Overwhelming, Exhausting – Survived my “first week teaching”

First week of teaching. Oh boy. So tired I can barely see. I think it’s not just because it’s my first year as a teacher, I think it’s also my specific school and class schedule. I have 4 periods that are 55 minutes each. I teach a French 1, two French 2’s, and a French 3 class. The French 1 has less than 20 students, but the room is small and was way too hot all week. The French 2’s are unfortunately unevenly split (one is very small) and I can already see it’s going to be hard running them at the same pace.

I have a lot of students with “I.E.P.s”- some of them are pretty serious, some of them are more abstract, some of them I don’t know how to deal with but I am trying to pay attention to how the students are performing.

The French 2 was a large class last year and they did not get through a lot of material. So I have to set about figuring out where they are at, and also take into consideration that some will still be far behind others. I have to find the general medium and forge forward.

I already moved the seating around, and then moved it again, and it’s hard to decide how I want it. I put them in rows against either wall so there is a strip in the middle I can move down. That seems to work well. I have assigned seating for the French 1 because it is a bigger class, and the kids are still quite immature (several boys were talking right starting from day one).

I did quite a bit of culture and used French in all the levels (mostly French in French 3 but not as much as I should have). The cultural activities went pretty well. I need to organize my thoughts and goals more.

Other than that, I am glad to have made it through my first week of teaching (though it was not a complete week). I was so busy I barely saw my colleagues. I fear that I will sleep all weekend and won’t do as much planning as I’d like.

I also REALLY need to start going to bed earlier. I am still going to bed around 12am or 1am and even up until 2am. Oh boy oh boy.

Day by day!

Back to School Night (parents follow kids’ schedule)

If you’re a teacher, I’d bet at least half of the schools have something like this. Back to School Night. My good friend who is teaching at the school with me said it was her least favorite night of the year, which really scared me, but I prepared what I wanted to say and do, and I think that was key. As one of my other “colleague friends” put it- it’s going to happen whether or not you’re nervous. I did get nervous, but I tried to calm myself by thinking of how quickly it would pass, and how prepared I was.

I do feel prepared, even though my last post said I was nowhere near ready. I am intrinsically prepared because of my education background, and I have a lot of good skills I took from student teaching. However, the unfortunate part is the language levels are not clear-cut, and I’m not just talking about individual student variation. I’m talking about not knowing what level the French 3’s are at, and knowing that the French 2’s will be “behind” in some ways, and it confuses me and scares me.

Now I’m off topic. But back to school night went well overall- the parents came through their child’s schedule- to 10 minute mini-classes. I decided to have them introduce themselves in French “Bonjour, je m’appelle…” and then I introduced myself and talked about my French and Education background. Next, I passed out a super-abridged version of my syllabus and talked about my overall course goals.

In a lot of classes the time passed quickly and there was no time left for questions. I felt pretty good, and felt much better after one of the students whose parents I know well called me to tell me they thought it went very well.

There were a few good, almost challenging questions. For example: “Is this course going to be like French 1.5?” because of the French 1 last year getting behind. I answered that no, I was considering it French 2 and would start with review and catch-up and then move forward. That’s the hard part that got me off track a few paragraphs ago- there will be a lot of additional work for me to do if I don’t effectively figure out how to catch them up using the book and the resources I do have. I spent too much time student teaching formatting and creating single handouts I should have had provided for me.

So, to conclude my view on Back to School Night, I say- it’s all in how you view it. Keep it in perspective and think of it as a way for you to show the parents what you expect from their kids, and what you are going to help their kids do. I showed the fun and think I did a good job showing I’m serious and I’m working from a good basis. Sure I felt a little young, but I think it’s the specific school (because I know a lot of the parents and they knew me when I was just a youngin’).

There were even some fun parts, and I enjoyed when the parents would speak a little of the French they knew to humor me. And, of course, I had some French music playing in the background. Multiple intelligences!

Coming Down to the Wire – Still Nowhere Near Ready

The Good News: School is about to start, I am excited, and the minutes will continue to tick-tock on the clock. Whether I like it or not, the first day will come, and after that it won’t stop moving- day after day. I have some fun activities planned and I am really excited to have my own classroom and to be at such a great school.

The Not-As-Good-News: I am happy to say I’ve already got approval for getting some French praise stickers, and things could be much worse. But I don’t have a Smartboard like I thought I was going to! Not yet, at least. And a laptop was ordered, but the I.T. department is too busy to get it to me right now. Alas, at least there is the hope of technology! So I have to plan around that, and keep in mind, I really don’t know what level some of these students will be at.

The Bad News: I still don’t have a key to my office. I feel like a nomad carrying six bags here and there every day.

I know that every school would have its ups and downs and until I know the ins and outs here, well, I’ll just hold my breath.

Overall, as I said, the time will come, whether I am ready or not. So why am I still so anxious!?!

Oh, maybe it’s the holding my breath?!

Creating a French Course Syllabus

It has not been easy for me to decide what to put on my syllabus and what to leave out. Of course I want to include as much as possible, but right now I’m looking at 2 pages full of information and I will not let it run onto 3. Figuring out my focus and goals for the course has been a good process, and a fun challenge. I want to express that I care about the students learning not just the language, but the culture and other parts of it- and I hope that we will learn in ways that everyone can enjoy.

Multiple intelligences are big for me, and I want to teach and have activities in all areas so that students who learn better this way or that way will have instruction and experiences in their preferred learning style, and they will get a chance to strengthen their areas of learning difficulty.

It’s also hard to know what to do with the upper levels, as I’ve talked to last years’ French teachers, and they say the students might not be where I’d expect them to be (French 2’s didn’t get to past tense, etc.)

I want to go over coursework and grading, but not too much. And I have a whole paragraph on cheating. I suppose there are some things I could go over and reword or group better to make it shorter. In the end I think it is better to lay more of it out there to begin, because students will say “That wasn’t in the syllabus!

Hopefully I will get that Smartboard in my classroom before school starts so I can complement going over the syllabus with a nice Powerpoint presentation. But who knows- I still don’t even have akey to my own office!

Wish me luck (now I’m going to search on the internet for other teachers’ syllabi and input)!

Prepping, Planning, Procrastinating

I’m getting excited about teaching, but also nervous about feeling unprepared. The best way to help this would be doing more “prep”. But it’s tough to do without a computer of any sort in my office, and without keys! The behind-the-scenes getting myself moved into the school involves a lot more emails and requests and details than I would have thought. I guess it’s a good lesson in taking charge and NOT PROCRASTINATING.

Procrastinating is a lot of what I’ve been doing. I told myself I would prepare and plan all of August, but I moved into a new apartment, and I have been working on getting this and that (I have keys to my classroom, but not my office yet), and I end up making a lot of excuses.

A teacher today did tell me that the students will probably be far behind what I think (as far as level of language mastery thus far goes) so that gives me more of an excuse to put off planning.

I guess the best idea would be to continue to acquaint myself with the material, and to finalize my syllabus. I do not think I’m going to include specific dates on the syllabus- just overall general coursework. I don’t want to do all that guess work and then have the kids get upset when the dates don’t match up.

I have a teacher planner that I bought at Office Depot (I believe it was there) and I think it will help with planning.

The next step to conquer is propelling my brain and motivation into gear, because time is flying by and September will come knocking soon enough.

I Got a Full-Time French Teaching Job

For privacy and safety sake, I am not going to say exactly where, but I did get a job. And it was after holding out for full-time (they had offered me half-time and I turned it down earlier this Summer). It is a private religiously-affiliated high school with excellent students and a great faculty. I even know a few people teaching there (it’s very close to where I live), so that will help me feel more comfortable during my first year.

I went to a few interviews, sent out lots of interest to different schools, and had a few nibbles on the line but no real deals. I did get a call last week from a high school sounding almost desperate for me to come in for an interview. I guess it was almost August.

Of my friends and other student teacher colleagues, I’d say about half have a job lined up, 25% are still looking, and 25% I haven’t really heard from. It’s not as easy as you’d think- even with a Masters! I think it’s the economy right now.

Overall, I’m very excited and looking forward to starting planning and getting prepared. I have a lot of flexibility in the instruction and it means two things- yay for that freedom and opportunity, but, also, lots of work and a bit of pressure to up the quality of their French program.

I’ll write more as I have more meetings and orientations and such. I am supposed to be getting some mentoring, but I’m not sure about how or when. I am very thankful for my student teaching experience!

No job after second interview

So I had two interviews with a school, and I thought they went pretty well. They did, but I wish I had better rehearsed some of my core philosophies and what I might respond to potential questions.

I had to call and ask if they had made a decision (hadn’t heard back in over 3 weeks) and it turns out they said they mailed a letter and I maybe did not receive it. I think it has to do with my address needing a postal box and maybe they didn’t include it. Word to the wise= specify contact information clearly!

Even though the interviews did go well (2nd interview shows that they did like me), I think in the end the fact that I’m a newbie was the breaker. No way to know for sure, but I think that is probably what it was.

I’m still optimistic, and will keep expressing interests and trying to get more interviews. I might check schools in a few other states I’m interested in too. It’s not too late in the game, and I can just take what I’ve learned so far to improve my personal pitch.

Summer School: Teaching Languages I Barely Know

I somewhat agreed to do summer school, thinking it was more of a tutoring than teaching thing. I think the school was almost desperate because I told them I didn’t know much Italian at all. I ended up teaching Spanish and Italian.

Not easy. It was obvious once it started that none of the teachers there wanted to do it because it was a somewhat unpleasant task. There are multiple subjects in a classroom at one time, and the kids don’t want to be there. And in my case, there was very little guidance about what to teach. I felt bad making the kids do 2 hours of reading and writing, so I ended up doing a lot more planning and work than I had anticipated.

It was paid, but not much. And it felt like much less when I realized how much work I had to do outside of it. However, fellow aspiring teachers, if you are interested in helping with summer school, ask first about how it is structured.

I heard of another school where they hand the teachers packets and where they have specific tests to help the teachers in planning what to cover in such a short time.

Once I decided to look at it as kind of a paid internship (it wouldn’t hurt the resume either!), I got through it. I tried to make it easier on myself, and it was only two weeks (some SS’s are 4 or 5 weeks).

The grades I gave seemed somewhat inflated, but it was very challenging for me to come up with materials and tests, especially considering that the school didn’t even have extra blank workbooks for me (only ateacher’s edition that I had to white out!).

C’est la vie!

It was a good experience overall, I guess, but I would probably never do it again. Tutoring would be a lot more lucrative and flexible. But I am glad I suffered through it right along with the kids.

Grammar Reminder to Foreign Language Teachers

I was tutoring a student to help her with a French project for school. She had been sick for a few weeks so she missed some important grammatical concepts involved in her project. I was trying to give her a quick overview of some concepts, such as direct and indirect object pronouns, and other subject pronouns, but it was difficult to do it quickly.

I was again reminded of how important it is for students to understand first of all the grammatical vocabulary in English, and then the grammatical concept in English, before expecting them to understand it in a different language.

That’s something good FL teachers should remember and be sensitive to. I know that in public schools you cannot spend too much time going over grammar that should be taught in middle school level English, but sometimes you have to in order to avoid having to repeat it again and again for students who won’t get it.

I also don’t know the best methods of teaching them, but I guess that a lot of examples building on other material they know would be best. I will report back on these thoughts, findings, and in-the-classroom studying as a I find it. Until then- remember- make sure the kids know and understand the grammar in English first.

I got an interview at a school that I really want to teach at!

I have an interview at a prestigious public high school, and I am so glad I got an interview there. I am really excited about this prospect. So I’ve been reading up online about questions they might ask educators, and I’ve been looking through all my handouts and papers about these interview things. Also, I’ve been reviewing my portfolio.

Truly, I should have been doing all this for the past two weeks, but at least I do feel like I’m getting well-prepared for the interview. I’ll be sure to share how it goes.

I really wanted to get more of the student work printed up, or put online, but hey, it’s still May, and I don’t have alllll the time in the world.

Did I already say wish me luck?!!?