Thursday, August 27, 2009


So, a new year has begun. I have new faces and old faces in my 7th grade classroom. About 5 of my 30 kids were in my class last year, much to my chagrin. They're great kids, but I just REALLY like starting my year fresh. Oh well. I have the gifted "cluster" of students, which means I have 3 or 4 gifted kids and the rest are about middle ground. After my first day, my only real opinion was, "At least I didn't have a kid come in that was aiming to be trouble from the second he stepped foot in the door." And so far, that has proved to be true. The more I think about it though, the more of a good omen it seems.

Although things are still not perfect, every year gets a little better, and I get a little bit more confident. Overall, I feel like I have a pretty decent class, near as I can tell. At one point today (Day 9), it occurred to me how well they all seem to get along, and how rare that is! Last week all the specials teachers said the class was good, but that means nothing the first week because all the kids are good. However, I give the compliment to the kids anyway. A compliment is a compliment, right? The first time I did this, my 6th graders didn't know what a compliment is, but now every kid knows what it is and is listening intently for it. The reason for the intense desire for compliments is because we have a compliment paper chain started in the classroom, so that every time they get a compliment from another teacher, they get another link. When it gets to the specified length (around 40 or 50), they get a pizza party. (I know, I know Mom, I shouldn't reward them with food...After a while with 13 year olds though, you do what works.)

Anyway, to say the least, now the kids listen very keenly for compliments. So today, they had 2 specials (don't ask me why), and it's not uncommon for the teachers to tell me as the kids are leaving if they did well. However, the kids claimed that both teachers had given them compliments which I didn't hear (it's also not uncommon for kids to make up compliments :-)) so I said I'd talk to those teachers later. However, BOTH of those teachers tracked ME down later in the day to tell me how much they enjoyed working with my class today, how good they are, and how they all participate and get along! Yay!!

Part of me feels like this is a bit too good to be true and/or that maybe I'm jinxing this, but I guess time will tell...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Boxes, Boxes, and MORE BOXES!!!

I don't get paid to go back to work until Tuesday (8/10). Hence, one would think I would go back to work on Tuesday. Not true. I am a teacher, which means I do MUCH work without pay. I spent the past week in my classroom going through box after box after box. After box. Part of the reason I went back early, was because after 4 1/2 years of teaching, I know it takes longer to unpack a classroom than it does to unpack a house. I don't know why, it just does. Again, one would think I wouldn't have to pack up every single item in the room since I stayed in the same room, but I did. Such is life. At my school, it's usually better to not ask questions. So, I knew I had a ton of boxes to unpack, and when I walked in Monday morning, a new realization came crashing down on me. I had tons more boxes in my room than I ended the year with because all of the 7th grade curriculum was now in my room. This is what I saw when I walked in.

I would say there were a minimum of 60 boxes in my room. This may be skewed logic, but I decided that given the circumstances, I'd start with the furniture, and then I'd be able to put the contents of the boxes in their assigned locations. This was a great idea, but in order to do that, I had to move the boxes to move the furniture. So once the furniture was in place, I had to move and open the boxes again. Oh well, good exercise, right? So, I moved all the student desks into groups, moved my desk to it's place, and the bookshelves to their place. Doing this along with all the boxes was a bit like doing one of those tile puzzles where there's a square container with tiles, minus one and you have to get them all into the correct place, moving one at a time. Either way, it got done.

Then, I started opening boxes. Now, it's one thing to unpack boxes that you packed. It's another to unpack boxes with things you are not familiar with. The first thing I discovered was that I seemed to have an immense number of boxes of science materials. I would say at least 30 of the boxes are science materials (test tube racks, beakers, goggles, chemicals, rocks, microscopes, etc.) That was a sad discovery that I'm going to have to house all that business, I don't know where. Next, I discovered that I inherited an inordinate amount of textbooks. I took all the ones I needed and still had about 15 extra boxes in the back of my room. I had 70 extra dictionaries, 160 extra history workbooks, 40 extra science books, and the list goes on. It was crazy! (And it wasn't like the other 7th grade teachers needed them, they're just extra. So that's a bit of a mystery.) Finally, I discovered that I acquired every single item out of a person's
classroom who retired. Every item, right down to ancient textbooks, old software, erasers and
paper clips. Among other things, I discovered a clipboard from the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a set of 1961 Encyclopedias, and 11 boxes of manila folders!! Crazy talk (and a little bit irritating).

So, I buckled down and starting finding places for as much as I could. By the end of Day 1 of De-Boxing, I had 3 out of 4 of the required textbooks in the students' desks, my classroom library of reading books on the shelf, and many of the peripheral reference books we use in class on the shelf, in addition to the furniture being arranged. There were still at least 2/3 of the boxes still full, but I had at least opened most of the boxes to find out what was in them and arranged them in appropriate locations around the room. The entire east wall was covered in Science materials (still is). The south wall had the boxes and boxes of extra, unneeded materials that
showed up. The west wall had all of my own boxes. Still a lot of boxes, but I at least knew what
was in them. In the center of the room were all the empty boxes, where I tossed them with great relish.

5 days later, many of the boxes are still there, but they are at least contained in a bit more orderly fashion. :-) Now, all boxes are either unpacked or touching a wall, my desk is functional, all computers are functioning, laptops are updating as we speak, no boxes remain on desks, and posters are up. Now, I just need to figure out what I'm going to teach in said classroom!!