(I babble a lot. You want to steal my form? Skip the babble and click here. But you’ll miss out on all my cleverness, I’ll have you know.)
You know what’s scintillating?
Kicking off your school year with a big bang! Getting the crowds pumped and rarin’ to go! Yee-haw! Yippe ki yay! Ride ’em cow…er…teacher…
Or you could just sit in an auditorium with 500 hundred other educators for four hours. You know, whatever floats your boat.
Teachers can’t just begin a year by walking in the classroom and teaching. Oh heavens, no. We have to meeting the crap out of the first of the year before we’re good and ready to face the kids. And meeting the crap, we do. I’ve seen beginning of the year meetings that were massive and boring, small and boring, medium-sized and boring. Nice auditorium and comfy (but boring), hot brick-oven school miserable (and boring), Power Points, speeches, dances, lectures, you name it in the educational world and it’s part of some kick-off meeting somewhere, but until you bring out a superintendent in get-up like David Bowie wore in The Labyrinth (complete with dancing muppets) I’m not buying it.
It’s still boring as crap.
Somewhere around the twelfth minute of the first meeting, I’m desperately searching for a spoon to stab myself in the eye. Why I always choose a spoon, I couldn’t really tell you. But I’m fairly certain the pain would be an entertaining distraction from the boredom.
To clear up any misunderstandings: I get that some of the meetings are necessary. Yeeeeeees, teachers need to know what to do in case of an emergency. Yeeeeeees teachers have to meet certain legal requirements regarding procedures for fire drills, special ed, and student confidentiality. But Jiminy Christmas, people. You hired me because I have enough energy to stay on top of 100 – 200 teenagers all day, every day, year-in, year-out You know what the flip side of that is?
I’m your worst nightmare in meetings.
Sit still? Be serious? Don’t text? I do not comprehend these things. This is not what I’ve been trained to do.
“Why did you become a teacher, Teach?” my students ask me from time to time.
“So I could be the center of attention every day,” I tell them.
“No, really…” they respond.
“No. Really,” I say, then stare them in the eye until they get uncomfortable and decide to leave me alone. Weirding out teenagers: reason #2 that I became a teacher.
And so, without my center-of-attention limelight, it’s no surprise that after twelve minutes have long come and gone and I’m into my fifth hour, or fourth day or whatever it is of meetings that I leap to the nearest window ledge and consider jumping. Metaphorically, of course. I’m not going to commit suicide, so you don’t have to report me (because according to meeting #839 of the first week back, we all know we’re court-mandated reporters.) It was on that ledge today, after a particularly obnoxious conversation about whether homework should be 5, 10 or 15 percent of the 20 percent formative assessment category (during which, repeatedly, I wanted to shout WHO CARES? and then throw myself into a moving car windshield, mosquito-style) that I came to a stunning realization.
Administrators are geniuses.
How else do you get people psyched up about returning to work after they’ve just spent two months of vacation carousing about the country? Rah rah, yee-haw, yippee ki yay? They’ll still just want to grab a marg and go back to the beach.
Meeting the crap out of them, however, and they’ll end up on a window ledge, ready to jump into the three-foot abyss below (my rants and ravings are always somewhat ignored as I work on the first floor) longing desperately for their students.
“God,” I thought. “If I could just have some hormone-crazed adolescents instead of educational philosophy, the world would be a better place.”
And, as if hearing my prayer, my door clicked open and four of my past students came tumbling in.
“Señooooora!!! My dad set up a raccoon trap with blazing lights, music and a video camera. Blaine and I are dating. I didn’t get you as a teacher this year. Ooooh, you still have your letter magnents. We heard you needed help getting your room back together?”
My head spun with happy teenage babble. The largest of the students swept me off the window ledge in a big bear hug, spun me around until I wanted to barf, then dropped me on the concrete floor in favor of writing inappropriate comments on the whiteboard with my letter magnets. The girls gossiped. The boys punched each other.
Oh. Right. This is why I teach. Kids. Love the kids. Not the meetings. It’s those gosh-durn teenagers who are just so cute you want to pinch their little cheeks. Or kick their butts. It’s all the same in the end, really, but it is all about the kids.
And that, above and beyond all else, is what I want them to understand. So first thing, first day? All you ever wanted to know about your students on one sheet of paper. See? It’s right here:
Go on. You can have it. Or have parts of it. Whatever serves you best. A few user tips:
1. Students will write way more than they’ll tell you in person. Ask for crazy, insane honesty when you hand it out, and you’ll get it.
2. Question #10? Tell them it’s their space to write anything in the world that might help me be a better teacher to them…my mother died this summer, I’ve moved seven times already this year, I don’t read well, I’m embarrassed to ask for help, I have a chronic illness and have to go to the bathroom unexpectedly and frequently…they’ve spilled it all.
Pee pun totally unintended.
3. Take one of the positive things and reference it within the first week of school. “Hey, Billy Bob! Your passion in life is shooting squirrels with BB guns? Why, I just had squirrel soup for the first time last week…You ever eaten that?” They won’t believe that you remembered. Or cared.
But they’ll look at you a little differently. Maybe make your life a little easier.
But if using relationship-building questionnaires isn’t your gig, no worries. You can still make it worthwhile. Just take a few blank forms to your staff meetings and spend the meetings filling them out as your co-wokers.
Name: Ms. Smith
What I LOVE to do is… eat my boogers.
One activity/learning style that I really enjoy in an academic class is… reviewing material by pretending I’m teaching it to my pet cats. I have twenty.
And so forth. Then leave neatly completed forms in random spots around campus for others to find and ta-da!
We’re back in school, and having fun.