Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prepping for the First Days

I am roughly planning out my first days of the school year, but this year it's complicated because not only do I need to look out for my own classes, but I also need to make sure that the class lists for the department are made, the teaching assignments are equitable, the book checkout will be smooth for all classes, and I am thinking ahead to our next meetings already in terms of what we will need to discuss in relation to changing IB/MYP requirements and how we will look at/analyze our IB results from last year. --So, whew! A lot on my plate! I've barely had time to think about my own students, but tonight I managed to sit down and write out some thoughts. It's not worth planning concretely until my grade-level colleagues agree on how to start out the school year (ie. which topics make sense to come first), so I'll have to wait until after tomorrow's dept meeting and then scramble to get the supplies all ready before the next day, but I am excited about doing Row Game on Day 1 with grades 7 and 8! I'll make modifications to the normal Row Game only in the sense that I'll set up some "review stations" around the room with example problems and explanations. Kids who get stuck on their row game should go over to the tables and try to use the resources provided to review what they don't remember from the year before, thus leaving me free to observe and help diagnose misconceptions. By the end of class, I'll give them the first homework set to further review at home.

Besides that, tomorrow's the first full department meeting I'll be running! I am VERY excited. We've got some big things to do tomorrow, and I hope my colleagues will hear me out on my hopes and visions for our department. Today I had ironed over my first not-easy challenge as dept chair with reasonable success, so I feel pretty good about this moving forward!

By the way, this year I will be teaching all of grades 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 again. I look forward to improving and refining what I did last year. :)

Work relationship tips I'll try to always abide by this year as I tread along in my new position:

  • If an issue is contentious, always talk it over in person rather than discussing it over emails. Emails escalate situations unnecessarily quickly.
  • Within 60 seconds of talking to someone, find something that you can (genuinely) praise them for; this will help them to open up to what you have to say.
  • If you do some casual "pre-talking" to people about their opinions before group meetings, you can help them to trim their thoughts down to key points, and therefore save time during the actual meeting / prevent drawn-out discussions. Most of the time people just want their detailed thoughts to be heard, but it does not have to be by the whole group.
  • In the middle of mediating a conflict, giving someone recognition for something that they do well will help to immediately cool the situation.
  • Ultimately, if you have to make a decision that is unpopular, you should explain the reasoning behind it and model your conviction in action.
  • Early planning and specific, timely communication will both help to avoid avoidable conflicts.
  • My personal relationship with IT, admin, facilities, etc. will have a bearing on my department's relationship with them!! 


  1. In response to tip #2, I find that that helps me be more open to what they have to say as well, which sometimes I need to be reminded :)

  2. Yep, thanks! I generally think I should speak last after hearing them out. But I'm just saying that establishing some comfortable ground is important in opening the conversation.

  3. You teach 5 different grade levels AND your Dept. Chair??! Lol...clearly you've lost your mind!

  4. Our dept chair position only gives 2 hours/wk of "release time", so it turns out that it didn't make a difference in my schedule and I still have to teach the same load, plus be a homeroom teacher, and still come in just under the hours cap... But, by the way, 5 different grade levels is normal for our school and for Europe in general. It's only in the States that subject teachers teach only 1 or 2 preps.

  5. I like your work relationship tips...so specific and clear!