At 12:00 p.m. on January 19th I will have officially completed my first half of my first professional year of teaching. It’s been pretty insane. Had a kid drop a smoking bowl in my room. Had a few kids never show up. Had some kids really put the pieces together and learn some cool stuff. I’ve learned things too.

Allow me to let you know a few things that I have learned over that past 4 or 5 months.

It wasn’t and will probably never be exactly what I expected. You experienced teachers could read this sentence as “I’m totally a noob.”  I’m trying to get better at this job and it’s going to take a lot of hard work. The good news is, as long as somebody is willing to hire me in the future, I’m going to be willing in trying to get better.

My first group of kids can only be described as “ecletic”. I’ve had kids that are wonderful and introspective toward the material. I’ve had kids that are apathetic/not awake through out my classes. I’ve have some kids who are a handful, but mean well. I’ve had kids who are quite and obediant but are probably wishes terrible things on me.

I’ve had kids who didn’t show up but a few times in the 90 days of class. I’ve had kids that haven’t missed a single second. There were even some kids that I really felt great hope for our future knowing that they will be the decision makers for important companies and organizations. There are some kids that I really feel concern about them being able to function in open society.

My coworkers are awesome. I have been given so much help from them it’s almost a crime. They are super nice and easy to get along with. I really feel comfortable there, as compared to the other schools I have worked at.

I think the leadership at the school is solid as well. I really enjoy working for the people who hired me. I think they have a vision for the school and really want these students to succeed, and yet they still do their best to stay out of a teacher’s hair if they can help it.

Not having a faculty restroom really sucks. This point really explains itself.

Science is hardly any student’s favorite subject. This hurts my feelings as well as affects my kids grades.

I remember when I was in high school, it wasn’t my favorite subject. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure if I had a favorite subject… I think most kids don’t see science for what it should be and have been led astray in their comprehension on how to perform it. This causes many problems in terms of their understanding of the material.

Eating at the teacher cafe is hardly ever worth it. While the food is sometimes surprisingly tasty, the fries are almost always soggy and cold. $5 for this is really not motivating me to spend any more money there.

Planning periods bipolar. They are both a tranquil escape from the daily grind or a terribly stressful ride on a rocket ship of frustration. On the days when you have planned most everything for the day, you can really take 15 minutes to just breath and enjoy the silence. You can even feel a smile spread across your fact.

On the days when you have 12 things to get done in an hour you can feel your heart rate match the rate of a fighter pilot in battle. You may even feel the sweat drip from your brow onto Timmy’s paper where he kept writing the response “IDK” on the homework from last night. As the bell rings at the end you let out a holler of frustration that sounds like Chewbacca squatting in the woods after a night partaking in the all-you-can-eat buffet at the local Taco Del Rio.

A failed plan is better than no plan at all. If you walk into a classroom and have a plan, more power to you. Even if that plan fails, at least you tried and you can at least try to salvage that. It’s okay, that kind of think happens to everybody.

If you walk in with no real idea what you want to accomplish, then you will have a painful experience. It will be a hard experience to shake off. You may even get that thousand yard stare for a few hours there….

Yelling is always an option. It’s just never a good one. Once you’ve done it, you’ve lost the game.

Pick a time when you’re available after school to help kids/allow them to make up tests. If you tell them, “I’m here everyday after school. Just let me know when you will make it.” two things will take place. 1. They will never remember/lie about when they are going to come in. You will wait. You will hope. They will never accomplish this. 2. They would rather be told when rather than decide for themselves.

Assign lab groups. Don’t let them pick that crap. Because you will get crap from them.

Find a way to keep kids informed of their grades/missing work. This one is tricky. I know there at 1000’s of different methods to figure this out. I know you may have some awesome suggestions (Honestly, if you have one, please let me know what you do) but you need to find one that works.

So far, I haven’t been lucky enough to win the battle on this subject. It’s just a messy situation.

Grading and scoring directly proportional to the work they turn in. If kids aren’t turning stuff in, it doesn’t matter how you grade papers/assignments, they will still get a bad grade. It’s okay to use your own grading system, the trick is being consistent with whatever you pick.

Late work is just… stupid.  I previously allowed for kids to turn in work late at a great penalty. I don’t think this works nor do I want to deal with assignments from 3 weeks ago. On time = full credit. 1 day late = half credit. 2 days or more = no credit.

I’m not sure if that’s fair, but I let my kids know when stuff is due days (1 week in advance actually) ahead of time. If they don’t get it done then, they usually don’t try to get it done even with an unlimited amount of time.

Most kids will look at you like they hate you. Some of them probably do. Most of them probably don’t though. Maybe.

In general, it was a mess. It was a pleasure. And it was definitely a challenge.

I have 75 new faces to learn on Monday. Wish me luck.

D.A.

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Psychedelic Potpourri

September 23, 2011

I have to tell you this crazy story about teaching. But before I can do that, I figured this would be a good time to tell you another thing that’s pretty cool. So stick with me, it’ll all pay off in the end.

When I graduated from college, (way back in the spring of 2011), my grandmother gave me the first of three handcrafted glass ornaments.

She said she wanted me to have them for two reasons:

1. She wanted to give me something that meant a lot to her. These glass ornaments were actually something I (D.A. “best grandson in the world” Bancroft) gave her when I was merely a youngin’. I’m not sure why I gave them to her, but i’m sure she thought they were great. She thought giving me these gifts would be her way of saying “look how far you’ve come”.

This whole gesture meant quite a lot to me coming from her. And I know it meant a lot to her. The ornaments, in her words, represented different moments of my “adulthood” (which sadly only happened this year). The first was for my graduation from college. The second for my teacher certification. And the last was for me getting my first job.

I though this was so awesome I’ve put them on my desk at work. One is a cool glass egg, the other is a globe, and the last is a friendly looking  plesiosaur. You know… like Nessie.

(Que the canned response from the audience)

Awwwwww…

2. The second reason (a likely the main reason) she gave me these ornaments is for more practical purposes. I’m quoting her in saying, “I’ve got so much junk and I’ll probably die soon anyway, so I might as well start giving stuff away before people start throwing it away.”

Thanks Grandma. You’re a true optimist.

I tell you all that in order to tell you this.

Today at school I had a very busy day. I had to have my final grades for the 1st quarter submitted, plan and implement 2 different labs, and still corral kids into doing what I want them to. It’s never an easy task but today was a harder day than many.

When I drove to work I needed pick up a few things from the local Walgreens to pick up windmill supplies. (Yeah, windmills for renewable energy lesson, go figure.) When I arrive at work I drop everything on the desk and begin working on entering grades on the computer. Why am I waiting until the last minute to enter grades? Because I lazy and …. well I’m just lazy. But that’s not the point of the story.

Eventually human beings enter my room and expect to do things. Oh yeah, I say to myself, I’ve got to teach today. So I do that and everything goes good. Then I get a planning/lunch period where I set up a lab for fourth period. Since I skipped lunch in order to enter more grades on the computer I started getting a little ragged out. I was running out of energy. With no fuel to power me I just hoped that the rest of the day would go by fast.

And it did.

I was so happy, things were looking up for old D.A. Grades were submitted. Labs were done. Kids were somewhat entertained. All in all, it was a B+ of a day. (See how I just throw grades out there?)

The final bell rings and I take the last breath and say the thing I wanted to say all day.

“Have a nice weekend. Now get out of my room.”

(Yes, that’s what I said)

As I walk out into the hallway (like any good teacher should) I start talking to a fellow teacher across the hall. Since me and her get along quite well we could have had an awesome conversation. Maybe we were going to start talking about how the Florida Gators are doing this year. The conversation might have moved on to a different subject. We could have ended up complaining about the prices of the school lunches. We might have even had the chance to talk about another teacher’s poor choice in music. Oh, what sweet memories they would have been…

Before these little moments could be shared I was interrupted with a very fast and high pitched holler.

“Mr. Bancroft! Mr. Bancroft! Mr. Bancroft!”

I turn and look inside of my room and see a student holding up a colored shard of glass.

“Oh no,” I say to myself. “I hope they didn’t kill my little nessie.”

The kid holding the shard looks at me and says “This fell on the ground. It’s not mine.”

“Of course it’s not yours. Who broke my nessie?” I said with a little perturbed edge.

I just knew in my gut that one of my glass ornaments had fallen to the floor. I was so disappointed in myself and my kids. They knew how much those meant to me. But why did I trust them in the first place? I know kids are clumsy. I know they end up doing stupid things. It’s my fault because I put them there. I knowingly put them directly in the line of fire.

That still didn’t stop me from feeling like it was all their fault. Some things that were going through my mind in that moment were:

How dare they! How could they! The injustice! The horror! The mess I would have to sweep up! What a boneheaded thing to do! Kids these days!

“No, Mr. Bancroft, It’s not your ornament.” the student exclaims.

Then what the crap is it?” I ask reluctantly.

“It’s a bowl. Like, for weed.” he utters with fear. “My finger prints are on it but it’s not mine, I swear. I just picked it up to show you.”

“You’ve got to be dookin‘ me.”

(Yes, I actually said this)

3 minutes later I’ve got an administrator and a SRO (student resource officer) in my room picking up the chunks of this stupid paraphernalia. He has that look in his eye that says, “Freakin’ kids…”

How dumb are high schoolers? Clearly they are dumb enough to bring their freaking weed pipe to school then leave it shattered on my floor.

And what will come of it? Probably nothing. There is no evidence to tie any student to the pipe. They all left before my attention was brought to it so I don’t even have any real suspects. (I do have suspects, but that’s just my judging eye looking at my group of kids. I really have no idea.)

What’s the point of the story? 

I dunno… No real point. Just telling you like it is. That’s the note I ended on today. A pretty sad and stupid note.

Well, at least some idiot won’t have a pipe to smoke with tonight…

Afterwards I bought some comics and ate a gigantic sandwich. It was lovely.

What’s the point of that story?

Comics and sandwiches are among my favorite things.

Not weed.

Until we meet again,

D.A.

Tomorrow at 5:09 a.m.

August 21, 2011

That time will mark the beginning of the part of my life that I never really imagined would come.

I still wish I was pretending to be a Teenage Mutant Turtle (Donatello, of course) and putting Legos together.

I will wake up, get dressed, go to work, and try to teach/entertain over 100 people. I will continue to do this for a period that spans over most of the year. I will also get paid to do so. I will also be called Mr. Bancroft all day.

I will wear a tie and my converse. I will carry books back and forth from school to home. I will grade papers. I will have meetings and sit in on teams. I will have parent conferences and emails. I will take attendance and give detentions.

Only word comes to mind.

“Blllluuuuuuggggggg-mmmmmpppph.”

Cultures around the world identify this word as generally meaning:

“Who want’s to wake up at 5 in the morning?”

If I don’t post tomorrow, it’s because one of three reasons. 

1. I’m too tired to bother with silly and childish things on the internet.

2. I really want to do those silly things on the internet but was too tired because I woke up at 5 in the morning.

3. I was eaten alive by a a couple dozen freshmen in a local high school. Check the local news for my name.

(I should also distinguish that “silly and childish things on the internet” doesn’t mean what you do on the internet is silly, it only means what I do on the internet is silly. If you read/subscribe to this blog then you must know and understand exactly what that means.)

D.A.