Saturday, July 25, 2015

Seasoned Sages Sundays: Open House

Ah, Open House, or Meet the Teacher Night, or Back to School Night, whatever you call it, even we veterans meet it with a mix of high hopes and abject terror. Those last frantic hours when we finally just give up and shove the last few jumbled things into the closet, knowing that once it goes in, it won't come out until June, in the push to have a presentable classroom. No pressure; it just sets the tone for the whole. durned. year.

You, of course, will have it even tougher. At least I have a professional reputation to fall back on. (Totally required it last year, too, when I was still painting bookshelves at the last possible moment. Nothing like meeting parents with paint in my hair. Seriously, don't try this at home...) You are young, maybe even the age of your students' older siblings. Parents don't know you and worry a bit that breaking in a newbie could mean a wasted year for their child. Great.

So, what can you do? I've been on both sides of that fence. As a young teacher of eighth graders, I was sometimes mistaken for one of the kids. During that first week of school, another teacher, whom I'd not met yet, threatened, quite rudely, to haul me to the office for being in the hall without a pass. When my son, now a high-school junior, was entering third grade, he got the new teacher, a fresh-from college young man from Pennsylvania. Both situations turned out well enough, though not without their bumps. Yes, you can survive.

So, dear rookie, I'm going to offer you two bits of advice. One is simple. Dress the part. If you're young, and particularly if you're teaching big kids, invest now in an attractive-but-all-business wardrobe. Had I been in a suit and not in khakis and a polo, the teacher would have been much more likely to recognize me as staff. It helps un-blur the line between being young enough to be their sister and a being a Teacher. It will encourage your parents to see you as another adult. Yes, I know what firsties get paid. Do it anyway.

The second is this : Don't Reinvent the Wheel. 
Smart teachers totally rip each others' ideas off, but then we make it our own. Don't feel bad about it; sharing ideas is why we blog. Open House is as good a place to start as any.

So, whose ideas am I stealing this year? This summer, I pinned this blog post from  Turnstall's Teaching Tidbits about using stations for your night:Check it out here. 
Now, of course, she's teaching younger children than I am, and each person's classroom runs its own way, so I'm going to take the idea and adapt it. I'd like to add a station for Remind 101, but I might not be able to because cell reception on my side of the building is garbage. There are a couple of websites I'm going to use this year for which under-13s will need parent permission to sign up; I'll have a station where they can do that and save a lot of hassle later. My little giftie? I found - get this - kits to make sunglasses out of glow sticks! Squeee! Yes, there will be a bad pun involved about their future being bright, but since my kids are Lego-proficient, their hands will be busy when their parents get to the last station, where they meet me.

The other person I've been ripping off for a couple of years is Anglea Maiers. In a blog post you can find here, she gives a model of a bang-up first day letter to her students. I've taken her framework and adapted it to my situation and teaching style. (These days, I teach 4th and 5th grade math and reading to gifted students.) If you click it, it will take you to its Google Doc.
As I close, I'll gently remind you, readers, as I do my students, that borrowing and plagiarizing are two different things.  Again, make things your own. You could end up on the ugly side of a scandal if two teachers had the exact, same letter.

 Pin this article to help your teacher friends!

I hope I'm setting you up to borrow some amazing ideas from this week's Sages. Good luck...! Thankfully, it's only once a year!

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