Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ninety-Seven Days

Ninety-seven days ago from today I was sitting in the first staff meeting at the FAIR School Downtown. A lot has changed since then, but one thing remains - I am still very excited about what I get to do every day: teach students and integrate technology effectively.

Throughout that staff meeting I had a whole lot of emotions. Everything from excitement to nervousness to a real worry if I was going to fit in with these teachers. Well, ninety-seven days later I am reminded by a few words that our principal said to us on that afternoon of September 3, 2009. He said, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Those words have been inspiring me since that day to continually reach higher, to continually push my students and myself to be better for them. They deserve the best and it is my job, our jobs, to give that to them. If we are not going to start giving them the best, most prepared, well equipped education for the 21st Century right now, then when will it happen? If we are not going to do it, then who will? If we are not going to start reaching out to our students and really start educating students to be successful in the future, and not only on the state and federally mandated tests, then what are we doing?

Over the past ninety-seven days I have learned a lot. I have gotten through my first few teaching units in both classes - the 9th grade and 10th grade English. In 9th grade we looked at To Kill a Mockingbird and then spent a month working on Five Paragraph Essay writing. It helped immensely that at Arapahoe High School this is one of the units that I designed and taught. This time though, we were not two weeks behind schedule. One of the things that you do learn is to stay a bit more with the schedule. In English 10 we covered Of Mice and Men and then spent time on two of the Six Traits of Writing.

I have learned many things about students and about how a classroom works. The best part of this job is not teaching the content or playing with all the cool technology - both very enjoyable parts - the best part is actually interacting with my amazing and wonderful students on a daily basis. To figure out their passions, to push them each individually to succeed and then helping each of them achieve their goals on a regular and long term basis has been a big focus of these first two quarters. Whether that is understanding why Hamlet is acting crazy and who the ghost is, which we have been looking at recently, or trying to figure out how to pass the state writing test, later next month so that they can graduate, the students have been the best part of the whole job. Just yesterday I spent a large part of my preparation period helping one student, who was kicked out of another class, complete her missing assignments for my class. In doing that I was able to support her, get her to do something productive, and help her understand the material in a greater way. She left not feeling upset because she was kicked out of her class, which she probably should have been, but instead she was confident and excited that she was caught up and understood the material. In looking at all the things that I did yesterday, that one act of giving up my prep period to help another student out, get on her level, and really make that material come alive was the most rewarding, but also the most important thing that I did.

It is through interactions like yesterday that I realize the words of my principal continue to ring true: “If not now, when? If not us, who?”
We need to be better.
We can be better.
We will be better.
That is our challenge.

That is my challenge.