Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Final Post- Redirecting

Greetings Everyone! 

I hope your summer has been a restful and relaxing one.

I've begun a new blog this fall.  If you liked the stuff written on On the Front Line with Wine, take a look at  I plan to write about education more holistically, but I'll still be tossing out whatever pointers I can give for the new teachers.

Good luck to those of you going back into the classroom this fall.  Thanks to everyone who read and commented on On the Front Line with Wine.  It was greatly appreciated.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Take Care Until September

Dear Readers,

After completing my second year in the classroom with some level of success I've decided to take, at least in part, my own advice from my most recent post- Get Your Head Out of It. At the behest of many of the people close to me and for my own good I will be taking the summer off from blog writing in order to best prepare for the coming school year and in order to fulfill a number of other commitments between now and September. I've also been told by several of the people closest to me that I need to take at least a small break over the summer to prevent burnout next school year. As I've not been through as many years in the classroom as they have and as I tend to heap as much as possible onto my plate (oftentimes too much), I'm going to listen to them.

On the Front Line with Wine was a pleasure to write, but was intended to be written through the lens of a second-year teacher. As I no longer am a second-year teacher I feel it would not be consistent with the spirit of the blog if I were to keep writing it. The time off this summer will help me in transitioning into my third year, which brings with it many added responsibilities in and out of the classroom. Taking some time off will also give me the opportunity to develop a new theme and focus for the writing I'd like to do next year and in the years to come. My new blog will be up an running by the time school begins in the fall- just after Labor Day. I truly hope that if you follow this blog or even tune in occasionally that you'll visit the new site once it's operational.

I'd like to sincerely thank everyone whose supported this effort over the past ten months. In that time this blog has seen thousands of hits and a lot of great feedback. If you could, leave some feedback on this post as to what you liked about this blog and/or what you'd like to see on the one that will be created for September. When the site is up and running I'll post to On the Front Line with Wine to let anyone who happens by know what the new link is.

For the First Years (Now Second Years):
Rest and recuperate this summer. Go into next year with a new battle strategy and playbook, and buckle down from the first minute. It will be better in the second year- and astoundingly so.

Take Care,

Nick James

Today's Wine: Louis Perdrier Brut Excellence. This was under ten dollars, uncomplicated and delicious. How could I have chosen anything but champagne for this post? Cheers!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Get Your Head Out of It

Around this time of year a lot of people tend to think that teachers have the sweetest job around. Three months off? Who wouldn't want that job?! Sadly for them, it's not that simple. First of all, it's not three months, but two months. Secondly, while some teachers do use most of the time for leisure, most are working at least part time during the summer, either taking on a part-time job, working on their own professional development as a teacher, debriefing the year and planning for the following year or a combination of all these things.

As the past week has been the first week of the summer, most teachers have hardly detached themselves from the classroom yet. This is probably especially true for the first-year teachers. Last year during the first two weeks of summer I simply had to recover. By the last day of school it's as if a freight train knocked you down, a stampede of bison ran right over you and then some jerk burned you on your forehead with a cigarette. You have little clue as to what happened and your head is spinning so hard that you're nauseous. Personally, I was in a horrible state of disrepair having not exercised in months, lacking sleep and having pushed myself to the breaking point time and again throughout the year. It was the first time in my life where I agreed that a long break was the best thing I could do in order to improve myself and support my career.

If you're a first year, you should take the next couple weeks off entirely. Go on vacation with what little money you may have saved or simply sleep in every day. Do what you need to in order to get out of the school mindset. This is important for a variety of reasons, but a short list is: it will help prevent burnout; you probably need to recover some of your previous health; and, in order to improve as much as possible next year you need to approach it with a clear head, willing to change things in your classroom. The latter is especially important if you intend to teach next year and thereafter.

After you've had that time off, we can talk about what needs to be done this summer (from a post-second year's perspective) in order to make next year a good one.

Today's Wine: 2008 Marotti Campi Luzano. This is an Italian white made from Verdicchio grapes. It's floral up front, smooth and citric on the palate. It was another of the case assembled by the New York Wine Club.

Monday, June 28, 2010

End of Days

Today marks the end of the 2009-2010 school year in New York City. In school this year and last year I felt my last days were pretty anti-climactic, if not surreal. The feeling is due in part to the fact that we've already had our 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony (Graduation), the 8th Grade Formal, etc. The other is that I don't feel like I've finished teaching- as if there is much, much more I could possibly tell my students about U.S. History that I simply did not get to.

Last year this feeling was especially bad. In the waning minutes of the last period of the day, I kicked into high gear, making everyone's head spin in the classroom, nearly panicked that I wouldn't get another few semester's worth of material into the last five minutes of dialogue I'd have with the students. Alas, all of that information was not passed on, though to be honest not a whole lot was during regular class periods over the course of my first year. Luckily that was not the case this year, as my students were far more knowledgeable about social studies when they left me on the final day of instruction.

If this was your first year in the classroom and you're still breathing, congratulations. A ton of people walk out in the first days or weeks of school, never to be seen again. Still others wait a few months, stubborn (though not enough), quitting sometime around mid-year, perhaps making up an excuse about an emergency they need to attend to across the country, such as the invasion of their town by martians. And then there are those like you who have stuck through what most veterans say will be the most difficult year of your entire life.

Well done, indeed.

Today's Wine: Any kind of champagne.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Irritable End

If you've read any of this blog, you probably could predict that the end of my first year was anything but pretty. I dragged myself across the finish line after having limped for a considerable amount of time due to what I thought was irreparable damage done by the first year in the classroom. I was way off the deep end waiting for rest and a break from everything that was my first year of teaching. To say the least I was jaded and I was irritable with everyone and everything around me.

The obvious feeling I had was being sick of my students. Had my School of Ed Self read this past sentence, I'm sure he would have reeled in the disbelief of those who ever spoke ill of students, but there it is. For ten months they'd ground into me, pushed me every second of every day, and oftentimes succeeded in pushing me over the edge to where I was a screaming, unbalanced mess. The last thing I wanted to do was extend my time with them and I was certainly looking forward to a break wherein I could forget all about the exhausting effort I'd expended every day for what was approaching 300 days nearly without respite. Even with the few I'd enjoyed teaching and depended on to help keep the class in some semblance of order, I had no desire to interact with them. I was irritable and wanted nothing to do with any of them.

It's certain that my students held similar sentiments. They'd seen me for nearly a year, standing at the front of the class demanding attention, not getting it, then demanding more still. They were tired of their first-year teacher, someone who lacked the ability to command a group of thirty students in the setting they lived and went to school in. While they were unaware of the fact that it was my first year, they knew I was not familiar with what they were used to and that I did not yet belong in that setting. Their sentiments came out in their frustration with my inability to deliver instruction in a way they most needed and they were tired of me trying the only methods I had up my short sleeves. They were as sick of me as I was of them.

Lastly, I was incredibly tired of meeting with, talking to, and generally working with other teachers in my school. Even the ones that had supported me all year began to get to me with their very well-intentioned and sincere advice as to how I should close out the year. At this point I was tired of dealing with anyone and willing to just wait it out until the end of the year- a state I'd never resigned myself to with any other undertaking throughout my life.

And so it was with my first year. It was unlike anything else I'd ever been through and unlike anything I'll probably ever go through again (hopefully). My colleagues and I speak often of how the one thing we wouldn't wish upon anyone is teaching the first year in the city. It's absurd, monstrously difficult and if you simply survive the year without running for the hills it's highly likely that your efforts were laudable. Near the end you may very well be irritable with everyone and everyone may be (or at the very least seem to be) irritable with you.

If you're in you first year and still in your classroom teaching, I applaud you. Much like a soldier on the front line, no one- regardless of their experience with K-12 education- can know what you've been through unless they have done the same. Not a single other person on the planet can commiserate with you unless they've been there, much like many professions I suppose, but is very arguably (and I say this not trying to be self-aggrandizing) more difficult than the vast majority of other professions. Make it through the next several days and then we'll talk about the summer, relaxing and preparing for next year.

Today's Wine: Mark West Chardonnay 2008. My father was nice enough to pick this up for me while we were in town to visit for my brother's wedding. The bottle bills itself as "uncomplicated," which I woudl agree with. It was a pretty fruity, not at all buttery.