Gaining Ownership of My Classroom

written August 11, 2011


I become a teacher on Monday, in four days.

After attending an initial district assembly today in the high school auditorium (complete with a motivational YouTube montage) Sarah (Ms. Barber, my cooperating teacher) and I had some time to discuss the approaching semester.  She’s giving me freedom to do pretty much whatever I would like from nearly the beginning, not only in terms of content but also the smaller things, like how I want to structure the room.  For example, she was all for Socratic seating, the circling of desks so students face each other, which I really hoped for.  I have a desk of my own, a second-hand thing off to the side that will quickly have postcard examples of art, prints of historical figures, and a small Cubs pennant regaling it.  It doesn’t matter that the chair has a tear in the foam cushioning.  As I was storing my things I suddenly had a memory of playing around and under my mom’s desk when I was very little as she prepared for a new semester as a 5th grade English teacher.  Part of me is nervous of course if just for the inexperience, and I’m ready for the ice to begin to break and for the routine to set in.  I am also thrilled by the blank canvas I’ve been given- but what colors to choose?

Today as I talked with a (fellow?) teacher I admitted I so far had only stretches of lesson plans thought out, and I was still amazed when she replied that was okay, because I need to know my students first.  Which I know is nevertheless true.  Now I am just writing more a stream of consciousness, but part of why I am both excited and relived about this particular newness is that it may be the final time when I am a complete rookie, for all the shifts and paths I have taken.  Yet I do not know if I could teach my entire life (I like to have long range plans as well), as years from now I could see transitioning to a foundation or non-profit- but for now I have a lesson plan on the Transcontinental Railroad to write.

I wondered often about the learning curve (I seem to be asked to wing it as more or more than any professional ever should, if that’s a very good thing).  I await that first thought, the “I’m getting the hang of it!” that comes with learning from many failures.

Talking of beginning a new job (much a less a career) makes me think of the Navy, when I was assigned to serve in the officer’s wardroom.  It was nearly a 24-hour a day task, rising very early to take coffee to the captain’s stateroom, prepare the table and serve the meals, and clean all the sleeping quarters.  For a few days it was quite taxing, until I started thinking of the wardroom as my own restaurant, my own space to make better and care for, and it was then much more enjoyable.  In the same way I’m looking forward to gaining ownership of my classroom.

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