Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quiet Before the Storm- Put on Your Game Face

Teaching in the city is a lot like being on a tropical island. It can be the most pleasant thing you can imagine or you can feel like you're in the middle of a hurricane. Sometimes this transgression happens in one day even. Imagine laying in a hammock with a margarita in the late morning, sipping away and watching the waves crash against the shore. Thirty minutes later a tidal wave rips through your little resort and leaves face-down and/or buried in the sand.

The difference between a desert island and the classroom is that often times the storm can be prevented or at the very least redirected.

This weekend is the last of the summer for NYC teachers. Many are out grilling during the holiday, or have traveled to some out of the way place. Most are preparing for the first week of school, whether that means gathering materials, planning curriculum or getting your game face on.

It's very difficult to know what your game face is, however, if you've never played the game. Last year during the few days before school new teachers were required to report before the rest of the staff, our principal tried to make us put on different faces. While I'm not sure how effective it was in teaching us what a game face is, I understand why she did it- if you can't look stern and serious, the students will not take you as such. While we all want to be respected and regarding for what we think and say, students don't necessarily think that way.

Like any major undertaking, you need to prepare mentally for the classroom in addition to finding your game face. You also need to relax before things get heavy and the work load skyrockets to eighty or ninety hours per week, up from however many you were working during the summer. Even with my thesis, writing an article and other little projects in the field, I didn't make it to a forty hour work week this summer. Aside from that, you get a bit rusty if you're not in front of students for two months.

The point in doing these things is to make sure you hit the ground running at the beginning of the school year. Students need to know you mean business- that you're calm, collected and have a handle on teaching. If you're green and nervous, they can sense it. Cool and calm, they can tell you've done it before and that you're not joking around. While the latter won't necessarily mean they'll never act out, it often-times gives you a couple of days to set up expectations as to how you run the show in the classroom. If you've been told anything about the first year, you've heard that the first week is crucial. That's true.

Today's Wine: Louis Martini Cabernet. This is an old favorite of mine, as we served it a the restaurant back in Kansas. It was one of the most expensive glass of wine we sold, so of course I recommended it to everyone. I suppose I just didn't break the habit.

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