Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Evaluate and re-evaluate

Three weeks into the school year--okay, two and a half--and I finally feel ready to evaluate my standing.

This is my second-plus year of teaching. I consider it my third even though my first year of teaching wasn't a full year, but it was two trimesters and it carried all the hell of first year teaching. Some people like to say I'm a second year teacher, and some people scoff at making this a big deal, but both groups really miss the point. Your first year of teaching is hell. Hell hell hell. Balancing everything sucks. You get too involved in your students--meth affected families, eating disorders and teenage pregnancy will pull anyone in but sweet jeebus!--and every test or quiz feels like an evaluation of you as a teacher. You don't know where to focus your energies and you're at school past dark way way waaaaaaay too much (my husband is singing "Amen!" at the top of his lungs). The mere act of surviving that first year, where students can make you cry and parents instill the fear of the apocalypse in you, is a victory of the first order.

Ahem. Slight tangent there. Anyway, here I am in my third year of teaching. It's radically different from my previous years. I have AP students balanced with my entry-level students. And dear gods and goddesses, does it make all the difference. And yet, at the same time, I find myself in the same balancing act of my first year.

So, first, Geometry. I find myself giving these poor kids the short shrift this year. I'm relying a lot on what I did last year in a sort of vague way, where I'm coasting. I have three classes of these kids who run the gamut, from ambitious freshmen to juniors and seniors who are close to lost, either through laziness or ineptitude. But I'm finding tweaking what I did last year truly rewarding. This afternoon I met with another teacher to rework how we were going to teach chapter 4. Note that this is two chapters ahead of where we are now. This kind of collaborative planning blows my mind eight ways from Sunday. This other teacher--Ms. G--and I sat for an hour working and debating how we talked about what we did last year and what needed to happen this year and how we could make it better. And we put that talk into action. How lucky is that?

But even more than that, this AP Statistics class jazzes me up and gets me running like nobody's business. I'm by turns panicked and delighted with this class. They ask me questions that I can't answer, and my response is, "I'll have a better answer for you tomorrow!" Why n-1, Ms. H? "I'll have a better answer for you tomorrow." I have no idea, really. A lot of stats is accepted practice, and that answer is not satisfying for a lot of students, and I feel inadequate, and that's like being a first year teacher again. But at the same time, I'm grading quizzes, like I am tonight, and the insight is blowing me away.

For the past two years, I've come home from school exhausted. Taking a nap from three to five has become my M.O. But since this school year has started, yeah, I'm staying a little later, leaving after 4:00 most days, but I'm not napping. I feel electric. Like I'm doing something cool, connecting. Is it cheesy to say it's a rebirth? Again? How many rebirths can one girl get? Staying after school and working through what I need to do has me alive.

It'll probably change when students start panicking. Our first Geometry quiz is tomorrow, and let's see who fails. And hard chapters are coming up, and last year I regularly had crowds of kids getting help before and after school. That hasn't started yet.

But right now? I feel ten feet tall. And vibrant. Can I bottle this? And take it out in February? Please?


kati said...

My favorite stats teacher told me this last year:
Use statistics like a drunk would a lamp post- more for support than illumination.

I love stats, but I can't tell you why n-1!

LeeAnn said...

Awesome post. Can't wait to talk to you about it in person!!