Aug 26, 2012

Week 1 Notes: Challenges of the New Job

This is how crazy my brain feels! Flickr Image Credit: caffeina

Honestly, I am so busy that I don't have much time to stop and think. There are so many things to do in a new job. I've been trying to prioritize, but there is just so much to learn that it's hard to know where to begin.

First and foremost, I want to build relationships with kids. But I also need to build relationships with my new co-workers.  I need to contact parents to start building relationships with them, because no teacher can do good work without the support of parents.

Running a close second in the race for my attention are things like finding supplies (which I largely have to pay for myself), writing lesson plans, figuring out how to use my new laptop and other technological stuff, and keeping up on paperwork.

On top of all that, my family needs me. My kids started school. They have new routines, homework, and extracurricular activities that are starting up again.  I am at my wits end trying to figure out how to get it all done. My brain is running non-stop, and it seems like no matter how many hours I put in towards finishing my To Do lists, nothing ever gets done. I am flying by the seat of my pants, every day, which is thrilling! Exciting! And very, very stressful.

Now that I've got one full week under my belt, I can tell you a little bit about my new responsibilities. I've discovered that I really have three distinct roles:

For one hour a day, I offer learning supports to a few kids who have struggles in specific areas of learning. They also have some behavioral challenges that stem from a wide variety of reasons-- personal/family situations, health reasons, or other psychological factors. I am their advocate when they attend classes in general education settings; I must offer them instruction in their areas of struggle to help them improve; and I must monitor their progress in reaching specific learning goals.

For one hour a day, I teach English to a small group of boys with severe behavioral challenges. I plan the lessons, and try to teach reading/grammar/vocabulary/writing while also modeling appropriate behavior, reinforcing appropriate behavior, and trying to ignore inappropriate behavior. It's a tough crew, and I am not yet comfortable in the role of a behaviorist. I had a huge snafu with curriculum: the book I ordered didn't come in time for the start of school so I had to look for something else to teach. I planned several lessons for a second book, only to find out that they'd read it last year. They requested that we read the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire, so I am madly writing lessons for that book now, and trying to get my hands on copies of the book for them to read aloud or read along with while I read aloud. I know from experience that problem behaviors are more problematic if kids don't have anything to do in class, which is why I am spending hours and hours trying to make sure I have something for them to do. Our program is so new that there is no set curriculum, no set plans...we are creating as we go. It is exciting, yes...but so, so tough.

The rest of my day is spent either in structured study hall with 1-2 of the kids from the behavior focused program OR supervising/collecting data about kids who had a severe behavioral challenge in their regularly scheduled class. If a student refuses to work repeatedly, cusses at a teacher, or does something that is really interfering with the ability of a class to function, instead of being kicked out of school or suspended, they come to my room. In my room, they must do some problem-solving. They must think about and acknowledge what was inappropriate about their behavior, make a plan to make amends and/or do things differently next time they are in a similar situation, and complete any schoolwork that they missed as a result of their behavior. While they are in my room, we are documenting their ability to problem-solve, monitoring their behavior, and trying our best to give the student the skills they need to succeed back in their classroom. If they can demonstrate that they've got things under control, then they can go back to their regular classes. If they can't, then they stay with me until they can.

It's only been a week, but I can tell you this:

  • There will never be a dull moment! 
  • The team I work with is extremely talented, dedicated, and supportive.
  • Deep inside--underneath all of the bravado, anger, and talk--there is a kernel of goodness inside each of the boys I've met so far. I see it already and just hope that they will show me the chink in their armor that will let me in. 
I don't know how to be a proper behaviorist. But I know how to care. Hopefully, they will sense that, and tolerate all of my lack of expertise, all of the unknowns and unplanned lessons. Some day, I'll get it together. And so will they. I believe.


  1. Jen, I'm exhausted just reading this recap! Now imagine if you were fresh out of school and this were your first teaching job. All your years of alted teaching have primed you for this, although it does sound like you have challenges no matter where you turn (be strong!). You've got this and so much more in you. Sending you a tremendous hug this a.m. Looks like Discus isn't going to wipe out my comment. :-)

  2. Ezzy, I have a huge learning curve. I cannot imagine being a new teacher and doing this! As it is now, I can see the areas where I need to make changes, but I cannot figure out how to make the changes happen. I am lucky to have lots of support, though. People visit from outside support agencies, or my administrators walk through, or the other teachers are there for me. As soon as I talk about my issue, I have a team brainstorming ways to make it better. I'm gearing up to make some changes--today might not be pretty, but if we get everything in order the future will be a lot better. Thanks for your support and hugs! I miss you!


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