Friday, November 02, 2007

Becoming a Teacher

Eight years ago, one of the teachers that I respected the most told me that I needed more experience with the demands of classroom teaching. I knew she was right. I earned my teacher's certificate in college, but decided to work in my major, engineering, after graduating.

My first job as a teacher was in an urban middle school six years later. I took over in March for a teacher who left. It was a tough position. I was trying to teach control adolescents that were emboldened by the fact that they had “run off the last teacher.” I survived the few months and had some moments when I felt that I was really reaching the kids.

The next fall teachers shuffled around and the principal decided to put Life Skills (the modern version of Home Ec.) back into the classroom where I had been teaching. I was moved to the Media Center where I became the computer resource teacher. I did teach one elective course each day, but I didn’t have a full teaching load. I loved that position and collaborated with many of the teachers in the school, but I didn’t have to track attendance, turn in grades, attend IEP meetings, hold parent conferences or prepare students for standardized tests. I wasn’t a real teacher.

That brings me to this fall when I got my own classroom again. I was fully four weeks into the school year when I panicked realizing that I had not started recording any grades. Our school district issues report cards every 9 weeks in elementary school. So I was nearly half way through the grading period and didn’t have anything to base grades on. Honestly, I was still struggling to recognize the students since I had only seen each of them four times.

I started making notes on my seating chart for each class about how the students were performing. In the ten minutes between classes I would try to get the lab ready for the next group of students and record my grading notes in a spreadsheet. My third graders wrote acrostic poems. So each night I carried a stack home to grade and record. And I poured through pacing guides and curriculum Web sites planning lessons.

I was starting to feel like I was keeping all the balls in the air in this juggling act, when the testing coordinator for our school came in two weeks ago. “Computer benchmark tests are going to be next week. We need you to help administer them to the fifth grade.” I wanted to scream, “Are you kidding me?! I don’t have time for that. Go talk to someone else.” I didn’t. I just tried to juggle a little faster.

I haven’t been to the K-12 Online conference. I am not presenting at NCETC this year. I have not conducted any workshops for other educators in months. I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite bloggers.

But I am learning what its like to be a teacher.

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