Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back to Work, Falling in Love

Spring break is over in Oregon, and yesterday was the first day of a new term at the high school.

Brand new students, just like the first day of school all over again...for the third time this year.

We are on a trimester schedule, which means several things:

  • A "semester" lasts only 12 weeks
  • Students get a full year of credit after 2 trimesters
  • A two-trimester (full year) class might be taught fall/winter, or winter/spring, or even fall/spring.
  • Students may or may not have the same teacher for the second half of a course
All of the above have several ramifications, including:
  • Teachers have to be tightly aligned with our curriculum. That way, if our students get switched from one teacher to another at the trimester change, there aren't huge gaps or overlaps. We have to do a lot of planning and coordinating together.
  • It's harder to form relationships with students in only 12 weeks. I begin on Day 1 of the trimester to intentionally build relationships with kids--between me and each of them, and among the students in the class--rather than just leaving it for time and chance.
I teach a one-trimester writing class, called Creative Nonfiction Writing. It's one of my very favorite classes to teach. I proposed it several years ago, when a colleague who had taught our high school's Creative Writing course for many years, retired. Two of us wanted in on the "creative writing" action, so I proposed a nonfiction section along with the more traditional creative writing prompts in poetry and fiction. Students write personal essays and personal narratives in my class, and they are thrilled to be able to write about their own lives and perspectives, instead of focusing on reports and other writing designed to elicit what they know about a particular course content.

Blah blah blah. Sorry, I got off into "teacher-land" for a bit there.

I admit, I was dragging my heels yesterday morning. I loved sleeping in over spring break, and I was as reluctant as the kids to be back to school. By the time we start the third trimester, it feels like we've already been teaching for a full year. Wanh, wanh. 

But by last night, going through their first-day (brief) writings, it was happening again: I am falling in love with my students. Not in some creepy-predatory-icky-teacher way that you read about in the paper. But this happens to me every term. Even from their brief writings yesterday, I am beginning to glimpse inside their hearts. One girl wants to be a motorcycle mechanic. Another girl will be getting married this summer. One boy loves being on student council because he feels he's found his home there. Another boy, a boy I've had in class before--so I know how "allergic" he is to writing--said he signed up for the class again because he likes to write about topics that he gets to choose. And on and on. 

Thirty-five hearts beginning, already, to open. Thirty-five individuals willing to take some risks and trust that they have something to say. Thirty-five writers, with more-or-less skills, beginning another term with me.

Today we'll play the get-to-know-you game I call "class Bingo," although it's not about Bingo, as much as it is about getting to know each other. Yesterday they all wrote a unique fact about themselves on a 3x5 card--a fact they were willing for others in the class to know--and last night I typed their facts into a 6x6 table. No names. I'm in there, too. Today we'll each take our sheet and wander around the classroom, asking people what their fact is. Here's a sampling; can you guess which one is mine?
  • My little sister is 15 years younger than me.
  • Every two years my birthday is on Thanksgiving.
  • I've been hit in the face by an alligator.
  • I'm training for a 1/2 marathon.
  • I have about 108 freckles.
  • My car only goes 110.
  • I go wheelin' every day. I am solo'ed to fly.
  • I hunt, fish, ride dirtbikes, I'm a triplet, and I'm going to be a motorcycle mechanic.
  • I can do a Chewbaka noise and predator noises.
(Those last two are from girls, by the way.)

See what I mean about falling in love? Aren't they amazing and interesting and wonderful? I can't wait to see them again today and get to know them just a little bit better.

One day at a time.

2 comments:

Dorothy said...

Duh, of course I know which one is you! :)

It sounds to me like a lot of these kids might make good bloggers, since that's basically what the rest of us are doing here, right? Just talking about whatever is on our mind and sharing it with others.

Good post. I enjoyed it. :)

Polly said...

I know which one is you too :)