As we enter the second month of school, I think now is an appropriate time to discuss the difficulties I have had with teaching a “Gen Ed” class.  I have one class that is not a music class, a class that is part character development and part study hall.  It is a zero credit class, and the kids know it.  I thought it could be a fun class to teach, one that kids typically look forward to going to, and that they might just learn something from.  But I soon found that teaching this class was incredibly difficult for me.  I’m used to teaching music classes, with music kids.  Even teaching choir (which was another growth area for me) has been accessible – challenging, but accessible.  At least those kids (for the most part) chose to be in choir and want to be there.  A Gen Ed, by definition, is a required class that nobody is excited about and unless the teacher really knows what they’re doing *cough* is relatively dreadful.

So I do my best.  I try to keep things moving, changing topics much more frequently than any of the others that teach this class, and try to talk about things that these kids care about.  This week we started a unit on Honesty.  I asked them to discuss what they do and don’t like about their teachers, and to encourage complete honesty, I told them not to write their names on their papers (and I would give those present credit for turning one in).  I told them, if they wanted to write me down as their least favorite teacher they could – that I wouldn’t go home and cry myself to sleep about it, I just wanted them to be honest.  When I went to read the papers, I was prepared for the worst.  I know that I don’t have the control in that classroom that I have in other classes, and I thought that half the kids would say I was incompetent.  Here was the surprise – not one did.  It’s possible they were scared that I’d recognize their handwriting and hold it against them, but not one said a bad thing about me.  The even bigger surprise was that two kids even said positive things about me.  Here’s some of the questions I asked, and their responses (verbatim):

What makes your favorite teacher a good teacher?

“Because she’s nice to me and she have alot of pasion like win I talk she don’t say to me shut up she says becuqit.”

“Because she doesn’t yell at me.  She understands everything in the classroom.”

What do you think that teacher thinks of you?

“She thinks I’m a bad student”

“I think she thinks that I can do a better job of focusing on work.”

I was floored.  How could a student in that class think I understand everything in the classroom, that I have it under control?  Do I really stand out that much because I never tell students to shut up, and ask them instead to “Please be quiet”?  Because I don’t yell at students?  I’m sure some would argue that if I yelled more or told the kids what I think most minutes of the day (Okay seriously, shut up.) I would have more control over my classroom and maybe even a more productive one.  But I really try to avoid negativity with kids, and try to be positive.  And apparently some of them noticed.  Not all – but some.  And sure, it’s possible that they thought I would recognize their handwriting and think better of them, but the truth is – I honestly have no clue who it was in that class who thinks I am a decent teacher.  I may never know.  But it sure made me feel better knowing that at least two kids in my class are happy that I’m there.

As Labor Day draws to a lazy close, I find it’s an appropriate time to re-cap on this weekend as well as having finished my first week of teaching.  We’ll start with teaching.

The short version:  It was a good week.  There were ups and downs, fun moments and stressful ones, but as far as first weeks of one’s career go, it was a pretty great week.  Getting used to the rhythm of teaching three classes, switching buildings, then teaching four more, working until sundown and then going home took some time.  I find myself bringing work home nearly every day, and Tyler helps me work through some of it and talk through things as I prepare for the next day.  I am tired every day when I get home, and sleep for what feels like both far too much time and not nearly enough.  It seems like there is literally not enough hours in the day to keep up with the house, prepare for each of my seven classes, and be a good wife to my husband.  Teaching in two buildings with four content areas has certainly been stressful for me, because I didn’t want to plan any concert music until I knew what the students were capable of.  Now that I’m getting a feel for that, it’s time for me to start choosing music – which is a large task (and one that nearly every first-year teacher does poorly).  Once I have some pieces decided, I think things will ease up, I will have a direction, a goal, and specific teaching points to work towards, instead of thumbing through my song books and picking something that will open up students’ voices and that they will (hopefully) enjoy.

Also, here’s a few pictures of Tyler and I getting the middle school room ready – a fairly intense task.

Tyler moving the timpani by the struts, like a good husband

Washing old dirty chairs was not my favorite part of the day.  In fact, I had Tyler take a picture for this purpose, “One day, when I’ve been working here for years, and I never have to do this again, I will look back and be so grateful.”

Once the week was over, it was time for us to host a group of friends from all over the Pacific Northwest!  Fels from Clarkston, Charles from Seattle, Michaela from Tri-Cities, Andy from Portland and Sophie from Boise all convened at our house on Friday and stayed until Monday!  As much as Tyler and I love starting our married life in a new city full of potential, it also means that we have no friends our age in this area, so this weekend was a much needed hiatus from being boring grownups.  One of my favorite activities when I have girlfriends over – let them play dress-up with me and my current wardrobe and make-up.  Fresh eyes help pair together clothes and colors I never do on my own!  And these girls are all marvelously fashion-forward.

Parking on the lawn was the best way to accommodate all of the five extra vehicles that had come from five different cities.  It made me so happy to have all these cars and all these people at our house!

We hit up the Hermiston Farmer’s Market for the first time.  Fels was delighted.

So happy to facilitate these two lovebirds being in the same place.  They are so very perfect for each other.

We also went wine tasting in Benton City.  What a delight!

And everybody knows the best part of going wine tasting is meeting all of the winery dogs.  Tyler is good at making friends with them.  This dog lives at Terra Blanca.

It was emotional to see everybody go at the end of the weekend (especially the one that’s moving to England in two weeks, sniff).  But we were thrilled to have them for the time that we did, and we can’t wait until we get to see them again.  It’s going to be legend – wait for it –

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