In many ways, this was the most challenging school year I've even been through, in my nine years of teaching. I started over with a new group of students (I have my kids for 2-3 years at a time), was on a Common Core Committee that sucked up a lot of time (patience and energy), and was trying to figure out how to balance it all with my new responsibility at home (who wasn't letting me get more than 6 hours of broken sleep, on a good night). But I think that it was actually for the best, as it made me extensively reflect on how I run my classroom, the professional goals and priorities I have, and as well as how I spend my time at home.
I was pretty heartbroken when the Class of 2014 graduated; I was close to many of the students and after spending so much time together they understood what I expected and I understood what they were capable of. I didn't get to properly end the year, since I left at the end of April on maternity leave, which made starting back last August a little awkward. It took me a little longer than normal to get back into the swing of things, but by October or so I felt like I knew my classes a bit better and had found my rhythm once again. The kids continued to grow on me and realized they were just as quirky and lovable as my old group. I am very thankful to teach IB students and hope that no one ever tries to break apart out English team; we've been very successful and I feel like I've found my niche.
I knew that I wouldn't have the same amount of time to devote to grading this year, so I streamlined a lot of things in my classroom, which I think worked out for the best for me and the students. IB is a college prep class, and mountains of what they love to call "busy work" isn't helpful for them (they cheat) or me (I have to grade it). I had the kids do notebooks for each of the six works we read and graded the assignments in them intermittently. I had one at-home paper per book, timed writes a few Fridays a month, a few projects/presentations per unit, and a culminating essay test at the end of whatever we were reading. As a whole my students had decent grades and they turned in a lot of their work, once they realized I don't mess around with my late-work policy. I saw improvement and, at the end of the day (or year), that's all I want.
Another thing that I tried to do this year was to be a little more empathetic towards our administrators, one of which was new, this year. I think that there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that we don't get; reasons why they're not on campus (meetings, meetings and more meetings), can't provide us with things we want (categorical budget restrictions/red tape), or why the make certain decisions (district office pressure). Don't worry, I'm not a kiss-ass, I just get that things are hard at the top. I'm one to notice when there are screw ups, so I figure you just have to keep it fair. Once upon a time I considered this career route, but the more I learned about what it entailed the more I decided it wasn't for me.
I've also tried to get know some of my colleagues better, since I have a feeling I'll be at this site for awhile. Our department book club has been a great way of doing this, as has been simply willing to stop in the halls or quad and chat with people instead of plowing through like I'm on a mission (that still happens!). I've tried to put aside judgement of what I've heard of their teaching abilities or what the kids say- I'm not their evaluator!
Next year will most likely be a bit easier, since Sawyer will be older, the kids and I will be more in sync, and there are rumors that the committee I've been on is changing (that's yet to be seen). But for the next nine weeks? It's summer!