My New Teacher Chronicle

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    My First Year of Teaching

  • Chronicle of a New Teacher

    Chronicle of a New Teacher
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    The beginnings of things are the most beautiful, the most terrible, and the most fascinating. Babies emerge covered in goo, screaming, and blinded as a room full of people stand and watch. Teaching is not much different. My four year gestation left me soaked in theory, conversational, and blinded with well-meaning naivety about the world I was entering.
  • I Said I Was Nervous, I Lied.

    I Said I Was Nervous, I Lied.
    Read More“My first student came in at 7:33am to drop off his Yankees hat, marking his desk. By this point, I’m already half-way through my miniature pot of coffee. I’ve seen a few kids I recognize from student teaching, some smiled and yelled, some walked by staring at the ceiling. A few building vets have walked by my door and smiled; I just want the students to come in already. For some strange reason, “Hide Your Love Away” by the Fab Four is on a loop in my head (mostly the parts about standing head.
  • Get Your Hands Dirty

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    It only took four days of teaching for my immune system to cave. I spent the weekend in a Nyquil-induced coma of recovery, dreaming of all the prep time I was losing. I didn’t get much planning done, but what I ended up finding was time to reflect. The most buoyant memories of my week floated to the surface easily as I half-slept on the couch ignoring the History Channel.
  • Wizards and Crickets and Teaching, Oh My!

    Wizards and Crickets and Teaching, Oh My!
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    There are janitorial closets between every three or four classrooms on the various wings, each of which are home to no less than a dozen talkative crickets, no doubt mulling over the hero’s journey and the apparent symbolism of Excalibur as they interpret it when staring at the giant mop handle before them. There’s something comical about the sound of crickets in a high school though;
  • Formula for Success

    Formula for Success
    Read MoreBefore I left the wonderfully dangerous world of chemistry behind for English, I had a life-changing experience; I was asked to teach. Through some miracle (or clerical error I’m sure) I ended up being asked to do summer research with one of my professor’s teams. I was excited, terrified, and honored all at once. It was a chance to earn minimum wage every day in a summer for graduate level cancer research; I was psyched. Also, I had to teach a freshman biochemistry lab for nursing majors.
  • Pull!

    Read moreIf you asked me how long it’s been since the beginning of school, I couldn’t answer without reaching for a calendar; everything still feels new. I can read the eyes of my fellow teachers when they ask me–grinning–so…how’s it going? They want a story, an exciting rubbernecker they can chuckle at first and then offer me advice on how to overcome it with time. They’re consoling gestures are at the ready, locked and loaded. I’m not usually one to disappoint, but I’ve been returning a lot of grins la
  • Yes, And...

    Yes, And...
    Read moreThe most vital aspects of improv are accepting what you are given (saying “yes” to one of your ensemble) and then giving something to them in return (and…). This ensures that the stage is engaged at all times; turning down your fellow players can leave an awkward silence that impregnates the whole ensemble with doubts–then, everyone needs saving. I think teaching is very similar. Whether it’s with your staff or your students, you need to be able to improvise accordingly.
  • Take Two, Call Me in the Morning

    Take Two, Call Me in the Morning
    Read moreIbuprofen, Advil, Tylenol, Asprin, Excedrin… Mainstays of a first-year teacher you ask? Before the semester started, I was predicting scores of headaches from lack of sleep, staring at papers and computer screens, and stress in general (I still hadn’t been paid yet when I started writing this). However, with the exception of copious amounts of coffee–limited only by the fact that I am very very far from the closest bathroom–I have been very short on needing relief. I have popped a few ‘profen, b
  • Titles Escape Me, Friends Don't

    Titles Escape Me, Friends Don't
    Read moreAs a pre-service teacher, I felt continually frustrated by being cut-off from the profession for which I was preparing to enter. Yes, there were practicum requirements that got me into a classroom for a few hours every other semester, but largely my only experiences were with college professors and my peers. My real “education” was developing through correspondence with teachers whom I had met along the way. Some of my older friends were already teaching; I could sense their collective fear, exa
  • I'll Show YOU the Meaning of Grawlix

    I'll Show YOU the Meaning of Grawlix
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    How many of you had bets on about me? What were the odds for burning out at what week, what would my reaction be… I’ll tell you now, the smile on my face has faded slightly. I’m tired, behind in my grading, frustrated with my colleagues, and don’t even ask me how much I’ve been neglecting my fantasy football teams (poor Plunderbuss and The Frumious Bandersnatch)! For the first six weeks of teaching, I kept up my blog each week, was
  • Bare-Knuckled Optimism

    Bare-Knuckled Optimism
    Read moreYou have to know you’re good. You have to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and dress yourself in cliches sometimes! The attitude, I’m finding out, is your strongest weapon against sucking as a teacher. Just as actors need to stay in character using whatever method necessary, we as teachers need to do mental and emotional prep work before we go on stage. Students are smart, they know what teachers hate their jobs, who doesn’t care, and who let’s kids get by with less than their best. Eng
  • How Do We Treat New Teachers?

    How Do We Treat New Teachers?
    Read moreI’m new to teaching. Sometimes I wonder if it’s obvious to others in ways other than my optimistic smile and twinkling eyes. Talking with veteran educators every day is one way I test the waters, and feel out their perceptions of me. No matter the level of experience over me, rank, or area of specialty, I’m always treated delicately. They handle their conversation with me as a one might a small child who’s holding up a “picture of you” scribbled in abstract crayon shapes.
  • Move the World? Don't Look in the Mirror

    Move the World? Don't Look in the Mirror
    Read moreMotivation can be a tricky thing to track down, but if you can harness and understand what truly moves you, the Earth will move for you. You know there are a myriad other tasks you could be doing at any given time as a teacher, but how do you balance them? How do you find the energy to keep going after five hours of sleep, a twenty-minute lunch break, and screaming children terrorizing your classroom? Hopefully this is not a situation you find yourself in daily, but if it is even close to tha
  • Building Something New

    Building Something New
    Read moreI can hear them now, the collective groans and complaints of our staff are walking zombie-like down the hall in the direction of the office with one motive: braaaains! Teaching is a difficult job, it’s no surprise that we have a lot to complain about in any given day. Administrators have no shortage of rotten opinions spoiling in their inboxes. The staff lunch room reeks at times of foul language, maybe not unsuitable for television, but certainly unpleasant and cringe-worthy.
  • NCTE Reflection, Part I

    Read moreAs a new teacher, I fancy myself an expert at being overwhelmed. I find myself inundated most days with involuntary illusions of industry (if it’s wrong of me to alliterate so copiously, I don’t want to be right). In other words, I make a strong effort to become as busy as possible because I feel obligated to do so in order to meet: deadlines, potential, standards, personal goals and professional contacts.
  • Variations of Myself, Written, Spoken, and Done

    Read moreNCTE Reflection Part 2 I’ve been blogging for a long time. I’ve been online for a long time. I’ve been in the classroom (as a student) for a long time (only more recently as a teacher). Starting to see these various threads of my life interweave has been fascinating over the past year or two. I started to blog in college during my freshman year. It was completely personal at first (I had to keep up with my high school friends somehow) but it grew slowly into something I didn’t fully understand
  • Looking Back on My First Semester

    Read more“It hurts to grow up,” Ben Folds sings in his whimsical but wistful reflection on fatherhood, Still Fighting It, “but everybody does.” I remember well the feeling of creeping bones at night as the ache of growth in my knees and elbows held me captive as I lay supine and far from dreaming. As a new high school teacher, echoes of this memory come back easily when sleep seems like a distant luxury and my mind is fixated on “that student” or “that lesson.” I can’t help but try solving each problem a
  • We'll Fix It in Post?

    We'll Fix It in Post?
    Read moreI can’t imagine how much differently this year would be turning out without this blog. I’ve come here to write often with a full heart overflowing with joy, other times with a heavy one weighed down with frustration. At the risk of sounding like a small child talking to his imaginary friend or diary, I think I need this blog; I can tell it anything. Then again, unlike a journal locked away in a drawer or a made-up companion, this blog is connected to something bigger than myself. I get to speak
  • Considering Sines of Learning

    Considering Sines of Learning
    Read moreAs it is with many politically and emotionally charged ideas, standards-based education has been attacked through a lot of rote-memorization and repetition of buzz words and phrases like, “teaching to the test” which many people can’t defend beyond its emotional appeal. As someone who went through school during the standards boon of the mid-nineties through the early 2000s, I came into college with a somewhat negative view of them myself.
  • Is Twitter Just Window Dressing?

    Is Twitter Just Window Dressing?
    Read moreI’m sure any marketer or business person could tell you how wonderful Twitter and social media have been for their website traffic and ad revenue, but what should teachers care about traffic? Sure, it’s interesting (and even useful depending upon your role) to know who visits your website or blog, but those data don’t provide much value in and of themselves.
  • The Extended Metaphor, a Principal's Best Pal

    The Extended Metaphor, a Principal's Best Pal
    My principal is a good speaker. When he stands before a room he commands our attention with subtle humor, candid allusions to his own teaching, and a generally upbeat attitude (even when explaining that he is sick and could vomit any minute and it’s a good thing the front row is empty). I’m always encouraged to hear him, but it isn’t solely because he is an experienced performer. The content of his speech always interests me.
  • Is Your School Like a Glow Stick?

    Is Your School Like a Glow Stick?
    Read moreWhile reading a post on The Student Affairs Collaborative, a blog on higher education, I got a very vivid image in my head. The title, Break the System to Remake the System, made me think of a glow stick instantly. I like this image analog for several reasons. First, I relate to the idea that what we need to shine, as schools, is already inside of us. To me, that’s an idea that just about every teacher already embraces. Yes, you need to hire well, but you’ll almost never be in a situation where
  • Developing Learners

    Developing Learners
    Read moreAre we taking polaroid pictures of our students, teachers, and schools and then evaluating the photography before the film fully develops? Are we seeing jaundiced test results, red-eyed teacher malpractice, and splotchy school visions?
  • The Hardest Thing

    Marriage is about sacrifice and compromise. My wife and I have been married nearly three years now; we’ve come to understand, through many trials, the true power of being a team. When you delay the satisfaction of putting your feet up and watching your favorite show in favor of changing the oil in your car or doing some dishes, the payoff is ultimately greater.
  • Interview: Dr. Sandra Wegner

    Interview: Dr. Sandra Wegner
    Read moreBefore I embark on my first trip to the ASCD Annual Conference, I want to put some information out there about what this organization is and what it does. As a new teacher, I’ve come to value the many resources I’ve gotten both online from colleagues and in my mailbox in ASCD publications. They are far-reaching, though-provoking, and indispensable to my growth in this profession.
  • ASCD Annual Conference 2010

    Read moreOne thing I gathered from speaking with Dr. Wegner was that people are at the heart of the organization and this conference. There are many opportunities to share experiences and hear stories about educators around the globe. Be social and open to meeting lots of new people.
  • Yong Zhao: Education in the Age of Globalization

    Yong Zhao: Education in the Age of Globalization
    Read moreI think, unfortunately, many American educators allow themselves to remain isolated within their own district, state, or region. Some even seldom go beyond the classroom walls for new information. Zhao’s perspective is dually Chinese and American, as a student who grew up in Sichuan Province and came to Chicago for his graduate education. His perspective offers something every educator should seek out: diversity.
  • Are Creativity and Standards Opposed?

    Are Creativity and Standards Opposed?
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    When I think back to the differences between Zhao and Marzano, it’s hard for me to say they are opposed, and it gets harder the more I read about each of them and their ideas. They both care about pursuing education for all kids. They both care about discerning a system where best practices are shared and disseminated. They both make a living working for teachers and schools–ultimately–on behalf of students.
  • Moore's Law

    Moore's Law
    Read moreCuriosity and exploration bred the modern personal computer as we know and accept it today. Four decades ago, computers were hulking masses run by teams of people for small focused tasks. Today, the computers we know fit in our pockets, are individualized for each of us based on our needs and wants.
  • 14 Lines of Homework

    14 Lines of Homework
    Read moreWhen I was in high school, I associated homework with “work” and learning with “class.” I didn’t often complete my homework because it wasn’t until I was back in class that the learning took place. At times, I found practice to be helpful, but I would often choose to stay after school with teachers who would do homework alongside me; other assignments would be left undone or–gasp–copied from friends.
  • Staying Learning Limber: Thoughts for New Education Graduates

    Staying Learning Limber: Thoughts for New Education Graduates
    Read moreBeing a new teacher can be exciting, terrifying, and alltogether satisfying at once. You go from being a student to student-teacher to teacher candidate in just a matter of months. There is a lot to get together in a short span of time. You have to wrap up your undergraduate responsibilities, complete paperwork for your certificate, build a resume, look for jobs, and survive the whole thing in one piece emotionally!
  • Courage is Contagious

    Courage is Contagious
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    I’m not sure what it is about alliteration that keeps me so rapt with attention amidst any attempt aurally amplified and afixed to my aforementioned…attention, but my free writing, blogging, and journaling often end up mired in such unilexular rants. There, I’ve caught your attention!
  • The Angler's Guide to Research: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Use Wikipedia

    The Angler's Guide to Research: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Use Wikipedia
    Read moreWhy shouldn’t learning start with hunches? As a new teacher, there are many times I feel stranded somewhere between the older students I teach and the younger teachers above me. I still have strong memories of being a high school student, but am operating in an authoritative role “above” them. I’ve gotten used to being “the new guy” on the staff, but also to being “the tech guy” to whom many come with questions. I enjoy the dichotomy that being new and also holding a position of soft power puts