People think I’m crazy. My machinist/farmer boyfriend doesn’t understand why I bring stuff home. My factory-manager mother just doesn’t know how I do it. And even occasionally people I work with question my sanity.
Not only do I teach. I teach middle school. Lanky, athletically minded boys who think they are going to be pro athletes. Sweet girls who think Justin Beiber is going to marry them and “rescue” them. Boys who think reading is wimpy and a punch is the best solution to any disagreement. Girls who think it’s the end of the world when mom or grandma won’t buy them the $50 shirt that is inappropriate for school.
I spend hours beyond what my salary requires. Friday afternoon it was 6:30pm. Even the janitors were gone and the hallway lights were off. BUT as I sat at my kitchen table this evening writing lesson plans and then reading some writing my kids had done, it hit me: Week One might be the single most important week all year. Not TCAP/PARCC week, not “homecoming” week, not Christmas break… week one!
I know there are teachers who do little beyond “feel good” stuff during week one. I used to be one of them. Let all my kids get settled and comfortable then do the “real” work of teaching after that. This year, I changed. Day one was pretty normal: paperwork, rules, get to know you, etc. But beginning on Tuesday, and some on Monday, to be honest, I started teaching theme. We read picture books, we got in groups and learned how to discuss and disagree, we determined theme together.
Friday I asked my kids to write me 2 paragraphs: 1. Who are you and what do expect from 8th grade? and 2. What has been your best learning experience in ELA. By far the answers were “I understand theme now, talking about it in our groups really helped.” “I really like using post-its and talking before I started writing, it helped me think.” Angels in heaven are dancing…. the best, though, was *the girl*…. you know the one…. the one that day one rolled her eyes and slumped in her seat and refused to laugh even though you know you’re funny…. *that girl*…. her paragraph 2 said that she knew she was going to like reading this year…. Now I’m dancing…. to my bed, but still… I’m dancing!
Wonder of Week One: It’s SO important to begin teaching! Being likable isn’t enough… kids want to learn…