We go back to school in August - early August - but it's really in September that things get into full swing. The honeymoon is over; nobody's on best behavior any more. We've started to get the routines down, and to irritate each other (students and teachers; students and other students; teachers and other teachers, even, sometimes), and, yes, to learn. I'm sending notes to parents and carrying home kids' writing and grading notebooks in huge stacks and doing the endless logic puzzle that is the ongoing attempt at a perfect seating chart.
So much gets learned in September: habits for the whole year of how to turn in your work and what to expect from a class discussion and what I will and won't tolerate in my classroom, my queendom. I learned everyone's names back in August, but now I'm learning their handwriting, their particular writing struggles, the kind of books they like to read. I'm learning the kids who will push and push and push me in class, ignoring my instructions and apparently not listening to me at all, but then
turn in an amazing piece of writing, full of voice. I'm learning the ones who
are full of ideas, but then don't follow through with the actual words
on paper. I'm working on figuring out the personality of each kid, and also the group personality of each class.
In September I played with my camera. It's a pretty fancy one, and there's a lot I don't yet know how to do with it. I read an article a while back that suggested treating your camera as though you're a toddler - pressing buttons, trying things out. I'm thinking whoever said that hasn't had a toddler recently, and I'm a lot more careful with my camera than a toddler would be, but I've been trying to be less afraid of it, and to read about photography and try more new things. In September I learned how to do manual focus, and what white balance is, and some new things about shutter speed.
In September, Addie Zierman asked her readers to think about the expression "Let Go and Let God." Sort of like playing with my camera when I don't really know what I'm doing, letting go isn't easy for me. Holding on comes much more naturally: to my routines, to my ideas, and, especially, to the people I love. I have written about this topic at great length over the last few years, here and elsewhere, and I intended to write something for Addie's link-up about it too, but I was too busy doing the holding on and gaining control of the first full month of school. That's quite a balance in middle school: when to hold on and when to let go. That's quite a balance in life, too.
In September I read a Rick Riordan book for the first time after a student of mine, an eighth grader, walked over to the library and checked out The Lightning Thief for me in his own name. He pressed it into my hands, saying, "Miss, you've just got to read this." After that, how could I not? I heard Rick Riordan speak back in 2013 on why mythology is especially appropriate for middle schoolers, and had always intended to read these books which are so perennially popular with my kids, but I just hadn't done it yet. I enjoyed this book immensely, actually much more than I had expected to based on the opinions of other adults that I'd heard. I was able to return the book my student had checked out because I had the title on my Kindle; I'd bought it in 2011 for my son. Now I'm reading the second one, The Sea of Monsters.
I'm sure I learned many other things in September, too, but as usual my list was sparse when I came to write my post. I'll try to do a better job of keeping track of what I learn in October.
Here's what I learned in January, February, March, April, and May. And here's what I learned in the summer.
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