how is school going?

i am trying not to miss new england in the fall: fresh apple cider from a local farm, county fairs with racing pigs and splendid chickens, crisp air, the descending colors of the leaves, fall produce at farmer’s markets, woodsmoke.

it is getting cooler here and i appreciate wearing pants.

school-wise, things are good: interesting, challenging, but not overwhelming. i am teaching two new classes, which i haven’t done in years, but AP World is super fun and the kids are pretty high level, so it is fun and easy to plan for. so far we’ve had a discussion of how small human history is in light of the age of the universe; a debate on whether agriculture was the worst mistake humans ever made; and this week, student-produced commercials advertising the facets of the earliest civilizations. my 10th grade history class is a little more difficult in terms of management (I have one large section full of boys and some very talkative girls) and organization. there are 3 other teachers also teaching this course and we are doing planning together, which is fun and strange- i haven’t planned a course with someone else… maybe… ever?! i don’t feel very settled in that course yet- we have some cool essential questions, but we are trying to avoid using a textbook, and it feels kind of ungrounded. the fact that classes are only 45 minutes makes me feel rushed, still. it is quite a change from my 2 hour classes of the last 5 years!

the kids continue to be sweet, eerily polite (saying “thank you” after each class), and earnest. there are many reminders of my past in traditional public schools- kids that are obsessed with grades, very formulaic writing, kids asking about extra credit and bonuses, etc. some shifts for me have been that there is not one standard gradebook that all teachers use, so many teachers apparently do grading their own way- (not even online)- and students have to wait until midterms and the end of term to find out their grade. i know this is traditional, but i think it’s not helpful to kids, and simply antiquated. several people in my department use software called Engrade, so I’ve started using that. my kids were pleasantly surprised they’d be able to log in and see their grade (and all their assignments) whenever they want.
they apparently also are not very familiar with rubrics. i see both of these things as crucial tools for good teaching – they make grading more transparent, and increase kids’ responsibility for meeting expectations. it’s weird to me that they aren’t standard practice here.

it has been refreshing to be in the history department. geeking out over history is customary, people are interested in current events and eager to compare viewpoints. history teachers are willing to share materials (primary sources, powerpoints, etc.) and interested in planning together. my department head and another veteran helped judge the debate in my AP class a week ago. i feel supported professionally, mostly because i am trusted to know what i am doing. if i was a new teacher i might be having a harder time.

i’m proud of this: [redacted: link to post on my school’s website on inviting an American and Egyptian to speak about their experiences living in Egypt during the Arab Spring].

i miss:

-the philosophy and best practices of EL

-the zaniness of Codman faculty

-the funkiness of Codman students

-the social justice curriculum

-built-in fieldwork

… in the other world, beyond teaching, creating a social life here is slow but steady. living alone for the first time ever- (i’ve never not had at least a roommate)- while mitigated by my beautiful cat and the fact that my apartment is at the end of a dorm, is kind of tough. not being able to just head out the door and go on a walk- to harvard square, to davis square, to a grocery store, to a cafe- could be pretty depressing if i dwelled on it. if i wasn’t teaching 2 new classes, i would be going out a lot more (always driving, though). some frustrations are that it is basically verboten to travel alone as a woman;  it is very difficult to get around if you don’t know where you’re going (street signs are absent and/or only in arabic); night life seems to be 1) go to the mall or 2) smoke in a cafe or 3) drink with ex-pats. none of those are very appealing to me. i have been exploring other options (thanks, Institut Francais and Rainbow Theatre) but would be happy to find an arts scene, a hipster crowd, a boyfriend.  suggestions welcome!




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