Thursday, August 14, 2008

The year is shining like new money

Tonight, on the eve of my 31st birthday, I was driving home from an especially life-affirming workout at the gym, and was struck by just how excited I am about embarking on a new school year.

My birthday always falls right before the start of the new school year, and always gives me a sense of rejuvenation, of rebirth. Teaching is the best job in the world because you have this every year, a sense of shedding the travails of the past years and starting fresh. This year, my 8th year of teaching, all at the same school, all in the Baltimore City Public Schools System, has an even greater sense of starting fresh than usual. Sunday marks the last shift at my second job, the same second job that I've worked for over five years. My MAT has given me a significant raise, probably the biggest raise I'll have in my career (I was at Step 9 last year, with just a Bachelor's Degree, now I'll be at Step 10, with a Master's Degree), and I'm ready to give up waiting tables and start pouring the energy I expended there into things that are better for me: a healthier social life, a more consistent exercise schedule, quicker turnaround on grading, more cohesive planning with other teachers and departments. It's a sad thing to leave the friends I've made waiting tables, and I genuinely enjoyed it throughout almost all of the five years, crummy tips and all, but it is time to move on.

In the last two weeks, I have met about 300 bright new 9th graders, of which I'll be teaching about 140 of them. To them, I'll be bringing the verve that comes with the completion of this summer's Teaching Shakespeare Instititute, a 4-week program that was both career-affirming and life-affirming, giving me plenty of practical ideas for the classroom and reminding me of the joy that comes with intensely studying literature. Indeed, this summer has been the most productive of my career. I saved money well for the first time, lived off the savings, made some money at the Folger Institute and invested it back into my classroom with an LCD Projector. I completed an NEH-granted program that, as aforementioned, brought me a great deal of personal satisfaction and professional growth. This was after spending a spring semester studying the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program, and completing a nearly 100-page curriculum for the 9th grade as my final graduate school project. I was learning as I was doing it then; now I know the curriculum like the back of my hand and look forward to bringing the grad school project to life in my classroom starting in a week and a half. Additionally, I have two years of teaching Junior IB English under my belt now, and am excited to again have one class of these kids. The grading is intense with this class, and having just 35 or so essays to grade when an essay is due is a great thing. My first group of kids went through the IB tests last May, and 98% passed; while most of the credit lies with their senior year teacher, I can say that at least I didn't screw them up too bad. I know and love the IB Program, and feel like it gives me great opportunities to teach materials and skills that no other program would allow me to do.

So, things are feeling great. Today, my colleagues were taking bets about when the new display television in the lobby would be stolen or vandalized, with the earliest guess being Labor Day Weekend. But I didn't participate. It's nearly impossible for me to be cynical about school or kids or teaching, especially in August. After all, I'm the one who cries at nearly all teaching movies, even Freedom Writers.

So the year is starting, and I'm more excited than I can even express. I hope this feeling in August never changes. I'm not naive; I know that when I get my classlists and count how big my classes are and add up my overall class load, that I'll probably feel some chagrin. And I know that by mid-to-late October, some of the shininess will be dimmed. I'll realize that I'll never really be able to stay on top of all the work no matter how hard I work at it; I'll realize that some of the kids just don't mesh with me; I'll realize the mistakes I've made and how hard it will be to change them. But, right now, on August 14, on my last day of being 30 years old, on the eve of what is going to be a pretty damn fun birthday pub crawl around Fells Point, at the end of my 2nd job career, at the cusp of a new school year, well, ain't nothin' gonna break my stride.


bdc said...

Happy birthday and good luck with the school year. I have enjoyed your posts this summer.

Ayesha97 said...

Congratulations on no more waiting tables! and a happy birthday to you!

Anonymous said...

This will be a year to remember. I look forward to reading about it.

jessica said...

Happy birthday and here's to a great year! *raises her glass*

jackie said...

Happy birthday! I'm glad you have been able to keep your hope and excitement about teaching-- I have always thought those were essential ingredients for a great teacher!

Hope you have a great year-- I'm turning 30 on Sunday and am pretty damn excited about it!

Smallest Twine said...

Happy birthday! I'm very jealous that your birthday is before school starts -- mine is during the first week of school. Blech. Good luck this year!

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

"Teaching is the best job in the world because you have this every year, a sense of shedding the travails of the past years and starting fresh."

Thank you for this shining gem of a sentence!

sexy said...