Week One, Day Two

(I've just decided on doing a running commentary of my first week in order for me to remember this for next year, to reflect, and in case anyone out there needs some ideas to steal. Hey wait, that's what this whole blog is for. Nevermind.)

Day Two went well.

I passed out books and had kids type in their name and book number into an Excel spreadsheet so they could learn to use the SMART board. Bad news is, I accidently deleted it. Oh well, I should have had a paper back up anyway. That's one lesson I hope I don't have to learn again.

I also introduced the discipline plan and had students sign it. Their first homework assignment is to bring it back tomorrow signed by parent/guardian. I didn't have too much complaining about any of the rules although some asked me if they had to sign if they knew they were going to break the rules. Yes. Also explained the responsibility sheet and students seemed skeptical but not opposed to the idea.

Then I presented my school supplies list and explained what each particular item was used for. (My sister is the one in the pictures.)

I then went through and answered every single question that the kids asked me on their index cards from yesterday. A lot of laughs and just a good time from answering. I could tell many kids were surprised that I did answer each one but the point of this activity was to build their confidence in the fact that I can and will answer any questions they had. I plan on showing all my classes the list of the most interesting questions so they can see what other people thought of as well.

I also explained to the students how the classes would work, how I teach, how much homework they'll be assigned, what classwork will be, how I do tests, how they can make up tests so that their grades will improve, etc. I had a lot of positive feedback and a lot of students said this might be the year they actually like/do well in/pass math. And I haven't even started teaching yet. I think this is all going a long way in creating a positive classroom culture and building relationship with them.

I'm still loving it but I'm challenged with how to transition into curriculum as well as how to better engage my lower ability students. It's definitely going to be harder than I thought but I want to do things right and well and I value excellence. Hard work is worth the satisfaction of a job well done and a student well learned.

I'm optimistic so far while at the same time weighted with the amount of work and the important decisions I will need to make.

But we're talking about people's lives here. It's important enough to do right the first time.

What's highly valued isn't easily won.


  1. The last sentence really hit home for me. I felt so awful for every bad decision I made last year (my first year) because it really does affect your students' lives when you screw up! But aiming to "get it right the first time" isn't totally reasonable; you have to allow yourself to make mistakes.

    I remind myself often that math class isn't really a big part of most students' lives. They probably barely think about it outside your classroom. It's a sobering thought when you're trying to make a big difference, but helps keep your errors in perspective.

  2. Alison,
    In my opinion, aiming to get it right the first time is totally reasonable; allowing no mistakes is not. Reflecting on mistakes is what helps me learn but I still want to avoid as many as I can. An error is an error, no matter the perspective.

    It's not the math class that is a big part of students' lives- it's me. It's them finding an environment where they can learn, improve,and succeed. It's them realizing an adult cares enough about them to be on their side, stand up for them, protect them, encourage them, provide a safe environment for them, and like them. It's providing as much as what they aren't getting at home as I possibly can. It's creating a classroom with such excitement, challenge, activity, stimulation, encouragement, success, and adventure that students DO think about it outside my classroom.

    The math is just bonus. :)

  3. Absolutely, having an adult like that in their lives can make all the difference to a child. I guess my students come from lives where they generally have people caring for them already, so my impact isn't as great.

    And it sounds like you're distinguishing between "aiming to be right" and "aiming to be perfect", which is the sanity-preserving distinction.

    I like the new graphic on top of your blog, by the way!

  4. I have my own perspective on mistakes. First of all, they are inevitable and worrying about them does the students no good either because it can cause you to become more cautious and rigid in what you are willing to try for fear screwing it up.

    Mistakes are the places for learning to occur. I certainly hope that my 'lessons' go well the first time, but even if they do - the next year (or the next period) there is a different group and what may have worked the first time doesn't work the second.

    Particularly in math I think students get the mistaken impression that it is all about right answers. I have had better conversations and learning occur from 'mistakes' that were made.

    I spent probably the first 5 years of teaching scared about making mistakes - in my planning and in class. It was only when I thought about what could be gained from mistakes that I think I started to get good at what I do (not that I'm there yet!).

    Finally, yes, we have important jobs and students lives are affected by what we do. But would you rather your students learn from you that the expected goal of adulthood is to be perfect all the time - or that mistakes can and do happen and not only are they often fixable, but can often be more fruitful than the 'perfect' moments?

    Keep up the good work! After 18 years of teaching I love it more now than when I started - I hope you grow to enjoy what you do as time passes as well.

  5. Maybe I am giving off the wrong impression here. I agree that there is value in mistakes. My point is that I want to convey to my students a work ethic of striving for excellence. Perfection is not attainable but I believe a spirit of excellence is. I want to create the environment where my students feel safe to make mistakes and part of that comes from them seeing me make mistakes. I know that. The point is the attitude makes all the difference. If I don't care to make mistakes because I know I can learn from them, I become careless in my work. If I'm striving for excellence and learn from what mistakes I do make, I'm ahead of the game. I'm trying to level the playing field as much as I can.

  6. I am so pleased that you have bonus points for tissues in your supplies list. I know I'm mildly obsessed with tissues, but I swear they're the most important item in a classroom!
    Glad it's all going well so far :)

  7. Well you've got to have Kleenex and I can't afford all of it! lol