It Will Get Better, Right? Takeaways from In-Service

Day One: Nerves Drive Me to Reminisce

Today is the first day of in-service. I think I am prepared, but I am also very nervous. As always, when I am anxious, I write. Here we are. 

This post may not make it to the blog, and that’s all right. It is an exercise in self-care. Teachers need to practice self-care in any situation. How many of us grade papers late into the night, on weekends, and over vacation? Too many, I’m afraid. Do we make time for ourselves, walk or ride, read for pleasure, or listen to music? Many of us don’t. We hear the call to teaching, day and night. We shoulder the burden of our students’ progress. We think their lack of success is our failure, and their success is their achievement. 

Those feelings do not emerge without reason. We are trained to feel this way, to think that we need to assume so much responsibility. Just like managers who consider themselves servant-leaders, we are trained to ensure our students experience success. Is the effort appreciated? I hear that it is, based on conversations with a handful of students and parents. Other students and parents may not express it. They may not know their feelings would be appreciated. 

When I was in high school, I was trained not to say anything to a teacher, good or bad. When given feedback, I took it and processed it, but did not question the teacher’s opinion. I was lousy at math, and there was no hope for me, so why was she going to waste her time? I was destined to be a historian, so she expected more of me, but she never said so. I just knew. I didn’t ask her because that would be a mistake. I was failing chemistry, so the teacher ordered me to join her for lunch and let her help me, as my performance was so different from 9th grade that she was concerned. I appreciated it and never even thought to question the edict. 

I wonder if my teachers felt as I do or thought a student’s failure was theirs alone? That is how it appeared, but since we never had a real conversation about academic progress, how would I really know? 

Day Two: Solid Takeaways from Day One

I have no idea why I ended up writing what I wrote yesterday. Perhaps it was my way of calming my nerves a bit.  I am curious as to what your thoughts are, dear reader. That’s a nod to Charlotte Bronte, by the way. Please feel free to comment.

Yesterday, I made my room ready to receive students. The seats are labeled so that students are distanced six feet apart each period and that odd-period students sit at odd-numbered seats and even-period students sit at the even-numbered seats. This gives me a chance to clean and disinfect desks before they arrive and finish up while they are getting settled. Books and paper are out of the way, to protect them from the misting machines. My room looks a lot better, in my opinion. 

My Newly Arranged Room

Perhaps that is a useful takeaway from our preparations for the students’ return: We get to start over with a clean slate, almost literally. We are embarking on new teaching and learning methods, reflected in room arrangements and health-and-safety procedures. Our physical world reflects our intellectual world. Yes, that is a positive and hopeful takeaway. It calms the nerves a bit.

Before the end of the week, I have to create a “Meet the Teacher” night video that will replace the usual face-to-face meeting. Parents are not allowed to come into the building, except to pick up students, so the typical meet-the-teacher night will not happen. I have to create a video for each prep, so what I am thinking of is creating one with a table of contents that will guide them to their student’s class information. What I have now works for all classes; I have to add class-specific details. 

There’s so much to do! Time to get to it!

The Days Flew By…

Days three through five are a blur, even now, after I have had some time to review. I can’t remember what happened on Wednesday. I can remember what happened on Thursday and don’t want to. Friday passed so quickly because I was obsessed with creating that video I mentioned earlier. Instead of creating a video for each prep, I added one slide to the end for each class and called it a day. I also struggled with the right platform to produce and publish the video. It was a mess.

Even using the microphone from the robotic camera, my videos are not as good acoustically as I would prefer them to be.  The HVAC system is to blame for that, but I would rather have it circulating air constantly. Wouldn’t you? Besides, students and parents need to understand how the physical environment is going to function.  Advice from teachers in other districts is to have everyone bring headsets or wireless ear buds and use them to hear me and each other better while everyone is logged into the conference. This makes sense. I will try connecting my wired headset that claims to be noise-canceling and see if that works. That’s another cord…

I’m Not Going to Look Like a Duck.

There is an old saying about a duck looking calm and peaceful above the surface, but furiously paddling beneath the surface. I’m not going to look like a duck. My feelings are written all over my face. They always have been. Perhaps that is what terrifies me. I doubt that any advice I receive is going to help that, I’m afraid. 

I’m also trying to ignore the fact that parents are going to see me in real-time. What if I break down in front of them and they call to complain? What if I do something wrong? I’m going to push that thought from my mind. 

Final Thoughts

I want to wish everyone in the learning community the best as we embark on this journey together. Please give yourself and your teachers grace while they become accustomed to this new situation. We can get through this together.

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