Looking forward to another never-boring, drama-filled week with awesome colleagues and students!
Some observations about teaching gathered over the years...
I would love to hear from other teachers. What are some things you have learned in your teaching career? What do you wish someone had told you before you started? Please comment below!
y friend Allison posted something on Facebook that paralleled my own situation on 9/11 and made me think back to that scary day. She posted about how clearly she remembered teaching on 9/11 and I was reminded how in so many hard, frightening, unbearable situations, teachers often do what they are best at: they keep teaching.
On 9/11, I was in my 6th year of teaching French at a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My then 8 month old son was at home at our apartment in Queens with my husband. I remember learning what happened, all the teachers trying to retain a sense of normalcy and calm, which became more difficult as more and more parents came to pick up their children, if only to hug them tightly and take them home. We kept teaching, and during breaks watched the horror unfold on televisions around the school. The whole day, we taught, we stayed with our students - as much as many of us wanted to rush home, to also hug our loved ones and make sure they were all safe.
When I left school that day, I wasn't sure how I would get home. Many teachers at my school lived within walking distance; I lived in Flushing, a two 15 minute walks, two trains trip from school. Up Madison Avenue, zombie-like figures, covered in ash, were still walking north from Ground Zero. By the time I made it to the train station, some trains were running again. From the platform where I changed trains in Queens, we could see smoke billowing up over lower Manhattan. I was never happier to get home and be with my husband and baby.
We were lucky compared to others. In our whole school, only one student lost a stepfather. Many others, whose parents worked in the World Trade Center or were there for business, had extremely close calls. Instead of going into work, one had taken a sick day. Another one had gone to work too late - late enough to know that he need not go in at all. Everyone knew someone who had died or who had escaped.
The next day, we had the day off. The city was in shock and in mourning. The death toll was rising, and people everywhere searched for missing loved ones. All over train stations, bus stops, and anywhere people could put them were pictures and phone numbers, begging us to call if we saw their friends or family. At the same time, the city came together like never before. People were kind and generous, helpful and empathetic. It was an unforgettable time.
And the next day, teachers did what we do: we returned to our schools. We welcomed our students back, we had lessons ready for them, and we taught.
It's Sunday mid afternoon after the first week of school and I finally feel like I have KIND OFrecovered from the week. And only 3 days of that week were actual teaching days. I forget how thoroughly exhausting it is.
It's a crazy thing we do every year, teachers. We dive into the new school year with renewed hope and expectations, many of us with positive outlooks regardless of what may have happened the previous year. We greet our new and returning students with smiles, handshakes, pats on the back, and hugs, and a clean slate with which to begin the new year. We go in early to set up our rooms, decorate bulletin boards, plan the first days, and meet with other teachers. We teach our new students routines, and help them navigate the hallways of our buildings. We try to make them feel welcome and connected to us, and safe. We practice and try perfecting our systems and routines.
This year in addition to doing all of the above, I took on a new role, which another teacher an I are sharing: co-assistant principal (interim). Our new principal felt strongly about pulling from the pool of teachers for this position. My co-assistant principal is a 37 year veteran music teacher who knows everyone and everything there is to know in the school system, and pretty much in our town as well. Our new principal is a lifelong art educator who is a refreshingly out-of-the-box thinker. So far, I think we make a good team, complementing one another's different strengths and abilities. It is hard work, and having a dual role can be complicated, but we are committed to trying it out.
The start of the new year came almost 3 weeks earlier for the 3 of us, as we planned the students' arrival, and reworked systems in our school to hopefully be stronger and more fluid for teachers and students alike. The first day of school wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad either! Of course the only day I forgot my Fit Bit, I am sure that I walked at least 15,000 steps that day!
My first class with my own students was great. Since I had already been at school for weeks, my normal anxiety and nervousness were not as high as at the start of other years. My new students were excited, nervous, and adorable. For now there are 5: 2 boys from Puerto Rico, 1 from El Salvador, a Brazilian girl, and a Dominican girl I had last year in 7th grade, who is basically my TA now (I keep telling her she has teaching in her future!).
Here is to new beginnings for all you teachers out there!! Wishing everyone a clean slate for those who had a bad year last year, and positive energy and patience to last at least through Thanksgiving!