New Schools

We’ve moved more than 200 miles from Baltimore so I obviously couldn’t keep teaching at the same school.  I knew when I started there that it would almost definitely be only until David finished medical school since his residency would have to be at a Navy hospital because of his scholarship.  Even though I had plenty of time to prepare for it, it was still difficult to leave.  There were many challenges, most of which exist in any school in a low-income area where earning money is valued by many students (and their families, though sometimes out of necessity) more than completing high school.  These challenges sometimes made the class period or day seem impossible but I also had some wonderful students who made my job more enjoyable.  Over my three years at that school I had some wonderful colleagues with whom I got to plan, teach, and commiserate.  Two of these colleagues were not in my department but became two of my very best friends during my first year and both of these women were right there next to me when David and I got married.  I will truly miss the second family I had in Baltimore, especially Shea and Sam.

Yesterday was the first day for teachers in Portsmouth.  The New Teacher Institute was held the three days prior so I’ve been back working for almost a week.  It was tough even for those three days because the only people I know here are through David – his co-interns and their spouses/significant others.  At the New Teacher Orientation I attended when I started in Baltimore I still didn’t know anyone when I first got there but I quickly found familiar faces from my undergrad and graduate classes.  Like in Baltimore, on the last day of the Institute we got to spend time at our schools (conveniently mine is the same school where the Institute was held).  This was the first time I met (briefly) my department chair as he hadn’t been at my interview and the first time anyone had actually told me what I was going to be teaching.  I had already figured out the course and my classroom numbers by logging onto the attendance/gradebook system but I didn’t know for sure that I was co-teaching inclusion classes.  I co-taught a few classes my first year in Baltimore so that’s not new and I’m not unhappy about it, but right now I’m not thrilled about my co-teacher.

Unfortunately my co-teacher was only one of the things that made the first day overwhelming and frustrating.  Antonio, my co-teacher, though a couple of years older than me, is fresh out of college – with a degree in political science and absolutely no background in education aside from substituting (and if it was anything like the subs at my previous school, that could mean that he was just a warm body in a classroom).  I had been anticipating that my co-teacher would be a special educator and I had assumed that they were not also new to the school.  In Baltimore County all of the co-taught classes have a general educator (like me) and a special educator, and part of their responsibilities in the class is to ensure that all IEP and 504 accommodations are met.  So it seems like I will be responsible for that as well as the lesson planning and teaching.  I’m really hoping that after a few weeks it will become more of an equal partnership but right now it feels like I’ve been given mentor-teacher duties that I didn’t ask for and that I don’t feel prepared to take on.  My department chair also informed me yesterday that I need to submit the next week’s lesson plans to him by each Tuesday and that I should always have a printed copy in the event anyone from the district office pops into my room.  It’s one thing to figure out co-planning with someone who apparently hasn’t the slightest clue about structuring lessons but on top of that he certainly doesn’t know how to write a lesson plan, so I guess I’ll have to teach him that too.

Other things that made yesterday not good:

  • My department chair said he’s retiring at the end of the school year and maybe because of that (or just because it’s what he does) he seems to like complaining about former department members (he and Antonio where chatting about the teachers who were in the department when he was a student at this school) and members of the district curriculum office.  Even if you really don’t like these people, it definitely doesn’t look good if you complain about them in front of your brand-new department members.  He is also completely inflexible about the set up of the classroom and I teach in his room two periods (the teacher whose room I share the other period is also quite particular about the room set up).  I understand that both of them have been teaching for decades but the polite thing, in my opinion, would be to ask if I had preferences about room set up and then figure out some sort of compromise, even if that were just that if I change the set up to please have it back to what they prefer for their class instead of demanding that the room be exactly the way the they left it when my class leaves.
  • Initially my department chair told me he had no idea when I’d be given a school computer and then found out that I’ll get one when the teacher I’m replacing brings it back (apparently she was teaching summer school and still has it) which will apparently be some time this coming week.  But that could potentially be Friday, in which case I’d have only the three-day weekend to familiarize myself with it’s functionality and use it for whatever planning I need.  I do have my own tablet that I can use since the district has the full GoogleSuite but I haven’t been able to get on the school’s WiFi on my phone so I’m not very optimistic that I’d be able to hook onto it on my tablet.
  • Both my department chair and mentor seemed to keep forgetting that although I’m a new teacher in the building I’m not actually a brand new teacher.  It’s frustrating when people keep talking to you like you have no idea what’s going on or how to do something.  I tried to subtly remind them a few times which seemed to work at least for a while but I also don’t want to make a bad impression if they somehow take my reminding them of my prior experience as rude or disrespectful when they probably think they’re just being helpful.
  • Basically none of the classrooms have windows.  I’m not a fan of fluorescent lights and would often have only one row of lights on in my previous classroom because I had a wall of windows that let in plenty of natural light.  Each teacher also has a desk/shelf/closet space in the huge room of faculty offices which again, have no windows.  Apparently the building used to be one of those open schools (which I still don’t get) and part of it being an older school also means that there are chalkboards instead of whiteboards.  We do have super fancy BenQ boards which are basically giant computer screens with built-in computers and they do have “whiteboard” functionality built in but I really don’t like writing with chalk which would be my only option if I need to use the board.  I also have a bunch of whiteboard markers already that I now have no use for.
  • In general it was the most unstructured first day back of the now five I’ve experienced.  The principal took the staff out to breakfast which was nice but also awkward since I only knew the six other new teachers I’d met and there were no empty seats at tables where they were sitting when I got there.  After that it was literally a complete unplanned day.  The last few years I’ve heard and sometimes contributed to complaining about wanting and needing more time in our classrooms to get ready for students but almost all of the time for the six teacher days is unstructured.  New teachers have also yet to be given any information about school policies and procedures of any kind.  It’s pretty difficult to write a syllabus or formulate a classroom management plan when you don’t know what the school behavior expectations and consequences are.

So when I got home yesterday I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and even a bit defeated.  It was the kind of day when I’d have felt really grateful for our weekly happy hours at my school in Baltimore but I don’t have that here and I don’t even have friends here that I can go to to vent about whatever.  On top of that, David was working until about 8 so I was home by myself and not in a good mood for about four hours.  Thank goodness for technology which allowed me to message Shea and Sam and vent a bit that way, but that was also yet another reminder that my best friends are a few hundred miles away and made me cry a bit.

Starting over is hard and it’s tougher when things seem to be more challenging or even just not as good as we’d hoped for.  I’m trying to keep my head up and move on but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

It’s been a while…

…as in more than four years since I’ve posted.  There have been a few times when I’ve thought about picking it back up and then I haven’t.  Not super proud about how much I’ve gotten sucked into TV and Netflix over the last few years but sometimes it’s really nice to come home, especially after a trying day of teaching, and not have to actually use my brain.

So, here’s a run-down of the last four years:

May 2014, I graduated from Goucher.  Degree in History, including classes for the Social Studies certification and concentration in Secondary Education.  Went back to Maine for two weeks, the second of which my then-boyfriend (now-husband!) came to visit and then drove with me back to Baltimore.  I stayed in Baltimore after graduation to finish my 4+1 program for my M.Ed.  For that year I lived with Lynn, who was basically like m Goucher mom, and her husband and their dog which was really nice.  I also spent basically every weekend with David at his house in downtown Baltimore where he was attending medical school.

Summer 2015, I finished my grad classes.  Moved into David’s house while he was in Newport at Officer Development School (Navy scholarship to med school) – yes, he knew I was moving in; living out a bag every weekend had gotten real old.  Graduated in August and was offered a job the day after graduation, following a few interviews.  Definitely was thrown into the deep end to sink or swim that first year of teaching.  Was “baptized by fire” as one of my department members said with a fist-fight in my classroom on the second day of school.  If it hadn’t been for some of those department members and the math teacher across the hall, who quickly became one of my best friends along with the English teacher around the corner, I don’t think I would have survived that first year because I certainly didn’t have the support I needed as a first-year teacher from my department chair (he did improve over the new few years, which I was very happy about).

June 2016: bought a new car right after the school year ended after the 2004 Jeep Liberty that I loved and had previously shared with my sisters was stolen out of our driveway in Baltimore (because no security system and teenagers with nothing better to do and very likely no discipline in their lives).  David and I went to Deep Creek in western Maryland for a week where he {finally} proposed!  We’d been talking about it for quite a while and it was no secret that his mom had actually, not just verbally, given him his grandmother’s rings.  We had also gone to look at rings before that and then he somehow left the receipt on the dining table which I accidentally saw when I was clearing it off before friends came over.  [Sidebar: David’s grandmother was apparently quite a petite lady since her rings were a size 4 and I’m a 7 1/2 so he had the diamond and setting cut out of her engagement ring and put into a new band for me.  It may not have been what I’d have chosen other wise but I like that it’s simple and classic and it’s nice to have a connection to our combined family history since I never got to meet any of David’s grandparents.

Fall 2016: almost starting over this school year since I’d been switched from US History and an Economics & Personal Finance class to World History and a Psychology semester-elective.  I wasn’t excited about teaching 10th grade since I’d only ever taught 11th and 12th but over the course of two years I did end up (mostly) enjoying it.

December 2017 we found out David had matched to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth for at least the first year of his residency so we started mentally preparing to move (probably me much more so than David).

April 2018 we got married!  It turned out to be a smaller wedding than we thought with about 65 people of the 100 we invited but I hardly was able to even say hello to everyone so I don’t regret that at all.  The one real regret I have I didn’t really have control over.  The day before was a beautiful, sunny, quite warm day but our wedding day was literally 40°colder, quite breezy, and threatening rain (which it eventually did).  I really wanted to have our ceremony outside because the spot at the Elkridge Furnace Inn is beautiful but we had to make a decision about two hours before because of the amount of time it takes to set up the chuppah and once it’s set up you can’t really move it.  As it turned out the rain did hold off long enough that we could have done the ceremony outside but we didn’t want to take the chance and it would have been pretty cold.  We were able to take pictures at that spot following the ceremony but because it had rained earlier in the day we didn’t get to take any on the side lawn or in the little garden on the far side of the lawn so that was a bummer.  But, our photographer was amazing and all of the photos we got are great quality.

May 2018, a too-shot honeymoon in Cozumel, David graduated, and we moved basically everything to the house we are renting in Portsmouth.  And that meant I lived in our house in Baltimore with almost nothing (but enough that it didn’t all fit in the two carloads I drove down) and our cat for about three weeks to finish out the school year.

Over the last two months I’ve watched a lot of Netflix (rewatching The West Wing) and read a couple of books since David’s been working and I don’t have actual friends here yet.  David’s mom and my friend Sam and her son came to visit for a few days each over about a week.  I finally got back up to Maine in the summer for the first time in four years and David was able to take a few days off to join me for part of that time which was nice since he’s only been up around Christmas other than when he came up right after graduation.  I did get a job at one of the high schools in Portsmouth (more about my experience there so far in another post) and I got hired in July so it was nice to not have to stress about that into August.  We both went back up to Baltimore last weekend for a friend’s engagement party (he was in David’s med school class and was a groomsman in our wedding) and also finally got to meet my friend Shea’s brand new baby who is super cute and chunky in all the adorable ways a baby should be (I say finally because even though he not quite two weeks old he was eight days late and we were all quite excited for his arrival).

Today was the first day back for teachers and I spent the previous three days at the New Teacher Institute so my summer full of doing mostly nothing is officially over.

Motivation Level = Virtually Nonexistent

There are five weeks left in the semester before finals and for the last two weekends I have had such a hard time getting myself to do any schoolwork.  I know I have quite a bit of work to get done over the weekend and even though I know I will regret putting it off, I just can’t seem to stop procrastinating.  Today I’ve read 25 pages of nearly 80 for one class and have yet to start my 8-10 page paper that’s due Monday or whatever reading I have due for my night class that day – I’ve been so unmotivated that I haven’t even checked yet exactly what I’m supposed to be reading.  I also have an annotated bibliography due in just over a week for a research paper that I haven’t begun and I’ll have to email a primary source from it to my professor early this week for discussion in our next class and a paper due Friday I haven’t started either.

I know I’ve had phases like this before but I’m really not sure where this is all coming from and I really wish it’d go away.  I don’t like putting off work but right now I can’t seem to get myself to just do it.  I hope I can get out of this because I don’t know how well I’ll get through the next month, at least 3 papers and an exam, and two days a week of being up at 6 (to spend 3 hours in a middle school) if I keep putting things off.

(I also did laundry three days ago and haven’t even been bothered to fold it yet. What is wrong with me?)

Of course

Of course the evening I plan to do my laundry the entire system goes down.  Like, not just the card reader is broken, the entire system we use is down across the country.  Awesome.  Great job esuds.

Easter

The last three years I’ve taken the train into DC to spend Easter weekend at George Washington with my sister.  Even though we’re only an hour apart we don’t really have time for lots of visits during the semester so being able to spend that weekend together has been nice.  I don’t know what’ll happen next year since she’s graduating in May and might not still be in DC next spring.  My younger sister will be about an hour and a half away at school in Pennsylvania so maybe we’ll be able to spend Easter together next year.  It’s been especially nice that I’ve been able to spend Easter with my sister because I can’t really go home for the weekend. (I could, it’s possible, but spending at least 6 hours at airports/flying for about two days at home is a bit stressful.)  I think it’s gotten a bit easier to be away from nearly all of my family during Easter but it was really difficult freshman year.  I remember starting to cry while talking with our chaplain (who is really a terrific woman) on Ash Wednesday that year about Easter and Holy Week before I was sure I’d be going to DC.  I had never been away from my family during Easter and it made me sad to think that I wouldn’t be home to go to church with them during Lent and for Holy Week like I’d been doing my entire life.

For as long as I can really remember I’ve loved the time around Easter, particularly Holy Week, and I think a lot of it has to do with the priest we had at church for most of the time I was growing up after we moved to Maine.  He always stressed reverence and during Lent and Holy Week he also emphasized the solemnity of the season before the great joy of Easter.  The solemn rituals of the Lenten season and Holy Week most of all I really came to enjoy and find very meaningful.  Unfortunately I don’t think I realized that appreciation until he was moved out of our parish and we were given a priest with a rather different style.  I hope that someday I will find a church wherever I end up where I find that solemn Lenten reverence again.

Spring Break!

I was on spring break two weeks ago and I kind of wish I could still be on break.  So far I’ve gone home every spring break and it’s always nice to spend a week at home – even if I still have piles of work I should be doing while I’m there.  And every year it seems like a week at home is such a long time but then it’s over way too soon and I’m never quite ready to go back to school.  Mostly I hung out at home, not really doing much (or any) of the work I should have been doing.  I did get to see a few of my friends from high school.  It’s always great to catch up with them and hear about what’s been going on at home while I’ve been at school.

There are about six weeks left in the semester so we’re just more than half done and I’m so ready for summer.  I want warm weather and sunshine and summer camp!  Summer gets to Maryland before Maine so that’s nice, even if it means I have to be in class while it’s super nice outside.

Life Updates

Five weeks into the semester and (until now) I have yet to write any posts.  I doubt I’ve been leaving an awaiting audience, but I still feel kind of bad – more because I don’t want this to become something else that I started and said I was going to continue but then didn’t.  It’s not that I haven’t thought about writing some posts…I just decided to watch things on Netflix instead… (hey, West Wing is on now and although I’ve been watching it for years, there are still pieces and entire episodes I haven’t seen)  Basically I have a procrastination problem, but I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before.

So far my semester has been going well.  I’m taking five classes for a full load of 18 credits.  Plus between the admissions office and tutoring I’m working about nine hours a week on top of all the reading I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m not really complaining.  I love both my jobs and I’m enjoying most of my classes.  And just what classes am I taking and loving (or not)?  Well, here you go:

Continue reading