My oh my, but what a whirlwind these past 6 weeks have been!

I started my new job and thought I was somewhat prepared for the change back to the high school classroom, 5 days a week, and all that entails. I wasn’t. It was less the number of classes and days in the classroom, though, and more an issue of how much as changed in regard to the massive incorporation of technology and the new (again, technology-based) teacher-evaluation model used here in Missouri.

But I am adjusting and staying caught up on everything so far.

What do I love about my new job? The students, the wonderful sense of community and wonderful community itself, the classes I teach, and my room.

Hi-lites of the past 6 weeks:

1. I hesitate to post this in the off chance that it will be read someone like the lady in Minnesota who had never been to my hometown but saw an online article about a small concrete cross-memorial on the side of the road (on the easement — gasp!) and proceeded to threaten my community with a lawsuit if the cross was not removed. So if you are one of those very unhappy people who do not have enough on your own plate to keep you busy, please hit your “back arrow” now.  You’ve been warned.  A night or two before the first day of classes, 3 area churches collaboratively held a prayer service at the high school flag pole. Church members, community members, faculty, staff, and students of all ages sang a few hymns and prayed for the children, teachers & staff, parents, and community.

2. My first hour class asked on the 3rd morning of school why we weren’t saying the Pledge of Allegiance; they noted that the principal or someone had led it via the intercom every morning last year. I’m not sure why the ritual was stopped, but my students seemed concerned about it, so I said that we would — for the moment — act as a democracy and vote. I was so moved that, by unanimous vote of 20+ students, a group of patriotic Sophomores elected to say the Pledge every morning. And I continue to be moved every morning when, without fail, after I finish taking roll and the lunch count, they arise almost as one, with no prompting from me, and someone — never the same person — leads us without hesitation. There is no big to-do, no self-righteousness. There is, instead, very sincere, simple, and heart-felt patriotism, and I am privileged to be a part of it.

3. High school girls’ volleyball and boys’ & girls’ cross country. I have always loved high school athletics and the opportunity they afford for students to exercise school spirit. I especially appreciate the opportunity athletics provides for students and I to see each other as more than student-teacher — as individuals who share a common interest and who care about and want to support students, school, and community. Students wave across the gym, come over to show me their “costume” or face paint, or just sit (or stand, at cross country meets) and chat for a few minutes.

4. The change I already see in student behavior in regard to asking questions or conferencing with me about their writing. Although from the first I explained to them that I truly do want to work with them one-on-one, give feedback on writing, etc., they were slow to respond. There are lots of reasons for that. They didn’t know if I was just spouting the company line and would actually get cranky when asked for help. Of course, there’s sometimes the “only the dumb kids ask for help” issue. Eventually, early in week 3,  two very good students asked for feedback on their paragraphs. As they — they came up as a pair —  neared my “cart” (I don’t use a podium, but an audio-visual cart on wheels), I saw out of my peripheral vision that other students were beginning to watch. I smiled, asked what they wanted feedback on, and we went from there. That broke the ice. I’m not getting a deluge of students every day, but I conference with students — a variety of them — on a daily basis now.

5. Last Friday, I received flowers at school. When the student delivered the beautiful arrangement of roses and other flowers (yes I’m flower-variety clueless) during home room and carried them to my desk, my students began saying things like “Oooh, Mrs. Miinch, someone sent you flowers” and “who are they from? Who sent them?”  I was clueless, but as I opened and began reading the card, my eyes filled with tears. That day would have been my 33rd anniversary, and my ever-thoughtful daughter had sent flowers with a card saying that she wished she could be with me and was thinking of me. I blinked back the tears and explained that it was my anniversary and the flowers were from my daughter. The students sobered, there were lots of “I’m sorry’s), and then one of my students — a gregarious & enthusiastic boy — piped up with, “Mrs. Miinch, if you want to go out in the hall and cry or something, I’ll make everyone else behave!” It was, in that moment, the perfect thing to say. I laughed, everyone else laughed, and I told him I’d keep his offer in mind. I was rewarded with a huge smile. It was a perfect moment.

It hasn’t been perfect, of course.

Hands-down, the new (to-me, at least) teacher-evaluation model. It is beyond clunky and unnecessarily time-consuming, ridiculously-full of busy work. It is, in a nutshell, my state’s DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) up to its usual level of, imho, bumbling incompetence.

Adjusting to a new school with new-to-me routines and procedures has been a bit unsettling, even stressful at times, but I know that will ease with each passing week.

A six-week whirlwind, to be sure. But a whirlwind with so much to be happy about.