mine, just for a second, when I was developing into my profession. It has been the exuberance… and trust… and trials… that these kids — my kids — have spread over my first year of teaching that will forever resonate in my heart.

I wish, just as most teachers wish, that I will not be forgotten. I will never forget my first year as a teacher.

— Stephanie

P.S. I guess I get to add a new tagline to my blog in a few weeks 🙂 I will no longer be a first year teacher!

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Suicidal Tendencies…

It really hurts and confuses me when kids believe that suicide is the best answer to their problems. Since I teach at a middle school, suicide becomes an increasing problem in these young people’s lives. My 8th graders are going through a very tough time in their lives; they are going through the bodily and emotional changes that everyone goes through at this age. I remember clearly how difficult that was for me, especially since I moved from one state to another in the middle of my 7th grade year. But why does suicide sound like the answer?

When I was 16, I was going through a really tough time, and I remember telling my mom that I wished I had the courage to kill myself. She looked at me very seriously and said, “Suicide causes so much harm to the people who love you and it is the most selfish thing you could ever do.” When I think back to that moment, I remember the shame and fear that I felt, because I knew that I couldn’t go through with it, but I also knew I said it because 1. I wanted to hurt my mom, and 2. I was asking for help by shifting the attention, albeit negative, to me. I was hurting emotionally and I didn’t know why. I had next to zero self-esteem and I perceived the world as my enemy, one that didn’t like or love me. I was convinced that I was going to feel that way forever. After that, I always think about how selfish suicide is and how it is a permanent solution to the person who takes their own life, but it is a life long scar to those left behind.

Here is an article about teen suicide statistics and risk factors. There are also links about related issues and suicide prevention. This is a growing epidemic that is quickly becoming the #1 cause of teen deaths. Bullying, in its many forms, is on the rise, which I’m sure is causing teen suicides to also increase.

You may be asking yourself why I’m writing about this. Why now? Well… I know of a girl who has tried upwards of 3 times to take her own life. She is only 14. Her family is extremely supportive and has been actively seeking the appropriate help… however, it just hurts to know that if she keeps trying, she will eventually be successful.

I have no dilusions that I will experience the loss of a student while teaching… especially since I teach in an urban district, but I hope and pray that if that happens to one of my own students I can look back and know that I tried to do everything I could for all of my students. Maybe that is also dilusional…

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It’s Crunch Time! (now to do something about it)

It is a rare occasion when I completely break down emotionally and vomit my emotions all over everyone unlucky enough to be in range… but when it does happen, I am fortunate enough to have a loving family to set me back on track. *sigh*

Well… I had that moment last night. It was embarrassing and stupid, but I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. I have been beyond stressed these last months and rather than letting off steam during that time, I let it build up until I blew. Actually… it was probably a good thing that it happened when it did, because these types of emotional releases always get my rear in gear so I can get some work done, which probably would have gotten done sooner if I hadn’t been such a procrastinator and let it get me stressed out… I digress.

So this is what I’m doing right now:

In CADRE we implement the Five Core Propositions, as defined by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), in our classrooms. We then select three artifacts for each proposition and write a very in-depth analysis and reflection of each artifact and the proposition. These are due in, oh…. a couple of weeks. And I have 2.5 written… yeah, I know right? I’m a total procrastinator.

So, after my meltdown, which I’m sure would make any 2-year-old look like an angel, I wrote a 5 page outline for prop 2 and have the skeleton for my prop 4 outline finished. I even finished most of the research. Yay me!

Now… there was a cause to what set me off… but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I really need to learn how to break through those really tough walls that prevent me from moving on in my work… something like writer’s block, I guess. This is a recurring goal of mine… don’t procrastinate, no matter the reason.

So, what I’m trying to say is that if I really want anything in my life to change, I have to change it. It takes a dedicated and focused person to change an aspect of their personality that has been habit for so long. I’m going to try very hard to make this happen… I am focused! I will get to the end of this program, and I will be a great teacher. I just need to take the action.

Anyway, the end is in sight! … t-minus 23 days and counting until I graduate with my Master’s. Too late to mail those invites? Probably… but, I’ll do it regardless.

— Stephanie

P.S.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I think it’s good to learn from other people’s tough times. 🙂

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Conferences: the student-led kind

At my school, we hold student-led conferences, in which, the students invite their parents to view their portfolio and discuss their progress in school. I have never heard of student-led conferences before and imagined something a little different. What I want to do in this post is describe how our conferences were conducted and discuss how I think a few minor changes could improve their effectiveness.

First, our students are provided a binder with their name on the spine and dividers within. Each teacher is to provide direction on what should be included under their content area’s section. Now, I have no clue what the other members of my team had their students include or how they went about that process, but I asked each of my kids to include four pieces of poetry from their poetry portfolios that we had just finished. I gave each kid ten different reflection slips they could fill out and staple to the top of the pieces they chose. My only input on this was that they needed to include at least one piece that had a rough draft and a final draft with visible revisions, the other three pieces were their choice.

I really liked the pieces that my students chose and their reasons for choosing those pieces. I was quite impressed by their reflection and how in-depth they went both in the reflections and the poems. The only think I will change for next year will have to do with the poetry portfolio, not the reflections and decision-making process.

On the nights of conferences, we opened up the divider between two classrooms and set up the desks into four seat pods. The students would then grab their binder and take their parent/guardian to a pod and discuss each section of the conference binder. What was supposed to happen was that the students would discuss each portion of the binder, and the parents would then ask questions if there was a pressing concern. Otherwise, the student was supposed to be the leader of the conference process and once they were finished, they would leave.

This is what really happened: the student retrieved his/her binder and took their parents to a pod. They would discuss briefly the binder and its contents. Then the parents would wait until every teacher made his/her way to their pod to discuss that student. So, with maybe ten-ish pods full at the busiest times, each teacher was trying to make his/her way to all parents and discuss the student. Imagine how long that took… and guess what? Most of the parents would wait, and wait, and wait for you. *sigh* It was a long night.

SO, how do I think we could improve student-led conferences? Well, for one, I think the students need to have a script or schedule of items they should discuss with their parents. I think that many of them showed their work and then MAYBE talked a little about it, but that was about it. These kids can’t remember what they need to say or how to say it. So what if this is their second or third year of doing this… they just can’t remember. Maybe even have a little diddy on the cover of the binder about how a student-led conference should flow?

Second, I think that the student should have the choice in what is included in their binders with minor coaching from the teacher. Maybe a few requirements, such as your favorite piece or the work you improved the most on, etc. Like I said before, I don’t know what the other teachers required of their students, but I know it helped my students focus on why they chose what they chose.

Third, I think that each student should have included a SMART goal or something that they could work on academically to improve. Then, each teacher should reflect on that goal and describe what we will do to help the student reach that goal… and most importantly… actually follow-up. After the student and teacher have fulfilled their portion of the goal section, the parent should discuss how he/she will help the student reach their goal.

Anyways, these are my thoughts… for what they are worth. I enjoyed meeting the parents of my student and seeing how they behave in front of adults they are most comfortable with. It was very enlightening! 🙂

— Stephanie

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Field Trip…

I’m about to head off on my first full day field trip as a teacher. We are going to the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. I remember going there when I was a middle schooler; It was one of my fondest memories from middle school.

I have a bunch of kids from my rowdy 5th hour class in my group. I’m pretty nervous about that, but I think that it will be fun regardless. I just hope I can keep up!! I’m so tired right now that I considered laying on my classroom beanbag chairs to “relax” for a bit, but I think that will just make me want to sleep more.

This field trip will hopefully be a nice break from the chaos and stress I’ve been trying to cope with for the last couple weeks. I had to turn in grades last night, which was the most stressful undertaking in my life. I’d rather give birth again than have to post grades. But, ’tis the job and I need to get a better grading system to help make posting grades less stressful.

Well, wish me luck! We are leaving in 30 minutes. I can’t wait to get a nice caramel apple to bring home with me… I love Autumn! 🙂

— Steph

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