Lions and Tigers and Curriculums, Oh My!

I am sitting at my desk staring at my unit calendar, which is largely blank, and I’m about to have a nervous break, so let’s blog about it. 

During grad school we covered a whole lot of educational theory and the occasional practical skill.  Many of the practical skills (classroom management, lesson planning) were covered through teaching apprenticeships and student teaching. The one thing that wasn’t covered, at least to any degree of usefulness, was curriculum development. I think someone said at one point “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get a pacing guide.”

And yet this is where I find myself a week and a half ahead of my first year of teaching, and panic is setting in. I have already looked at the Common Core pacing guide from the Appendix to the standards. I’ve borrowed heavily from another school in our network that I student taught at. I even found an amazing wiki online with suggestions for how the first unit should go. I have all these great tasks available online and through other teachers. I’m not hurting for resources.

Yet I keep staring at my unit map and I’m not sure how to proceed. At this point I know it’s more a mental block than anything else, but it’s almost paralyzing. What if I don’t give enough time for concepts? What if I teach a bunch of topics that students already know? What if I avoid both of those issues but don’t give myself enough time to cover everything in the year (well, more so than I already face)?  

I know these are common fears, and I know I just have to just choose a path and make it work one way or the other. I also know myself well enough to know that eventually I’ll get so annoyed at myself for being paralyzed that I’ll power through and whatever I come up with will not be the terrible disaster I foresee. But it’s intense and I need to bitch about it for a bit until I can get there. 

But I’d better get there soon because these posters are not going to make themselves. 

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Mitt-Boss

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So there’s this thing apparently called the Math Twitter Blogosphere, and Sam was kind enough to announce my presence to all of it. But now I feel weird because I follow so many of you on Twitter but as I mentioned my tweets are protected. So for the record my twitter name is @stoodle and if anyone wants to hear me bitch about the subway and occasionally talk teaching, send me a request!

Also this is my first post from the WordPress app so sorry in advance if its illegible.

Oh gods what have I done?!

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I don’t know if the title of this post refers more to starting this blog or to choosing teaching in general. Lord knows the week I’m supposed to be doing initial planning and classroom set-up is not the opportune time to dedicate myself to documenting the experience. But I hope that in five years when I look back at this I’m going to have all sorts of memories invading like an air raid.

An Introduction: I am two and a half weeks away from my first day of school as a full-fledged math teacher in front of my own classroom. I graduated way back in the halcyon days of 2005 from a small, private institution for higher education with a BS in Electrical Engineering and minors in Math and Philosophy. I was so unhappy when I graduated that I decided to take some time for myself. I started substituting in my old school district in the fall, and then heard of an opportunity to teach English in Japan for a year. Of course I took it (it makes me sad that someone wouldn’t), and one year turned into two. I decided at that point I had to come back and do something real with my life despite still hating engineering, so I got into IT reselling through the USAID program. That was a ridiculous situation all around for a number of reasons best shared over several beers, but I did it for four years before hating that enough to look for teaching jobs. I found an amazing alt-cert program in New York City so I left my little apartment in the DC suburbs and moved up here. A year of grad school and student teaching later and here we are.

I am teaching math (specifically Algebra 1) to a bunch of 9th graders in Manhattan. I’m at a brand new school with a focus on preparing students for college and/or a career in a specific global industry. Our school is super small (only around 90 students total) and we’re shoe-horned into a corner of a much larger building. I’m basically the entire math team, but I have some pretty great supports in place.

I’m writing this blog partly because my friend Sam told me it was an amazing and enriching experience. He’s linked me to a number of other teaching blogs and I’ve already gotten so much out of them without ever being in front of students, and I’m hoping that will continue. And I want a place where I can post about struggles I’m having and get valuable feedback.

I’m also writing because I want to document this leg of my life journey or whatever the hell it’s called. I want to document my successes and failures, and as I said in the first paragraph, I want to look back on this in five years with my friends and go “Well that was a shitshow” and we’ll laugh and laugh. But I also want to remind myself of all my victories as the year goes on. When I’m halfway through January and convinced my kids will never pass anything ever again, I want to be able to look back a month and know all hope is not lost. At least not in January. Maybe if it’s still happening in March we’ll revisit.

In the past I’ve been awful about updating blogs. Absolutely and completely terrible. I make no promises about updating this. The WordPress app and my hour commute are in my favor, but we’ll see how this goes. For now though I’m dedicated and that’s certainly a start. It should be enough for me to play around with the layout for a bit. 

One quick thing: I have a twitter but it’s currently locked for privacy’s sake. Basically I complain about a lot of things and I don’t want the world to see that. For now I’m planning on keeping this public. But to that end, I’m planning on being kind of anonymous. Granted I’ll link it to my Facebook and Twitter, so people from there will know me, but I’m hoping to keep things fairly ambiguous on the whole. I think my situation is slightly unique so that may not be so easy, but it is the goal. I apologize in advance if that leads to some strange grammar and weird posts. 

I should have used the time I spent writing this planning out my first unit, so I’m going to get on that now.