What teachers do in August

Martina Griffi@Flickr.com
Martina Griffi@Flickr.com

We’re at T-minus 40 hours and counting–and then the rocket ride that is the school year begins. The last few weeks before school is especially intense (I get scatterbrained and distracted and sometimes find myself staring at Pinterest for a lost hour–or two), so I just might be a tad off on my Monday/Thursday blog schedule. If you wonder what your kid’s teacher did in last weeks of summer, read on.

Before I can get to lesson plans and makin’ copies, I need to unpack my room which involves putting away my supply order, weeding out files, organizing my cupboards, putting up new bulletin boards and all manner of fussy housekeeping tasks. (I also washed my desks and white boards because the custodial firm we contracted doesn’t pass my muster.) All that is under control and now I’m tackling lesson plans and long-term planning. I like to start with an outline, at least, for the first month of school. More detailed plans I do weekly, so I can incorporate new strategies and activities, coordinating it all with my teaching partner. I’m set for the first week, at least: copies made, desks arranged, class lists printed.

I’m starting to revise and re-formate most of my yearbook materials so the kids will have a sort of textbook. Schools (even fairly stable ones like mine) –don’t can’t buy new materials very often. (My literature books are over 30 years old and our social studies teachers don’t even have a textbook. At over a hundred bucks a pop, we often try to make do without because money needs to be stretched as far as possible.) That will be a pretty big task, but I’m starting on it today and, hopefully, it will be done this week sometime. In the past I’ve made do with assorted handouts and notes for teaching yearbook style, but the kids need materials to reference for the entire year that are all in one place.

My house is pretty much in order. I’ve cleaned, straightened, frozen some quick meals, and I’ve got a couple boxes ready for Goodwill pick up next week. In four days it will be a disaster, I’m sure, because the first week I come home from school and I’m imobilized by exhaustion. My hubby is taking over grocery shopping this year, so I’ll have that off my plate. Wish me luck–it’s incredibly difficult to give up control of something I’ve done for forty years of my adult life–but I welcome the help. My plan is to make the shopping list together, so that should alleviate at least some of my panic.

All this might make it seem as though a teacher is something of a control freak who is consumed with a bunch of nitpicky tasks. (Just look at the classroom re-dos on Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean!) But there’s a reason for that. We need to take care of whatever little bits we have in our control–like new trim for bulletin boards and storage bins for markers and cute labels for folders–because there is so very much that isn’t. Like did he only eat potato chips yesterday? Or could she resist cutting last night? Or was Mom out partying over the weekend and didn’t come home? Or did he miss transportation from the homeless shelter? Or did she miss her period?

Kids’ lives are tough sometimes and we don’t cut them a lot of slack. We call them lazy or disrespectful or irresponsible, not hungry or depressed or tired.

So I have new posters laminated and new sharpies–always sharpies!–at the ready, trying to steady my heart and mind–so that hopefully the 55 minutes in my classroom is a time of order and calm, and, yes, maybe even something of a refuge, for at least a few of my kids.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but I try. And along the way, you can be sure we’ll get a whole lot of learning done, too.

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