Monday, August 04, 2008

on the job again

Today was the teachers' first day officially back on the job at ye olde John McDonogh #32 Literacy Charter School (one of oh-so-many exciting changes that have been going on while I've been in my summer hibernation). There was so much at the morning introduction that I had to take notes. Now that I look at my notes there is so much that it seems best to list the highlights:

- we have three (count 'em - 3) assistant principals
- a reading specialist!
- a Spanish teacher
- a full time middle school art teacher (who lives across the hall from me and I already like her a lot)
- 2 extra social workers
- parents will be required (to the best of the school's ability) to volunteer 1 hour per week
- community service and service learning focus in learning
- 90 minute planning periods!! (though only three days per week)
- TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) in full swing means performance-based pay
- lots of toys and new technology

As for the state of my affairs, this year will be a year of big changes and big challenges. It never seems to end. I suppose that's the way education should be - how exhausting. And awesome. As I mentioned before, I will be teaching 6th grade math once again with the added challenge of teaching 6th grade science (chemistry and physics - my two least favorite sciences). Because I am the science teacher I was given a Promethean board in my classroom, which is quite possibly the most exciting toy-tool that any teacher could ever have.

It makes planning lessons seem so much more exciting, quizzes less of a pain in the ass, and technology in the classroom that is a thousand times more useful to me and my kids than a couple of computers that only get used for MySpace and other illicit non-educational purposes. I am probably speaking technology teaching sacrilege to say so, but I hate having PCs in the classroom and I am happy to have them removed. That being said, our school has laptop carts now (a laptop for every student in the class with a wireless connection - sweet!) which I certainly plan to put to use.

The daily schedule looks slightly more sane on paper, but we shall see. We continue to work on a block schedule (90 minute periods) and I'll have three classes. The upcoming class is supposed to be fairly small so I believe I will have an average of 10 kids per class period which, when you think about it, is absolutely unheard of in a public school like ours! These estimates, however, will probably end up being closer to 15 per class which is still more than educationally reasonable. No word on the numbers of kids with exceptionalities yet, but I hope to get access to files and names by mid-week.

Still debating how to juggle my two subjects. Last year, for the brief and completely overwhelming period that I had both subjects to teach, I had two classes on three hour blocks and tried to split the class time with absolutely no success. I think my best bet is to teach math MWF and science on TTh. This strikes me as the sane way to go about things. Yes? I wish I knew more experienced teachers out there on the vast interwebs who might give a little input on such things. But this is, alas, a blog mostly for my own cathartic benefit with a tiny readership. And I am a terrible networker.

The process of putting up bulletin boards and attempting to arrange my classroom today lead to more chaos than progress. But I'm excited. Things are new and strange and seem to be moving even faster - yet the school appears more prepared in general than last year. Better prepared. Better equipped. I can't find the actual listing at the moment but at the beginning of last year #32 was at the very bottom of the barrel in New Orleans according to the state tests. After just one year, it is now in the top 30% of New Orleans schools. Which is just huge. Granted, that isn't even remotely good enough when you consider the state of New Orleans test scores. Still, there is momentum.

Gotta keep running.

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