What a first week! As a teacher in a self-contained classroom, I was aware that I would be teaching all the subjects to students in all grades, plus two elective courses. I was happy when I found out that I only had one eighth grader for one class, which meant I would only be teaching two grades for the majority of my day.
As the summer progressed, I decided to be proactive and begin lesson planning, which also helped me meet and build relationships with those need-to-know teachers who are the best of the best in their subjects.
Going into pre-planning, I felt assured that I was fully prepared and ready for my students. But by the end of day two, frustration consumed me. It was not the frustration that comes with setting up my first classroom or normal beginning-of-the-school-year stress. Rather, it was the sense that my school expected me to be Captain Planet.
Why Captain Planet? “Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart! . . . By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!”
I quickly realized that by teaching each subject, I was expected to be present and fully involved in the collaborative planning for each grade and each subject.
At first glance, that doesn’t seem so bad. But those planning meetings are often at conflicting times. Meanwhile, I’m busy with my new special educator duties: trying to complete orientation, acquainting my new paraeducator with her job, trying to not make teaching students with EBD something that resembles a minimum security prison outreach program.
As I began to feel my stress level rise, I quickly reached out to other teachers for advice on how I should navigate this new sea of expectations without much communication. I had to accept the fact that I cannot be Captain Planet, combining all my powers (subjects) at once to come and save the day. I decided to focus on being the best teacher I can be while getting to as many meetings as I could and using e-mail to catch up on things I missed. It seemed to work well for a few days.
Once the students arrived the following week, I quickly realized that I was still expected to bring my cape to school, fly in and out of meetings, and simply know how things go without any real discussion. Again, I leaned on my closest coworkers for advice and withdrew to the confines of my classroom, leaving only to escort a student or to leave at the end of the day.
I am now entering into week two, and I think I am becoming conditioned to the idea of doing what I can. If I miss something, I’ll figure it out tomorrow when I may have more time. I am still unable to access my caseload’s IEPs and other documentation on the electronic grade book, and I missed the staff development on how to set up our grade books with the system upgrades. All the while, I’m struggling to maintain sixth-grade English at the same time as seventh-grade social studies, and putting out fires between students.
If anyone can suggest some strategies for teaching two classes at once and maintaining a presence within all the grades and subjects, I am all ears. Until then, I think I will leave my cape at home and just make sure my students understand the lesson of the day and have what they need to succeed. Then I’ll join the rest of America in Waiting for Superman.