Notes from my First Day

August 29, 2007 at 6:16 pm 2 comments

Tuesday was my first day in the classroom, and I was there for the entire day – second through sixth periods (first is prep). For now I am staying with DR, my primary (?) mentor teacher. Later, I may get shuffled around to a variety of different teachers/grade levels – including, as it turns out, possibly junior high. (Huzzah!)

DR’s classroom is beautiful. As you walk in, the first thing you see is that the back wall of the classroom has been painted in a very nice mural of gliding seagulls. I’m told it was done “years ago, when people still knew about Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Once you tear your eyes away from the calming cloudscape, you notice a large black-and-gold (the school colors) bulletin board with a Freedom Writers poster on it. The walls are lined with reproduction posters of famous artwork, and there are four bookcases, brimming to overload, in each corner of the room. There’s a bulletin board at the front of the class, labeled “GRADES,” with nothing on it – yet. The seats are laid out in a modified grid that allows the teacher to easily access every student and every corner of the room. If you stand in the middle of the room you can be anywhere else, breaking up any sort of activity, in three big steps. DR’s desk is at the front of the room; there’s a flowerpot on the corner, with a bouquet of flower-pens that the kids can borrow without asking because they’d be mortified to walk off with them.

First period is DR’s prep period, so I arrive in time for second period – home room. CHS is still getting in gear, so we skip the pledge and announcements. Second is an accelerated 10th grade class, and there are only fifteen students.

DR has them each fill out a questionnaire that tells about their favorite things, after-school schedule, etc..

I didn’t do much in this class other than listen in on their small group discussions about Ishmael.

Third period had twenty students, and lots of them were athletes. I think they’d told all the athletes to wear team shirts on Tuesday, because every other kid had on a softball, soccer, football, basketball, tennis, cheerleading, or track shirt. I was disappointed to not see any choir, band, debate, or theater shirts.  In this class, I started interacting with the small groups, helping keep them on track, and guiding some of their discussion. (I interacted increasingly with each class period.)

Fourth period was very large – 26 students. They had a completely different personality, too – much more confident, vocal, and comfortable interacting as near-peers with the teacher. I have a feeling that this class may do its best to cross the lines of propriety before the semester is up. I definitely got a sense that fourth period thought they were hot stuff, if you know what I mean.

Fifth period was the one regular English class. More about that later.

Sixth period was interesting in that they, alone of the classes, sat as far from the “teacher area” as they could – the far corner of the room. They were about 20 in number, and struck me as easily distracted – not surprising, given it was the end of the school day. DR told me that sixth period usually ended up being her favorite class, and I can definitely see that this sixth period may turn out to be rather interesting. There’s one kid – I’ll call him Frank – who is loud, opinionated, and extremely well-informed. He may, in fact, be brilliant….

Speaking of opinionated – when do young people stop feeling so comfortable with their opinions? I’ve never seen people be so open with extremely strong, closed-minded, misguided, and/or confrontational opinions. One kid would loudly talk about how you had to be dumb not to believe in evolution while the kid next to him would loudly talk about how you had to be an idiot to believe in anything other than creationism. (Ishmael apparently deals a fair deal with evolution.) In college, you’d never see people be so brazen with their personal belief systems. Is this a good or a bad evolution? I asked DR about it after school, and she said that she suspects the younger teenagers (these guys are all 14-15) are so open with their opinions because they haven’t yet realized how little they know about anything.

I’m very amused at how these tenth graders evaluate books. When asked what they thought about Ishmael, most of them are content to leave me with a single word: weird. Many of them indicate that it was not a good book because it was not easy to read. Others say things like “this might have been a good book, but I don’t agree with what it says, because of what I know from the Bible, so it isn’t a good book.” Others apparently tuned it out as “nonsense” as soon as they realized one character was a telepathic gorilla. Those who liked it, though, REALLY seemed to like it – and, for the most part, get it.

One of the most interesting things that I enjoyed tracking throughout the day was fashion. (“Teacher Eye for the Tenth Grade Guy,” anyone?) The main theme among the girls seems to be layers – lots and lots of layers. Their shorts are all either knee-length (and close-fitting) or nearly nonexistant. Shoes fell mostly in the “can be kicked off in two seconds” category.  The lip gloss obsession I noted when visiting a junior  high last year had fallen away somewhat in tenth grade, but I did note heavy usage of eye shadow. There were lots of woven “friendship bracelets” and fake rhinestones.

On the male side of the equation, I was dreadfully amused to note that plaid shorts were what all the cool guys were wearing. It hasn’t been so long that I don’t remember when plaid shorts wouldn’t have been worn by even the nerdiest of high schoolers. Most of them had full heads of shaggy, unshapen hair, except the few sporting end-of-summer mother-mandated trims.

Both genders are wearing screenprinted t-shirts – often in all-over repeating patterns – in a size or two too small, and haircuts last seen on their parents (or maybe my parents – got to remember how young these kids are!). I saw surprisingly few name brands – another interesting shift from the junior high.

At this point, at least, there seems to be relatively little class tension. There’s a girl with big rock star hair, an AC/DC lanyard, rock-and-roll tank top, and a giant Pantera logo sketched on her notebook. I wonder how she even knows these bands. Next to her is a girl in a cheerleader uniform, ribbon bows in her ponytail, and a fake pearl bracelet. They are getting along just fine….

Throughout the course of the day we had two sets of identical twins, plus one boy who has an identical twin but who is not in the class. There’s one ninth grader who comes over from the junior high just for accelerated 10th grade English; she’s not even a native speaker. One boy came into the class – he was supposed to be in a different class, and left before I got to talk to him – who couldn’t have been anywhere near as old as the others. I’m guessing maybe 12 at the oldest.


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First Day of School Tales from High School!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kit  |  September 6, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Keep up the reports. I felt like I was back in high school on the first day while I read your blog. Maybe the kids and DR are unaware of it yet, but they are lucky to have you take part in their class. As a teacher, you’ll be the bee’s knees! Man, I’m old.

  • 2. Play-Doh, 504s, Arthur, and Puke - OF DOOM! « Full of Bees!  |  September 13, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    […] was listed as “autism spectrum.” I was shocked. Remember “Frank,” from the first day of class? Him. The directions on his 504 indicated that he needed careful monitoring so that he […]


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

I am striving to maintain anonymity on this blog so that I may more freely interact with my fellow edubloggers. If you know who I am, please help me protect my anonymity in your comments. I use pseudonyms or initials for everyone I write about to preserve their anonymity as well.

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