Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

And We're Off!

          How is it possible that we are entering the third week of September? Where did those first two weeks go? If you're anything like me, they flew by in hazy blur of class lists, new faces, seating charts, writing samples, library orientations, laptops, staff meetings, committee meetings, and if you're lucky, an opportunity to actually sit down with your colleagues once or twice to eat lunch and catch up.
          Amidst all of the chaos and excitement of school start up, I am very conscious of two things: Firstly, how are my students coping? Many times over the past two weeks, as I looked out at a sea of anxious grade 8 faces, or sleepy grade 11 and 12 faces, I marvelled at how well they were balancing the numerous demands and challenges of orienting themselves to a new schedule and a multitude of new rules and expectations. To me, my school and my classroom are like a second home, but to many of my students, especially those who are new arrivals, it must seem like a overwhelming wave of blank faces, mysterious rooms and undecipherable locker combinations. And yet somehow they cope. In fact by the end of week two, the air of sometimes overwhelming anxiety of those first few days had eased considerably. For my grade 8s, I felt a mini celebration of their new found ability to navigate crowded hallways of roughly 1400 students, was most definitely in order. 

Nothing says "Congratulations for surviving the first week of high school" like timbits!

          My second concern was, how are the teachers who are new to my school managing? If I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, how were teachers who didn't know where to find paper for photocopying, who didn't know the names of the secretaries, or who didn't know know how to use a document reader, managing to keep up with the unending demands of a new school year? Fortunately, in the same way that my school is blessed with friendly and welcoming students, we also have an amazingly supportive and welcoming staff. From our office staff, to our administrators, I can't help but be proud of the way that new teachers and support staff are gradually oriented to our school. With the additional support of individual departments and our Learning Partners team members, my hope is that teachers who are new to our school, much like our students, have also been able to transition in the last two weeks from slightly anxious and befuddled, to increasingly more confident and calm. 
          With most of the paperwork and confusion of the first two weeks out of the way, I am able to start focussing more on the diverse learning needs of my students. That sea of anxious and tired faces has begun to take shape, with individual student personalities and abilities pushing to the forefront. At times, it can still be overwhelming. To get a sense of the range of abilities and learning needs of my students, it is important to collect and read through numerous writing samples and activities. That takes time. Time that I don't have during the school day!
Not a bad place to do a little marking!
As well, I must admit that attempting to facilitate the creation of e-portfolios for the first time with close to a hundred students with numerous technology challenges and sweltering heat certainly tested my patience a bit, but by week three,  my students are already demonstrating a wide range of new found skills and abilities.
English 8 "Wanted" posters for "The Monkey's Paw".
          My goals for the 2013-14 school year?
1. Integrate e-portfolios into all of my classes to supplement and enhance in class writing. 
2. Skype with authors to extend a love of books and reading beyond the walls of my classroom. 
3. Continue to evolve and integrate our new Learning Partners program into our school community. 
4. Apply for an Action Research Grant that supports an exploration of methods to encourage the participation of experienced teachers, in addition to new teachers, in our Learning Partners program and by extension, strive to support innovative teaching practices and increased collaboration and collegiality. 
5. Make my classroom a haven for those students who need a safe place to eat lunch and hang out.
6. Make time in my day to sit down and eat lunch with an amazing group of teachers.

          Will my school year be a sprint, a marathon, or an easy jog? Most likely, a combination of all three. But in any case, "we're off"!

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