Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For our New Teachers: The Journey has Begun . . .

EXCELLENT teaching, EVERY day in EVERY class for EVERY student

After almost two full weeks of "scheduled" preparation (even though many of you spent much more time than that!), you finally met your students last week.  Today you are seeing them for the fourth day and, I hope, your school day is beginning to feel a little more routine.

I remember 17 years worth of the first week of school.  Exhausting is too kind of a word for what I felt at the end of each day; not just physical exhaustion but mental exhaustion as well. I didn't have my "teacher voice" back yet and I often had a week of laryngitis after the first full week of teaching.  There was so much "stuff" to do that I found myself not being able to do the important thing--planning for instruction for my students--until late into the afternoon or early evening.  The good news is that my stamina would increase, my organizational skills would adapt to the new schedule and students, and I would get into the "swing" of planning, grading, giving feedback, etc. for yet another year.

It was a joy to get to meet you all during our new teacher orientation days.  I look forward to getting to know you better and to learn alongside you as we all journey together to help our students achieve their potential and more.  I have two "hopes" for you at this stage of your journey in Hoover City Schools.

Hope #1

I hope that you sensed at new teacher orientation that we were welcoming you into our Hoover Family.  Even though we are a large school district, we had fairly small beginnings and we strive to hold onto that family feeling.  Dr. Dodson and our curriculum staff embrace the idea of a large professional learning community, continually growing and learning to meet the diverse needs of our students.  I hope that you know that you are a VALUED MEMBER of our family!

I hope you have found a community to belong at your school.  I hope that you are engaging with a grade level team or discipline department or other community at your school.  I hope that community is providing you with information and support to help you navigate the very difficult first few weeks in a new school.  

I also hope that you feel a part of the larger community, your school.  I hope that your school leadership has provided opportunities during the days prior to the beginning of school for you to meet with the entire faculty so that you get a sense of the culture of your school.  I hope that your principal articulated his/her vision of what s/he hopes you will accomplish together.  I hope that you feel a part of something very important as you work as a team member to help your school achieve its best year ever.

Finally, I hope that you have either been assigned or have found that one "buddy", "mentor", "friend" who can be your 'go to' for any question you might have.  We all have questions we can't ask in a grade level/department meeting or a faculty meeting!  We need someone safe to help us with those issues.  I hope you have that person.  If you don't, please reach out to your school leadership or to Dr. Adams or me and we will help identify that person for you.

Hope #2

I hope that the students that have been in your class for three days now also feel a sense of community.  I hope that every student in each of your classes feels that s/he "belongs".  I hope that each of your students feels that you believe in him/her and that s/he can be successful in your class.  I hope that each of your students knows that s/he has an advocate in you and that you are there to help him/her succeed.  It would be my ultimate hope that if someone asked your students what they knew about you after four days of school, they would say, "my teacher cares about me."

I saw the photo on the top of the blogpost on Facebook.  It was posted by Shades Mountain third grade teacher Deanna Straub and these are the "real" hands of her third grade students this year.  This photo spoke volumes to me.  When I saw the photo, I could just imagine the potential that was attached to these precious hands.  I can't really tell boys from girls, tall from short, extrovert from introvert.  But the photo just shouts we are here to live, learn and grow together.  What a vision of a classroom community!

I had the privilege to be at Bluff Park Elementary School during the primary grades (K - 2) meet the teacher.  It was one of the most moving experiences that I have had in a long time.  I stood in the foyer greeting students and parents as they came in.  They came in smiling, both students and parents.  There were almost as many dads and granddads as there were moms and grandmothers.  Some came in laden with school supplies and materials.  Some did not speak English.  Some came in wheelchairs.  I would ask students who their teacher was going to be, many could tell me, others were too young to remember.

But, the aspect that inspired me the most was that EVERY parent, grand parent, aunt, uncle, guardian and child who came into that building brought HOPE with them.  These people brought their most precious treasures with the HOPE that the Bluff Park staff was going to take good care of them, love them, and teach them well.  The HOPE was palpable in that school foyer. God help us all to not disappoint these families.

While I never experienced that exact kind of "meet the teacher" experience as a high school teacher, I have been a middle and high school mom and know that those parents, grandparents, guardians, also HOPE for us to be exceptional for their child.  Sometimes, they even HOPE we will be the miracle person to reach their child because few have been able to.  Sometimes, they HOPE we will inspire their child to succeed because they haven't tasted success in school in a long time.  Many parents HOPE that we will teach, coach and/or direct their students so they are better able to compete for academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, music & art scholarships, military academy appointments, and college acceptance.   Mostly, they HOPE we will help their young person mature and grow into an adult able to successfully take on the 21st century world.  God help us all to not disappoint these families.

I HOPE that one day you can echo me when you say that coming to work for Hoover City Schools is the best professional decision that you ever made.  We are here to support you along this journey!


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