Busy as can be- there really are no breaks for 1st year teachers!

I have barely had the time to blog. Granted I could maybe make more time for it, but I’m too sleep-deprived to prioritize correctly. Instead I will occasionally watch TV, or every once in a while go out for dinner, and oh-dear-me I did have a get-together last weekend! There’s just so much work. And the crazy part is, at the school I’m at, I could do less, but I think they hired me because they could tell I am motivated to do my best, and to appropriately push the students.

It’s a lot of work- grading, putting grades into my gradebook and online, I’ve started putting the homework up online, I have to think of projects and the exams for the end of the trimester, I have several students who missed more than a week of classes I have to think about (and make decisions about reducing credit) and more.

Not to mention I am still in a sticky situation with my “mentor”. I have to come up with stuff for her to do (sounds like the opposite of mentoring, right?). But she did help me with some grading, which I think is mostly good.

I better go, and I hope I take my own advice this weekend!

Advice from a new procrastinator-pro teacher about planning over the weekends

I haven’t yet taken this advice, and I plan to not just “try”, but I plan to SUCCEED this weekend in doing work early. I am still getting over the nasty habit of procrastinating. And when the weekend comes, most new teachers are all “I needed this 3 days ago…bad”. This week I was really tired, and almost got sick. I’ll have to update about how my meeting went too (good overall, but interestingly interesting too).

My, oh my, for a “teacher of a language” I like to blog with such improper and informal language 🙂 . We had a nice talk about slang and old and new French in class which I liked (even though I was planning on drilling them the whole class because they had done so poorly on the review test!!!)

So my advice to teachers as far as weekends go are this- plan your time well. Put in a few hours at the end of the day Friday before you leave the office (ideal!), have some rest, maybe a walk, bath, or dinner, and do a few hours of light work Friday evening. This could be grading, organizing, reflection, upcoming plan ideas, what-have-you.

Doing a few hours on Friday is ideal, especially if you have an event on Saturday. You can do something Friday evening, maybe around 9pm after you’ve worked from 7:30-9 (and you worked from 2:30-4pm). That’s 3 solid hours. Saturday you could do an hour or two depending on how much you did Friday. You can fit it in somewhere!

(I know I will be sleeping in a bit on weekends until I get my schedule somewhere near acceptable (right now I sleep wayyyy too little)) But don’t sleep in too late. Get some exercise. Do something relaxing and non-school related. Have a glass of wine? (Getting drunk on the weekends is obviously not ideal for educators because a- it’s not good role-modeling and b- it takes up way too much time, and you don’t feel good after getting drunk!

Do have fun, see your friends, re-meet your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse! Have a date, play with your kids (oh my! I can’t imagine having kids and teaching, but that’s probably because I’m a first-year teacher!!)

Whatever you do- do not save all your work for Sunday. If you’re a true procrastinator like me, you’ll probably get a little panicky and do even more effective procrastination, but still procrastinate (I will do my laundry, go shopping, blog (ha), call family- whatever it takes to make myself think I’m taking care of business- without grading and lesson-planning)

To recap:

1) Space out your work over the weekend

2) Prioritize and do work that seems appropriate for the given time of day/day of weekend

3) Take into account how busy your weekend is otherwise (hopefully not too much else going on) and do more work on the other days

4) Don’t stay up too late, don’t sleep in too late (I am a sinner in this category!), but, DO REST UP (mind and body)!

4) GET SOME DONE BEFORE SUNDAY- otherwise you will not just dread Sunday, but also Monday (2 days out of 7 is too many!)

I hope that helps, and I am off to do some of my Friday work 🙂

National Educators Association- don’t know a ton about it, but I do love their magazine!

I’m a member of the N.E.A. (National Educator’s Association) and I really like the magazine they send me about every month. It’s sometimes kind of dorky, but I guess that’s an obvious thing that can come along with being a teacher 🙂 It has a lot of good tips and ideas.

I was sad reading about how “getting a mentor” could be a great help. Well, technically, I have a mentor right now, but my situation is not a help.

Instead, I’ve had to find a way to allow her not just into my classroom, but also into my lesson plan. It was so bad, so fast that I had to really gather all my all, and ask for an official meeting. I’ve prepared my notes on the situation just as I would a lesson plan.

That way I will go in with a plan, lots of ideas, and hopefully I can keep the emotions out of it. More on this, as it develops. Aigh!

**Also, back to N.E.A. and their magazine…I teach for the kids. Truly. I’m always saying “I love these kids” or “I love this kid” while reading things they wrote or endearing errors they have made (not the repetitive mistakes). This women wrote in for the segment entitled “What I Hope Students Will Remember Most About Me”**

She says: “Above all else, I hope that my children will remember that I love them-I love them for who they are each day and who they will be in the future, and for everything they have overcome just to make it to school each day. I hope they will know that they are the reason I get up and go to work every morning, administration and NCLB notwithstanding. I hope they will know that the days when we bumped heads the hardest is when I loved them the most.”

I thought that was really cute, and true for me too. I really fondly look back on my student teaching and have such an affection for pretty much all of the students (even the trouble ones). If I were to write in on what I wanted students to remember me for, it would be the love, but it would also be for my amazing and awesome songs I made to help them remember things. (So far I may only have like one recorded verb song, but, I have time). So I will try to make things better with the administration because I love those kids!

Ready to quit? At the F.L. dep’t meeting she told us we can’t quit until the end of our 2nd year!

I know, I know, there would be problems at any school. But there is something going on at this school that I did not agree to when I signed my contract, and though they’re trying to act like we can make it into something mutually beneficial, I am dubious. I’ve already fretted and freaked out enough that it’s not worth it on my part. Basically I took over the job of the French teacher who they had signed on to teach a couple of the French classes (I had said no to “half-time” because -duh- that would not make any sense- teaching is a way-more-than-full-time job). And now she is still on the faculty part-time, yes, she is doing other things, but one of the jobs they are paying her for is to be my mentor.

But as far as that goes, the definition, the logical working out of the situation, and the awkwardness to me…I can’t even speak English it makes me want to quit so bad. I guess a big problem is that I am non-confrontational and I should have stood up more and said “No. I do not want her in my classroom yet (or ever).” Sure it could be beneficial, but not in the way it’s starting out to look like.

I bided my time, and it’s up, and she said “The F.L. department head wants me in the classroom.” And I’m a procrastinator, and don’t have a rote, repetitive schedule I follow every day. It’s going to be awkward, and I’m nervous about how the kids will feel about it. I didn’t even get a chance to tell them yet!

And it’s awkward because some faculty members are sort of upset that I go to take all of the French, and they are older than me and have worked in the school for years, if not decades.

I am sure that there would be other problems at any other school, but this situation is more than just unfair. It is almost offensive. It looks like the informal nature of the way things are run at this school is going to be working against me more than for me for a bit.

That said, I will try to remain optimistic, see how it goes (maybe she could end up helping me out and reducing my prep load?), and I will do my best to voice my concern and make suggestions for improvement.

That said, insert inappropriate swear word to express/relieve frustration here.

🙁

I did my student teaching, I don’t need a full-time observer, and our methods differ. A lot. Who knows. It just sucks and I do not approve. (I won’t quit, but I will do my best to be positive, and proactive).

Teachers don’t get paid enough…well, that all depends!

Without being too obvious, I want to touch on some thoughts I have. My boyfriend (whom I seldom see these days) told me I was doing way too much planning for what I’m getting paid. I am doing too much planning, and not enough creatively using the resources they have. They are not paying me to overcompensate for the terrible book series I’m working with. It’s not my fault that the levels are so screwed up because of troubles last year. And they haven’t yet given me a smartboard when I just might be one of the educational tech-savviest teachers they’ve got? I’m not trying to be conceited, but a few stressors in my life have made me realize I will never last at this rate. Not even through the year.

So I will adjust. Overall, I really don’t think teachers are paid enough. That said, teacher pay rates vary soo greatly. There are posh public schools in surrounding areas that I interviewed at or tried to apply to, and they pay very well, but have all of that standardized testing and tons of required paperwork or this-and-that.

Sure, public schools can pay nicely, but getting worked up about the behavior problems at a small religious school cannot even compare to the behavior issues in an inner-city public school. That would be crazy. But some teachers can thrive in it.

And then we have pay scales. First-year teachers? Bottom rate pay. If you have been teaching for years, and eventually get tenured- oh boy! Now that’s worth it! And- you already have your rhythm down and you can just tweak it and adjust to the technology and times. Ahhhh….looking forward…..awwww….

Then there are credentials- do you have a Bachelors? In what? A Masters? A doctorate? A Masters plus 560 credits?! That can really change things. For me, the Masters didn’t do too much, but it’s working alright (and will continue to pay for itself).

Public, private schools, and location. Not to mention region of the country! Boy do some states pay their teachers nothing! For me, I would be doing the same amount of planning and be getting paid only like 70% of what I’m getting now in some states. Or how about if I tried to teach in California? The pay is not that much higher, but the cost of living is WAY higher. And I’ve got bills and loans that do not change in amount much.

I do need to organize, more efficiently plan, and perhaps work something out with the teacher that’s supposed to be helping me. It’s tough cookies. Teeth-breaking cookies. Finally….

If you didn’t care about the kids or how things went, you could do minimal work and get through a year of teaching, but a) the pay is not all that much, and b) someone would probably notice and ask you to up the ante.

Then we have the old-timers who are getting paid quite a bit and do the same old thing every year, lecturing and turning-their-students-off-to-school-to-no-end.

Just some tired thoughts I’m having as I enjoyed the first night since I started teaching where I’m not frantically working for hours and not getting to bed early enough!

First Year Teachers Can Really Benefit From Wise, Experienced Teachers

Thus far I’ve gotten a lot of good wisdom and insight into how to handle kids, classes, planning, and grading. Unfortunately the situation with the variance in French levels was caused by the former French teacher with whom I am in a sticky situation (more on that later). So I am still planning a ton- I decided I am going to use more of the book and series’ material, even though I don’t like it. I can supplement it some days more than others, and cut out parts that are irrelevant. That would help make a little bit less work for me.

I was searching on the internet and stumbled across some specific advice a seasoned French teacher was giving a new one. It’s on teachers.net, a great site I’ve come across before while searching for education questions. The question is here First-Year Teacher- Help! and a teacher gives some really good tips in her response. Here are some I particularly liked:

Trying TPR which is new to this 1st year teacher– She said don’t trouble yourself with new methodologies you are not familiar with. Bookmark areas where you could use it and look it over to use next year.

What to focus on planning before school starts- Really, I did not plan well enough before school started, but I have my excuses (accepting the job offer kind of late, thinking I would be able to get better materials, and more) but I could have planned more units to use. The veteran teacher suggests doing the work to plan out preliminary units so you know where you’re heading. It would help me personally to have better resources (ie from after the year 1998)

What kind of homework for French 1– I like what she says about trying to not give busywork, instead to help reinforce what was gone over in class. I also think it’s good to have exercises that check student’s ability to understand and use the material- not just to repeat and repeat and memorize. My supervisor during student teaching reminded me to keep the purpose in mind with homework “Why? What will the gain out of it? Is it collected and how is it graded? How can they learn from it?”

She also talks about using effective bell ringers and calling out a “pack leader” who might be spurring misbehavior. I have heard a million times to start out harsh and “don’t crack a smile until January” so I’ve done my best to be both firm and fair. Overall the thread was a nice read.

I definitely think more appropriate mentoring would be nice in my situation, and for many new teachers. There is a lot of little side work that I didn’t know I’d have to do, and that’s fine, but some of it isn’t explained to me and I have to go about finding who to ask in the first place.

I’m pretty sure I’m not getting paid enough 🙂  But I guess if I stick with it it’ll get easier, and then if I stick with it for a few years it will really pay off. I can always hope!

Teacher shoe recommendation= any Earth shoe (especially Misty)

Any good teacher can tell you how much standing on your feet and moving around you do in a day. I was so tired at first during student teaching and my feet got exhausted from wearing shoes I thought were comfortable when I tried them on in the store, but they ended up pinching or making my arches ache or my feet just hurt in general.

And then I got a pair of Earth shoes. I got them from Zappos.com because they have free overnight shipping- both ways. So if you don’t like the shoe for whatever reason you can send it back with paid shipping and get another size or color. Unfortunately I forget what the name of the first shoe I ordered was and I can’t seem to find it on their site right now. It is like the Misty 2, which is the second pair I recently ordered.

I read great reviews on zappos about most of the styles I looked at- and a lot of the reviews were from nurses and teachers who have to be on their feet a lot. I immediately noticed happier feet, literally minutes after putting them on and walking around. Though they are relatively expensive (I still feel like a poor college student and have the loans-I’m-paying-off to prove it!), run about $80-$130, but they are SO worth it.

I wore my first pair nearly every single day because they were so so comfortable. They were black and went with most of my outfits. The Misty pair I ordered from a different site (because of a 20% off coupon for a Labor Day special) are also quite nice. But beware if you order them in red- they stain my socks a little!

These shoes have made feet, knee, and leg problems (not to mention my arch problems- I have a high arch) a non-issue. And I love them. I like slipping in and out of the ones I have. I very highly recommend that if you’re a teacher, you try Earth brand shoes if you’ve been having aching feet. They are not bad looking either, in my opinion. Some of them are, but the ones I have look nice and modestly stylish.

What did I teach my first week?

And the perfectionistic part of me asks “And why haven’t I put up any lesson plans like I promised?”. I’ll share a quick update of what I did in the first 8 days of teaching.

In all classes (French 1-3):

Words in English that came from the French – I found an old 2-page document that had some of these words organized by categories such as “Arts”, “Food and Dining”, “Home and Furnishing”, “Military” and others, and I truncated it (plus it was so old it was typed with purple ink). I put it onto 1 page with the category and then an example in each- and I had the kids try to think up words in each. They did a good job, and of course, my French 3 class did a much better job than the other levels. They even got a lot of words I hadn’t thought of! It’s a good activity and I shared that the purpose is to get them to see how much French they already know, and how many words we took from the French.

Why Speak French – I found a resource that gave 10 reasons for speaking French, then I had them think up their own or choose from the page. I also polled them about if they were there because they wanted to learn French or if it was because there is a 2 year language requirement, or if their parents wanted them to, or if they didn’t want to take Spanish……this was interesting. I had one girl whose brother has a French girlfriend. I had others who had taken Spanish for a few years and didn’t want to take it any more. I think it’s a fun and worthwhile activity.

Review– I started to get into some review with the French 2 and 3’s- mostly by doing activities where they were introducing themselves to their classmates and me. I had the French 2’s work with “aimer” and other activities. I gave a quiz to the French 2’s. I showed some videos (still don’t have a Smartboard unfortunately), and I did some readings with the French 3’s.

General French introductions for French 1– I let them pick French names- mais oui! I have them say “Bonjour Mademoiselle” and I am making them ask to go to the bathroom in French. I also went over classroom objects, some phrases (I have posters that I hold up that say “in French!” or “How do I say that in French?”), and we went over introductions, how-are-you’s, and goodbyes. I gave them a quiz over it as well.

I am trying to do a lot of cultural things (like showing an awesome rap about Paris from the Bienvenue series- it was so funny I could barely hold in my laughter). And I am trying to get the classes to speak in French and I will ask questions and have them respond with some French.

I need to plan and/or find some different ways to review/see what they know.

1st full week over, time is flying and I am falling a little behind…

Every day this week I felt like I said “If I can just make it through classes today, this afternoon I’ll do lots of work and make the classes more organized with smooth transitions”. Every afternoon, I am tired, have lots of little busy work or meetings or whatnot, and next thing I know, if I eat dinner, or do anything to relax for a minute- it’s suddenly 8 or 9 pm. They day flies, and though I’m done teaching by 2pm, I never leave my office before 4 or 5 really. And I feel like I’m already slipping into chronic sleep deprivation!

I really need to just start using more of the resources that come with the book, even though I don’t like the book that much- isn’t that awful? It’s because the book is so old (over 10 years). It also has vocabulary that is too specific at times (like “a reclined seat”) which it took me a second to recognize. I will need to look into getting another method next year if I keep teaching here.

Allez, Viens was a good series they used where I student taught. It definitely had some imperfections, but it had a lot of good cultural information and excellent teacher’s guides and notes. Maybe I can get different book people to come present their series like someone did when I was student teaching. It was fun. Who knows if the school has that kind of money (or rather, if they’re willing to spend it on that). But it is very important to like the series.

That’s something I didn’t really think about- if you are interviewing and you know about book series- either ask what they use, or ask to see what the books they use are like.

So I’m off-topic, and that’s why I feel like I was falling behind this week. I worked a lot, but I also checked my email and read on the internet and maybe got coffee with a friend or two. I procrastinated. You can not be a procrastinator and be an organized teacher. It’s just too much work. I do like the freedom I have, but I wish it was a little more structured.

I am soooo tired still. More sleep would definitely help me think more clearly, be less tired so I could plan better in the afternoons, and I would probably even run class better and get more done.

Did I already share the quote I made up? “More than just a full-time job, teaching is a whole-time job!”

So busy teaching- but here’s a memory from student teaching!

I will be writing posts about the beginning of school probably just around when school is over in June 😉 seriously, though, it has been a ton of work. I’ve made it through 4 days of teaching.

I was thinking back to student teaching and reflecting on having students make verb books. I did it for extra credit in my French 2 class and am going to require it in most, if not all, of my classes this year.

Student teaching taught me that while freedom in sentence-making is good sometimes, most of the time kids have a hard time coming up with whole sentences on their own. And sometimes, you get a gem like this, and just like my coop and I said “I’ll teach as long as they make me laugh more than they make me cry”:

"Are you losing weight this weekend?"

For those of you “non-French-speakers” the first sentence means:

“Are you losing weight this weekend?”

I had them come up with their own sentences for several required verbs, and this was one of the gemmiest of the gems.

And now I’m off to lesson plan until eternity.