Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Big Changes This Year

We are only days away from starting the new school year, and, as usual, this week of professional development has brought about a new slew of changes for the teachers at my school. The biggest change for next year, which we learned about last spring, is that most of our teachers will move from teaching five to teaching six out of seven classes. We are losing our team planning period and restructuring team into our conference time every two weeks. We'll be playing in a whole new ball game next year with more kids, less time to plan and grade, and more to grade. We're also rolling out new systems for team planning, new expectations in our grading policies, and it's only Wednesday, so I'm sure by Friday there will be even more changes to process and execute.

BUT. (And as I love to teach my students when we analyze poetry, there's always a but.)

The point of this blog isn't to talk about all of these changes. Instead, I want to commit to five things that all of these changes will not change for me.


5. My feedback to my students will remain timely and specific.





This one won't be easy. Truthfully, nothing causes me more stress than having anything to grade, so turning work around quickly is as much for me as it is for my students. And I'm going to have to be creative and intentional about how this happens, but I have some ideas that I'm pretty excited to try, and some oldies but goodies that I've used in the past. I will not be a paper hoarder this year.


4. My attitude will stay positive.






Charles R. Swindoll said, "Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it." Isn't that the truth? I have no control over the changes at my school. What I do control is my response to these changes. I'm sure there will be days when I have to "fake it 'til I make it," but I am committing to keep my chin up. My husband often drives me crazy when he tells me that "it's all mental," but I know he's right. So no matter how many times I have to remind myself to stay positive, I will. My students deserve the best I can give, and I can't give my best if I'm in a bad mood.


3. I will continue to grow in my craft.


This year is being called the "bridge year." Next year, we're supposed to be going to a block schedule from a seven period day and regaining our team planning period. I do not plan on simply getting through this year. I plan on growing as much this year as I have every other year. Every year brings new challenges; this may be the biggest challenge I have faced as a teacher. But that means I'll have a lot of opportunities to grow, and I can't help but be excited about that.

2. My family will remain my first priority.




There came a point a couple of years ago where I realized that if I continued on the path I was traveling, I wouldn't last ten years as a teacher. Not because I don't love it, but because it was dominating my life. Before I was married, that wasn't a big deal. I could get to school early, stay late, and work well into the evenings and weekends. When I got married, my husband traveled a lot, so not much changed. But then I had a baby. And my daughter deserves to be the number one child in my life. I love my students like they are my own - but they aren't actually my own. My husband now travels far less. He deserves to have a wife who talks to him instead of a wife who grades papers until she falls asleep at the kitchen table. In short, my family deserves to be number one.


1. The center of my classroom will still be my students.


I will not let the stress of a busier day shift the focus away from my students so that I can check things off my to-do list. If I've learned anything in my teaching life, it's that my list will never be empty. There will always be something new to do, and more often than not, several things will be added to the list before I can even begin check off what's already there. The good news is, by some miracle, everything that needs to get done will, in fact, get done. And, on the bright side, I get to work with even more wonderful kids this year. So the top of my to-do list will always say "Focus on my kids." And I'll never check that off.