I was not prepared. I’m rarely prepared actually. I tend to do too many things “on-the-fly.” That has got to stop.
Yesterday, Wednesday, August 4th was the first day of school at the county alternative school where I recently got hired as the high school social studies teacher. I teach grades 9-12 in world history, U.S. history, ancient history, geography, and economics. Currently, I have four students in first period government. I have one student taking an art history on-line class in 2nd period and I have six students in fourth period world geography.
I had very little prepared. They were in the classroom for 20 minutes. I really thought I could “wing it” more than I did. I’m a little upset with myself. Not much. I realize I’ll settle into the job over the first nine weeks and so I’m okay with making mistakes and such. I spoke to them about character, a little about my few classroom rules. Nothing really about procedures, mostly because I don’t even know about my procedures to be honest. I’ve been thinking about trying several methods and so I’m not overly concerned with this. I know that seems odd, but I think the best advice I’ve received so far is that this time is a great time to try things out and iron out the wrinkles. I like that idea. I don’t want to treat the kids as guinea pigs, but isn’t that what many teachers do?
The students were fine. Three students showed up for my first period government. The one student showed up for 2nd period (he’s actually an art history student as previously mentioned), and 5 students showed up for 4th period geography. None of them caused me any trouble and seemed like regular students. However, I keep getting warned that you can’t trust any of them at all. I don’t know what most of them did to get expelled and sent to the CAS. I imagine that it’s the normal stuff like fighting, drug possession, transporting drugs, intoxication on school campus, etc. I told them that I really didn’t care what they did to get expelled and sent to the school. The bottom line is that they were all expelled and so no one was worse or better than anyone else. I told them that they all had a clean slate with me and they should start off on a good foot. I told them a bunch of other things too that I really don’t remember.
The bottom line is that I talked to them about choices and character; about “guarding their hearts and minds” against those things that might affect them negatively, and about their choices of friends. Two things came to mind: “Bad company corrupts good morals” and “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” (one is from the Bible and the other is Geo. Washington). I informally assessed their knowledge about government – branches, levels, etc. I did the same with the geography students as well.
The oddest thing that happened on my first day came not from a student, but from the mother of the teacher I replaced! Let me set the scene for you. The first day was a half-day. For lunch we had all gone to eat together (that’s the benefit of a small school!). When I returned, the principal was waiting at the door for me and told me that the former teacher’s mother was here and wanting some stuff her daughter left behind. This stuff had been there over the entire summer. The stuff she wanted, and was missing, was two boxes of old LIFE magazines. She said she either wanted the boxes or $800 – and she was demanding it. From me. She basically accused me of stealing her stuff and would not back down. I told her straight up that I did not take it or throw it away. She finally did what she should have done at the beginning – she called her daughter who informed her that she had the other two boxes. She apologized profusely for her behavior and wished me luck in my first year of teaching. It was a very interesting way to start the new year.
Tomorrow we have an subject-specific in-service. So I’ll be the lone history teacher from my school amidst a sea of all the other county high school history and social studies teachers. That should be interesting.