Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T-minus 8 Days

Spent yesterday and today in my classroom, gearing up for the new school year. My entire goal? Be ready. Ready for forty students in my APEL classes. Ready to manage new late work policies (er, in reality, ready to manage attendance and leftover papers due to absentees better so that those new late work policies actually work). Ready to be a better teacher than I was last year. I was so off of my game almost all of last year it's almost embarrassing. But I think I have the wind back in my sails after a summer of doing basically nothing but thinking about how to be a better teacher to all of my curriculum.

Yesterday was the first day I cracked the seal on my classroom and made a lot of progress unpacking everything I had to pack up for summer school. And when I say everything, I mean ... everything. I left my desk completely empty, all of my flair was packed up in boxes, and I hid behind locked cabinet doors all of the school supplies that I have spent my own hard-earned money on, like my actual Swingline stapler and my two Swingline hole punches, among other things. I'm a stickler about good materials and supplies, and believe that they last longer (case in point: Crayola markers versus other brands. I'm convinced Crayola markers last nearly forever), so I spend my own money, rather than running to the English department supply closet every three weeks for a new, lower-quality stapler.

But anyway, I unpacked about ten boxes/drawers worth of stuff and my room is looking much more hospitable. I also did some good unhoarding work, throwing away things I've had since my first year of teaching at Gompers and things I know I don't, won't, and have never used. It feels really good -- cathartic, almost -- to throw things away from a previous year, and it always leaves me wondering why I hold onto things in which I have no true emotional investment, like old students work and highlighters that don't work. It's sad, really.

What's also sad is how important classroom environment is. It's probably something that most students, in their first few weeks of their teaching program, roll their eyes at when they are told: "Have a nice classroom environment and students will learn." Now, I'm not 100% convinced that students learn BECAUSE of the environment, but it does make them generally happy to be there. And really, I makes ME happy to be there. I mean, I spend nearly 12 hours a day in there, give or take a few hours (but 6 am to almost 6 pm sounds about right), so for 60 hours a week, I want my classroom to look hospitable. Before I unpacked yesterday, my classroom looked almost unrecognizable. But slowly but surely things are looking better. I have my flair up, have hung my new maps (one of the United States and one of the world, both of which are emblazoned on the sides with flags of states or countries), and have moved around a bit of furniture to accommodate the five extra desks whose arrival is impending. (Ugh.)

Today I was a little less enthusiastic about my classroom preparation, but I did do a lot more purging of old junk and reorganizing of my piddly little storage situations. And MAN do I have a zillion stacks of Post-Its! Apparently I've been secretly hoarding them. But I'm totally okay with this. A real stack of Post-Its is like gold to an English teacher.

And today, because I was dealing with surfaces and places near the door, I had to do some rather disgusting cleaning, despite leaving my classroom spotless in June. We're talking hands and knees, bottle of Fantastik and roll of paper towels in hand, scrubbing the bottom shelf of the bookshelf that's right inside the door to my classroom. Three dead spiders, four paper towels, and some elbow grease later, they were clean. I then took my plastic buckets (Rubbermaid dishpans, to be exact) outside to clean them off -- had there been a hose nearby, I'd have used that, but alas, no. I had to settle for drowning them in Fantastik and scrubbing them outside in the 100 degree heat. By the time I was done cleaning all of the furniture in the front, I was properly filthy (I didn't even notice until I was home that I ended up with some rather suspicious black sticky gunk on the underside of my left forearm... I honestly don't even want to know where it came from.

Tomorrow, I will probably start the lesson planning stuff -- not that I haven't already worked on that, but I need to print things out and get organized. Also need to experiment with desk arrangements and possibly rearrange some things in filing cabinets. I'm loathe to get rid of one of them, but if Scott does end up appointing a spare classroom for a filing cabinet annex, I might consider banishing one of mine out there. We'll see, though. We'll see.

Tomorrow's other project is to finish my blackout curtains for the windows on my doors. I bought the fabric about a month ago at JoAnn's, but despite having taken window measurements before I left for summer, I decided that it would ultimately be wiser to make them AT school to ensure a perfectly proper fit. I'm stocked about these curtains. The door-windows are so annoying because somehow I have a bum projector that doesn't project as brightly as others. (I learned this for sure when I had a back-up projector for a few weeks and it was SUPER bright. ::sigh:: At least I have one.)

Hopefully, the rest of the week will be as productive as it has started.

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