Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting to Know You

The new school year started a few weeks ago, and I'm still adjusting to having a new batch of students.  Happily, this transition has been made easier by last year's students who continue to stop by my room every day, giving hugs, checking in, telling me about their new classes and teachers.  Now that I don't teach them they're more like friends than students and so we laugh a lot and hope aloud this year will be a good one.

My new 9th graders seem eager to please and have already started writing cheerful notes to me on the board when I'm not in the room.  This part of the year is always a bit of a tight-rope walk, as I need them to understand that I have high expectations (in their academic performance and their behavior), but I also care about them and want to get know them as individuals.  This process involves me reminding kids repeatedly what the classroom protocols are, learning which children I can publicly call out versus those that I have to crouch next to and quietly whisper a reminder, knowing when to joke with them and when to put on my serious face or cast an evil eye.  I've been at the school long enough that my reputation precedes me, but it's the students' job to feel me out a little bit, negotiate the ground rules for the year.

Some children come in ready to do your bidding; others won't relax until you win their trust.  I'm working on that with a few of them right now--finding places of flexibility where we can meet one another half way without compromising the important stuff.  Meanwhile, I'm actually trying to teach as well!  The layers of September...  They are many and often somewhat imperceptible.