Friday, September 18, 2015

A strange and wonderful week

Hello all.  I promised more than I can deliver in this episode but I'm posting on time.   Barely.  Here's a recap of what I bit off:

"Hey gang.  Here are some teasers for the next post in this blog, dropping this Friday, the 18th!

See!

See the places we work and some samples of the work we're doing!

Hear!

Hear the gentle clicking of the keyboard as you leave generous and kind comments in the comments section.

Learn!

Learn what Endelyn Rose (the youngest of my two daughters) says to ask to be excused from the table!

Marvel!

Marvel at the astonishing ability of the 9th grade at Baxter to plan, initiate and execute investigations!

Can you even wait 'til Friday?  Neither can I.  Stay tuned, Baxterians!"

Here's what I can chew:

The 9th grade team is working in four rooms in a building on Congress Street that used to house the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.  We still see a couple of folks from Salt on a regular basis and they add a measure of thoughtful cheer to our days that is pleasant and welcome.  I have no pictures of kids working, or of work yet, and in fact that leads me to the kernel of this particular post:

This new stuff is hard.

By new stuff I don't mean the actual teaching.  It's been 13 years since I first walked into a classroom, and the educators with whom I'm working now are some of the best in the business.  I mean that the school is new, the space is new, ALL the 9th graders are new to the school and the space, and we four teachers (six if you count our guidance counselor and local admin--and I do) are new to one another.  The Modeling class is full of content that I've seen and worked with before, but I've never taught it in this configuration.

I love it.  It scares me but that's because this is important.

I love the challenge of getting all the kids' little rears into seats, and their brains into learning.  I love wrestling with content and tucking in inside of process and working to be sure that the students' experience is a well rounded one.

I love getting emails from parents telling me their kids can go faster and work harder.

I don't love those emails in the initial moments.  I'm as proud of my work as the next person, and can be initially defensive of even well-meaning criticism.  But I need it.  A parent who sends my team that email wants his kid to be challenged.  A parent who advocates in that way for her kid is a person I want on my educational team.  I read the email, breathe past my initial defensive reaction, and read it again.  These folks want what I want, and they are regularly asking how they can help me make class better (and harder!) for their kid.  When I write back, I remember that we're on the same team, and I think of what I'd want to hear from Her Wisdom's teacher (Her Wisdom is my 5 year old daughter, Sophia).  I'm a better teacher for those emails, and the 9th grade program is a better program.

I think we can do a better job communicating with our parents (and students) and I know we need to.  We have a web portal in the works and are planning a parent night to get some of the questions out in the open and answered.  That's a beginning.

I love how hard this is.  These are the right questions, the right problems.  Solving them will make these students' education better, and make Baxter a better school.  In my impatience to do these great things I can forget that beginnings are hard, and that hard work sometimes needs to be done slowly so that it can be done well.

I'm grateful that the folks around me remember that.

(Oh!  To be excused from the table after dinner, Endy, also known as 'Youngest' or 'Her Brilliance', usually says 'Coooo Meee Peeees Daad!'  I'll see if I can get you a recording.  It's pretty cute.)

The 'Marvel' piece will have to wait until next Friday.

Innovate On, Baxterians.