I know that I will have to watch out for my two biggest classes (which are still smaller than almost every other class I’ve taught before now) because they will have a tendency to run away with me if I’m not on my game.

I know that I will have to watch one of these classes in particular because of a high male-to-female ratio. (I had a similar composition with my problem group of seniors from student teaching, so I’ve experienced how bad this can get.)

I know that I will have to watch the other class because, well, they’re seniors.

I know that I have leverage over both my seniors and my juniors: the seniors need to be ready to step out of high school in May and into college or “the real world” (and by that, I mean “the workforce,” most likely), and the juniors need to be ready for the PSAE/ACT in April. Both groups know that they are way behind the curve, generally speaking.

I know that I will need to be strict in general.

I know that I will have to make at least one significant change to my novels elective: I got complaints less than a minute after handing out syllabi about reading The Scarlet Letter because the previous teacher taught it to juniors. There goes another book, and worse yet, it was the first one I intended to teach. Looks like Of Mice and Men will be first up instead.

I also suspect (what, did you think everything was going to be certain here?) that I will end up teaching one of the chick lit novels (Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights) because my novels course is virtually all girls – only two boys at the moment, I think. Still working on getting Frankenstein, but something makes me think that won’t cut it.

I know that the Easy Button™ I bought last semester was probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made. (Remarkably, one student was very confused about the purpose – or lack thereof – of the Easy Button™ and presumed that you had to make a wish before you hit it.)

I know that I will have to watch how I respond to the smart-alecks in my classes that make me respond with sarcasm, something that my principal explicitly warned against. (But come on, it’s hard to respond with anything other than sarcasm when a student notes that he goes by Joe, “with a J.” I guess I need to be more self-disciplined and to keep my razor wit sheathed for more appropriate moments.)

Best of all, I know that I can do this: that there are students who are looking forward to learning from me, that I have incredibly supportive colleagues and administration who are looking out for me, and that I can manage to keep things together. How well I keep together – well, that will be the test of my time this first year.

Look out tomorrow, I’m coming back for more.


This is it. Tomorrow.

I shouldn’t expect too much from tomorrow – I have any given group of students for all of 15 minutes before the next one comes through, which will only be enough time to say hi, take attendance, pass out and go over syllabi, and say bye as they move on to the next period.

Still, it sets the tone. I have to be assertive, but not intimidating; serious, but not too sober. I need to make sure that students know I am not a doormat, nor am I the last teacher. I need to convince them that I know what I’m doing.

I think I know what I’m doing.

Here’s to a good start – to tomorrow.

I’ve finished writing three out of my four syllabi (I’m writing a joint syallbus for the two semester-long elective courses), and as I start the fourth, using the same overall format as the previous three, I realize something important.

I have no writing text at all for my writing elective – at least not that I know of.

If my suspicions are correct, I start teaching this elective in…2.5 weeks.

It’s a good thing I consider myself flexible and that I already have an idea of what I want to teach. Although, it will mean that I’ll be scouring sites for ideas on how to incorporate outside material.

Update, 8/1/09: I was in my classroom this morning, and as I looked around, I ran into a creative writing folder that had been used for this same course by a previous teacher. There were references to a book I had seen in a cabinet, and I was able to find a very small class set of them: 10 or so books. Of course, the class size will probably be small, so I’m going to try and use them. If nothing else, I can make copies of pages for any students beyond the number of books I have, and that will save me some trouble.

Even better, the text is somewhat organized in the way I worked out on my own. Synchronicity, I guess.

With less than five weeks to go before classes start, I finally decided that with all my preparations for classroom management and discipline, finishing up reading through textbooks, working out assignments, getting organized, and so forth, there was another thing I needed to do: ask questions.

One of the questions I addressed to my principal was my schedule. You might wonder why this question came up, especially when it doesn’t seem at all requisite for preparing. That’s true – I mostly just wanted to find out what I’m in for, and so I threw it in for good measure.

It could be worse, but it could be better.


I’ve thought quite a bit about what teaching is going to be like as a first-year teacher, finally freed from the proverbial shackles – okay, that’s a little bit hyperbolic – of another teacher’s strictures and style. (Of course, the flip side of that is that the teachers you work with generally have worked to get those sorts of things lined out and know to a degree what does and doesn’t work.)

I want to invite more seasoned teachers to comment on their own first-year experiences, but let me hypothesize for a moment about what I think I need to keep at the forefront of my preparation for this year.


This morning, I got to do some more preparation for my upcoming teaching position. Because of some scheduling rearranging at my summer job, I had the morning off, so my wife and I made the 40-minute trek over to my new school to get keys and some materials that weren’t available when I picked up the new literature textbooks (because school was still in session and the previous teacher was still using them).

I knew that there would probably be some work ahead of me, but I don’t think I really, fully understood just what kind of a situation I’ve stepped into.


I have always had a love/hate relationship with organization: I like organization and generally like organization in my life, but it is difficult for me to get organized 90% of the time. I tried to be organized with student teaching, but my cooperating teacher kept telling me that I needed to make more lists to be organized. I agreed, which frustrated me as much as it frustrated her.

The problem is that I have difficulty getting motivated to get organized. Last Christmas, the company I worked for gave out small planners (small enough to fit in my back pocket), and I vowed to use it to stay organized with dates, which worked to some extent but not as well as I would have liked (for one, the planner fell apart because it was cheaply produced). No other methods ever seemed to work for me, either.

When my college graduation began to approach, my wife started asking me for ideas for a grad gift. My first thought was “Technology!” and I went off to see what gadgets I might find to improve my life. My initial thought before this had been a PDA, but most retail outlets that we looked at didn’t carry them since most consumers in the market for something like a PDA will probably opt for a smartphone instead. (Smartphones haven’t been on my radar since I haven’t wanted to get roped down with a mobile voice/data plan. I rarely use my cell phone now, which is prepaid.) I had crossed it off my list, and when I started looking at E-book readers, my mind went back to PDAs as a solution for both my desire to read books portably and digitally and my desire to get organized.