Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I've got the "school is about to start again blahs"

This is one of the longer breaks I've taken between posts this summer. The other breaks I've taken have happened when I've gone of vacation or been involved in something where I just couldn't get to a computer for awhile. But that's hasn't been the case this time. I've been reading some other blogs, and I've been checking out my newsreader, but I couldn't get fired up about anything. Finally, last night, I checked out Anonymous Teacher's blog, and she has inspired another post. In the process, she also helped me understand why it took me so long: I've got the "school is about to start again blahs."

Anonymous Teacher inspired this post by by unintentionally appealing to my very strong Catholic sense of guilt. In her post, she talks about how excited she is about the start of the new school year. I have frequently heard young teachers express the same kind of enthusiasm, and since I began reading teachers' blogs last year, I seen the same sentiment expressed over and over again. I wish I felt like that, but I don't. I dread the start of a new school year. Whenever I listen to teachers like Anonymous Teacher sounding so excited, it makes me feel like an old man who is stooped over on his cain mumbling, "Bah humbug!"

Let me make it clear that I love my teaching job. I really do! And for the first several years of my teaching career, I looked forward to the start of the year, too. I don't know how many years it took, but eventually I realized that hated it. Once we get a few weeks into the year, I'm fine, and by the end of the year, I'm usually thoroughly enjoying most of my classes. But the start? Yuk!

First of all, I've got to admit that my life in the summer is pretty good. I have time for that second cup of coffee before I take off for my morning workout every day. I only work 22 hours per week, so I've got my afternoons off, and the weather has been beautiful here in Warroad for the last month. I can kick back on the deck, read a good book, or head for my office in the basement and write a post for my blog. If the Little Lady comes up with a honey-do project for me, I know I can get it done without getting all stressed out about it. By the time this summer is over, I'll have been to Cancun, Oregon, the Quad Cities, the American Idol concert in the Twin Cities, as well as spending a great weekend with our kids up here in Warroad. Life has been good! Why in the world would I look forward to all that coming to a screeching halt?

In three weeks, the kids will come to school, and I know I'll be overwhelmed. For some reason, it always seems like there's so much more work at the start of the school year than at the end. Part of the reason is that I'm slower at everything--getting materials ready, correcting papers, you name it. When I get home every night in September, and collapse into a chair, I know that I'll feel like the poster boy for teacher burnout.

At the beginning of the year there are all always some things that have to be done, but just aren't very exciting--getting all the names of the kids in my gradebook, setting up my computerized gradebook, going over school policies and classroom policies (that's always a thrill for the kids!), and just trying to get kids to understand how they need to do things in my classes. Blah!

Another thing that depresses me about the beginning of the year is that there is almost no chemistry in my classes, yet. The aspect that I probably enjoy most about teaching is the relationship that develops between the students and me and the students with each other as the year goes on. That's fun! But it's not there at the start of the year. To top that off, I don't know the kids names, yet. I hate that! Every time somebody wants to answer a question, I've got to go running to find the seating chart so I can figure out who the heck it is that I'm calling on. It's either that or asking, "Who are you anyway?" It's always great when you've got to tell some kid back in the corner not to do something by yelling, "Hey, you! Back there! No, not you, him!" When I give kids time to read or take a quiz, they probably wonder what kind of weirdo I am when they look up and see me staring at them and whispering to myself as I try to memorize their names.

Now that I've written this I feel much better. As I read over this, not liking the start of the year makes a lot of sense to me. Rather than looking at myself as an educational Scrooge, I'm wondering how anyone can look forward to this part of the year. What the heck is wrong with you people?!?!


Blogger Lorne said...

Dennis, your comment about learning kids' names struck a chord with me. As I got older, I found it took me longer to remember their names. I tried to inject a bit of humour into it by warning the kids that they might look up from an assignment in the days ahead to find me peering at them intently. I made a point of assuring them from the outset that it didn't mean that I had spotted an unsightly blemish or was taking an unhealthy interest in them; I was just trying to match their faces with their names. It usually got a chuckle(albeit a nervous one from those who didn't know me.)

8/15/2007 2:10 PM  
Blogger teachergirl said...

I've been back in the classroom for just three days and I already have an amazing amount of chemistry. This is an amazing group of kids that have been placed in my room. Let's just hope it isn't a honeymoon phase and they are really special. Good luck. I made mine make nameplates for their desks. I have no pride.

8/15/2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Lorne, I may have to steal your line.

Teachergirl, you're making me feel guilty again, but thanks for the tip. The only problem is that, at 56, my eyes aren't doing any better than the rest of my body, so those nameplates will have to be BIG! Good idea, though.

8/15/2007 4:05 PM  
Blogger happychyck said...

I know exactly what you mean! All the drudgery of establishing your classroom. It just seems like we're spinning wheels for the first month or so. Bleah.

8/15/2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

I just seat my students in alphabetical order at the beginning. It helps with the name memorisation.

I have to say, I'm one of those teachers who's excited by the beginning of the school year. A lot of it comes from new ideas to implement... by the end of the year, I'll know whether they worked or not, so the excitement is kind of gone. I am also teaching new classes pretty much every year, so that's kind of exciting (in a nerdy, I get to learn new stuff, too kind of way). By the end of June, I've been teaching some of the same kids for 2 years, and it's hot and they'd rather be outside, so I find it harder than at the beginning... but that's just me.

8/16/2007 4:16 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

There is a lot more work at the beginning of the year and at times it's overwhelming..what drives me nuts is that it takes about two weeks for our classes to "stabilize" and it's pointless to even put names in a gradebook until then. I think our district had 1,740 kids enroll during the 2nd week of school last year. So in addition to doing the rules and procedures song and dance (which bores me too), I've got a new kid or two every single day that need forms, books, a locker assignment, etc, all taken care of while I'm trying to learn their names, and actually teach them something. To say we hit the ground running is an understatement.

I'm already behind. I haven't done my parent welcome phone calls, but at least I did my first parent email newsletter!

But I do admit, once it starts to gel, I love it. I need the structure!

8/17/2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

"what drives me nuts is that it takes about two weeks for our classes to "stabilize" and it's pointless to even put names in a gradebook until then."

Mrs. Bluebird, you just reminded me of ANOTHER reason that I hate the start of the year. I'm not sure I needed that. ;)

8/18/2007 3:24 AM  

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