Wake Me Up When September Ends

This post title comes from a song by Green Day. It’s only the first week of school, and I’m getting to the point where I’m running on empty. Yesterday, I arrived at school just before 7 am (for a parent meeting) and left at 6 pm. After cooking and eating, I worked until close to midnight. Both my husband and my teaching partner have told me to slow down and take care of myself. It’s ironic that the theme of the school year is sustainability, because at the rate I’m going, I can’t imagine it being too sustainable.

It isn’t just me, though. It’s this time of year when there seem to be a million things to do. More so than normal, because as mentioned we moved into an incredible new building. Many of the teachers are feeling the crunch.

Recalling that I started this blog as a way to share sessions I attended at the NAIS conference in February, as well as other books or articles I was reading, another irony struck me; The keynote at that conference was Arianna Huffington and her main message was to take care of yourself first. Something I find really hard to do this time of year, when you’ve got a class full of eager minds ready to learn, and you want to make an impact in their lives.

I tried to take care of myself today, and I will try at least once a week this month. Today, I left at 4pm to attend a physical therapy appointment, came home, and then took a nice walk to my new favorite sushi place in Seattle: Tamura Sushi Kappo. It was really nice, relaxing, and something I really needed. Yet, before I began this post, there were two emails to reply to, one to write before tomorrow, and more to do. I mentioned in a previous post, I feel like a first year teacher again.

Here’s one example: For the first time, I’ve got a mounted projector in my classroom, which is great, but and is being used, but content needs to me made in order for it to be projected. I’m hoping these will be filed away and then can be used again for the next three to four years, but it will take more time right now. They are also boards with interactive capabilities, but I may just have to wait on that a little longer.

September is like that as well. It just takes more time, but if you can manage to keep your head above water and not fall behind, the rest of the year (minus report card writing time) goes much more smoothly.

There are many books titles similarly to “How to Survive Your First Year Teaching,” and though I now scoff at the word “survive” there are many truths to that.

I just started reading the book The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary Wong, and there’s great nuggets that I’ve come across so far. It mentions four stages of teaching – fantasy, survival, mastery, and impact. Impact being the kind of teacher you remember forever who made a difference in your life. Funny enough, the book mentions that when you reach the impact stage, you return to the fantasy stage (fulfilling it!).

Though I feel at times like I’m barely keeping up, one of the things that I’ve tried very hard to do is to avoid letting the kids see any of the stress. Staying calm (almost zen-like), setting positive and high expectations  for both student achievement and classroom management as well as designing lessons for student mastery are all essential characteristics of an effective teacher according to Wong & Wong.

My favorite quote of the first chapter is, “It’s not what you put in; it’s the outcome you get from your students.”

Of course, you won’t get that outcome without building relations with those kids, having positive expectations, having excellent classroom management, know how to design effective lessons, and continue to learn and grow. That’s requires “putting in” a lot.

Other great books for the start of the school year are:

The Organized Teacher: A Hands-On Guide to Setting Up and Running a Terrific Classroom.

The First Six Weeks of School


2 thoughts on “Wake Me Up When September Ends

  1. This is a great post, Anthony!

    I have learned that a sustainable career in teaching and the key to a balanced life, for me, is to view it is a marathon, not as a sprint. No one can sprint for long and cover the long distance of a school year or career in education. I have observed wonderful teachers who were so well-meaning, try to sprint the long haul and ended up with some physical, emotional or family injuries that took real time and energy to heal, if it was even possible.
    Take care of yourself, my friend. We want you strong at miles 11, 19, 23 and 26.2. We are just beginning mile 1. Pace yourself and stop for a few more rests along the way, every day. Let’s go grab some coffee and a sunny walk, while there still is sun!

  2. Thanks, David. Unfortunately, mile 1 got off to a sprint for me for many reasons. It was the first time our classroom had a bulletin board to share in a hallway. Something, I’ve not had to think about for years and I admit I probably spent too much time on it. Also, I wanted everything to be as ready as possible by week one and only having the space for a small time before school started, I’m still getting things ready. I will take you up on that coffee and walk. Even if it’s misty – it’s my 10th year in Seattle, I should be used to the mist by now. Yesterday’s rest stop was good. I’m hoping to have a few more next week.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s