Sep 18, 2010

The 4th Year Primer

I'm 3 weeks deep into the school year, my fourth year teaching. Happily, I come to you, blog, with the news: my fourth year teaching has thus far been THE BEST year teaching. I understand a teacher takes at least a small step forward in growth each year, especially in those first few, but there's something a lil' special in the air. It may be early, but I feel it.

On paper:

(1) Everything I teach now is something I've taught before.
Each of my past three years included the learning curve of delivering a new prep. 1st year it was geometry, 2nd year it was algebra, and last year it was strategic algebra. This year, no new prep. If worst comes to worst, I can always go back to 'what I did last year' - a comforting fallback but simultaneously a trap I must avoid.

(2) A better start and end routine.
I'm committing myself to be on campus an hour before class begins (7am) and staying 2 hours after (5pm) on a daily basis. Those added hours before and after class are becoming golden for my sanity and my need to build a line between home life and school life.

(3) It's all about the kids.
I experienced varying levels of 'surviving' during my first three years of teaching. New parameters that'd affect my need to find ways to stay sane. As a fourth year, I no longer feel I'm merely surviving on a day-to-day basis. I now feel a renewed commitment to the students I work with. I want the shift the focus from me and keep the focus on them. Everything I do is towards becoming the best possible teacher for them.

(4) So much Mr. G alumni.
Catching an ex-student in the halls is like seeing an old friend. They are no longer your students, so your interactions go beyond what they once were. But, in some ways they will always be your students. The freshmen I taught my first year are now seniors. What a thought. No walk down the hall is done without some sort of "whattup Mr. G!" And no morning, lunch break, nor after-school session is enjoyed without an ex-student paying a visit.

The after-year results of our year one experiment are astonishing. Rises in test scores across the board. Higher retention. And, as a teacher, incredibly strong connections with a community of students. In our second year now, we tighten screws and strengthen everything else that worked last year. I'm still a believer.

(6) A new administrative team.
Our current principal is our 5th in my 4 years, but (again) there's something special about the team we now have in place. Last year, our school hired on a stellar leader as a one year deal as we sought to secure somebody committed for the long haul. We got our person now, and already you can see and feel the changes. I feel school spirit. Weird.

More later on everything. But for now, keep doing your thing out there my teacher friends. Your work never goes unnoticed.


Jason Buell said...

How did you transition the students? Did they stay in the same house together as they moved up a grade or did you sort of rescatter them? And what about the 25 student/mentor? Same mentor for the group?

Oh and congrats on the fourth year. Teaching the same thing again is much easier and you're soooooo much better at it.

Eyawn said...

The next step in our school's redesign is the creation of wall-to-wall "academies." Once last year's freshmen (our current sophomores) hit their senior year, the vast majority of our staff will teach for one to two academies to maintain the small school feel the students receive during their freshmen year. They're rescattered, yes; but the goal is to create communities of students and teachers.

For now, the advisory group is solely for freshmen. The idea is to set the foundation during their freshmen year, a foundation that'll last til they graduate. While freshmen are in "advisory", the rest of the upperclassmen have the opportunity to attend "seminar" - a new facet of our school I'll likely save for another post.

Thanks for your interest! I love watching this school turnaround right before my eyes.