As a teacher, you consider the sun lazy. Most days of the year we’re up and out the door before it’s even cracked the horizon, and stay up long after it has gone over to another hemisphere. The frightening thing for teachers is that despite this, we still can’t get everything done on a given day. Oh yeah, and we need to work out, keep up with friends, navigate the dating jungle, update your fantasy football team, write your blog, and maybe eat something here and there. How do you do it? All you have to do is think what your willing to sacrifice for everything else. Me, I sacrifice sleep. 5-6 hours a night is plenty. Anything more is just gravy.
This post was brought to you by the letter C–for Coffee.
“Mr. Harlow, are you married?” At some point this year I’m going to be asked this question. When the kid drops this on you, you basically have three options. The first option is the simple dismissal. Tell the student that personal questions do not belong in a professional environment like your classroom. Your second choice is simply be honest with the student. If you choose this route, I also suggest a snarky addition such as, “No I’m not married because no woman would want to listen to me talk about students like you every day”. The final option, and most fun if you can pull it off, is to lie to your students. To pull this off, you need a story, and you need to stick to it. There is a teacher who will go unnamed who has told his students he has eight kids for the past three years. He knows their names better than Antonio Cromartie knows his real kids names. He has Jerry, George, Elaine, Kramer, Delicious, Isosceles, Tangent, and Hero. Because he’s stuck to this story, some kids believe him. If they don’t, well then they don’t ask personal questions anymore. Why wasn’t there a daily aim the past two days? I was busy taking care of Delicious and Isosceles.
Ok, you’ve been through Institute (or some other teacher training program) you know that you need to mind your P-6 on the Teaching as Leadership Rubric and establish time saving procedures for your classroom. If you haven’t started doing this already in your class, get with the program. However, it’s also important at this time of the year that you establish time saving procedures for yourself outside of the classroom for your own sanity. What time do you wake up? What time do you leave to walk through the subway turnstile and see the train just beginning to approach? These are extremely important questions to consider. I can tell you from experience, there is nothing like having your daily coffee given to you without saying a word. Sometimes talking in the morning is just a little to much to handle. Also be mindful of how you use your preps. Get in the habit of being as productive as possible during your prep periods so that you minimize the work you take home. That way you can get in the good healthy routines like cooking a well balanced meal and working out so you can meet your fitness goals.
Ok, lets face it, last Wednesday was child’s play compared to what we’ve got this week. It’s the real deal now, 5 straight days in the trenches. Tomorrow we put on our professional teacher persona. As far as our students know, we just spent the past four days sipping tea and reading books about history. Keep that perception up this week and let the kids know you mean business. If they slip one inch, give them the Ari Gold treatment so they know that anything less than 100% in your class is unacceptable.
One more thing, start planning for the weekend. Having something good to look forward to makes the daily battles much more bearable. Then, once that weekend starts, put your Hot-n-fun persona back on and live it up, cause you’ll have earned it by the end of this week.
Well, tomorrow it happens. For the past several months those of us who teach in public schools have known that on Wednesday September 8th, 2010 the first day of teaching is also the only day that students are supposed to come into school that week. For days like this I perform a simple test: I put on my old Lakeridge Pacers t-shirt that I should have thrown out after high school, start thinking like I did in high school and ask the question, “Would I go to school?”. I was a good student with a good attendance record and I know that high school me would not go to school on day like tomorrow. I probably would only skip one or two other days in the year, but tomorrow would be one of those days. With that in mind, I know that I need to prepare for an extremely low attendance day tomorrow, and in those situations I follow the advice from Scar in The Lion King, “Be prepared“. I’m walking in tomorrow with a student survey, several icebreakers, an article from the New York Times, and an article about malleable intelligence. I may use all, some, or none of these and just have my kids help make my room look nicer. In other words, have some tricks in your back pocket and be ready to think on your feet.
Do Now: FML. It’s still 5 days until Spring Break, and you just can’t wait for that mojito on the beach. You can hear the Beach Boys already, the sway of palm trees against the warm breeze, the steady roll of the waves. You want nothing more than a beach towel and an excuse to not have excuses. It’s paradise, in its most unadulterated form.
There’s just one problem. You’re still in the suck.
There’s no beaches in the South Bronx, and the closest thing to a mojito you’re going to be sipping is black coffee from the bodega across from your school. Beach Boys? Not if Jay-Z is readily available. That swaying of palm trees is actually the sound of gypsy cabs zooming by, waiting to rip you right off. Oh, and that beach towel isn’t for the beach; it’s to wipe off the nasty shit you got on your pants riding on the 6 this morning. And the only excuses you’ll be hearing are from your students, in regards to why they didn’t do their homework.
Spring break, my friends, is close, but oh so far away.
Do Now: Be creative, but also be subtle. Remember, any fool can lather their students with T-Pain or Lil Wayne lyrics, but that just seems like pandering in the end, and nobody wants that. The trick to any lyricist is to insinuate identity through a weaving of ideas and verse. Joan Baez would have made a bad-ass teacher, and Bob Dylan should teach 1st year teachers the art of persuasion through lyrics. And what would lesson number 1 be? Simple: the lyrics should match the theme of your lesson or message, lest it be obscured by the greater stimuli of the classroom. For example, when you hear students talking about being a few points shy of passing, offer some Rascal Flatts:
What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was tryin’ to do
If they give you a sour face, it’s because of one of two things: either (1) they don’t recognize the song or (2) they recognize the song, and they’re not impressed. Either way, it couldn’t hurt to add another “Is what I was tryin’ to dooooooo,” just for effect.