Going on two months now. Fall Break couldn’t have come at a better time. The shine of a new school year, new school, new students is all but gone now. How has the school year gone you ask? Not too shabby actually. There are some things, even after having been out of the States for six years, that just don’t change. But now that I have this break, let me reflect both highs and lows:
Let’s make sure we have a full plate
First and foremost, I forgot how schools like to load up their teachers. Meetings, professional development, and extra curriculuars abound. During my interview I specifically mentioned how hesitant I was to be involved in any coaching responisbilities. In the past, soccer was the undoing of my classes. There are only so many hours in the day.
Although I wasn’t forced into any coaching gigs, my plate quickly filled up. First, it was mandated that I do a PD on graphic novels (see earlier post). Little did I know it committed me to Nation History Day, which is something that my students have to be involved with throughout the school year.
Second, I had to take on a program called “Campfire” which is associated with the Digital Nomads. This is actually pretty cool as one of my classes will be partnering with a school in Jordan. The curriculum has them collaborating with each other on various assignments for the next three months. I anticipate some of my more conservative student’s heads will spin....which is good.
Finally, I was asked to be the Sophomore class sponsor. I don’t say no often, but I realized between these two curricular programs, the assigned extra duties at school, the required district initiatives of goal setting, ILPs, self-reflections, and 504s, I thought I had enough on my plate.
Kids these days
I really don’t want to sound like some crotchety old man. My approach this year has been to demonstrate that I truly care about my students’ success and possess an enthusiasm for my content in hopes that it would be contagious. However, it seems that can only do so much. By no means am I admitting defeat. I will always continue to push myself and my students. But competing with phones and high school drama is a daily battle to say the least.
One low point came his past week on a project I assigned. I’ll attach it to the post, but basically we were covering all the major monarchies of Europe during the ‘Age of Absolutism.’ So we were flashing to England, Spain, France, Russia, and Central Europe (Prussia mainly) and studying the kings and queens in each. For the project I had them envision that they were Hollywood casting directors and that a major block buster was being organized that would portray all these monarchies. It was their job to find the perfect actor/actress/athlete/musician/cartoon character to play each king and queen and explain why. I know right? Totally awesome! But, after devoting four whole class periods to research and preparation, I think I had 1/4 of the students not turn in anything, 1/2 present the bare minimum (I guess Cs and Ds are acceptable now), and the other 1/4 do a solid job. So now I feel that I’m left in the conundrum of keeping high expectations and the reality of operating on a subpar level as it will be easier for me and the kids.
Sprinkle in the good stuff
But obviously, it’s easy to focus on the bad. To be fair, I have had some good laughs with my students. Some have admitted to me that they are finally digging history. I can tell a lot of them enjoy hearing of my travels abroad. Some have confided to me that they look forward to my class. It feels good. It feels good because I know that a lot of these kids have it pretty rough at home. A great deal of them know that there isn’t much for them after high school. My concern is that they’ll settle and accept working the cash register the rest of their lives. In no way am I trying to be harsh in saying that, but as an educator I naturally want to present to them that it doesn’t have to be that way.
So all in all, I’m having the year that I expected as I sat on the balcony of my apartment in Phnom Penh back in May. Back then, I refected on my early career in public education and what I should expect to happen this school year. And for the most part I’ve been correct in my assumptions. However, even if the public education game hasn’t changed that much, I have and will continue to keep pressing on trying to be the best history teacher that I can.