Saturday, August 8, 2015

Freshman Friday

The Spirit Rock. Different messages are painted on its face,
depending upon the occasion.

Since our high school went to a 4-day school week three years ago,  opening up Fridays for students who need remediation or seek enrichment, one of our new traditions is to set aside the first two Fridays of the school year for The Freshman Games. It's sort of like an intensive orientation for the kids who are new to the school. Through a variety of fun games, activities, and competitions, they get to visit and learn about important locations on campus, spend time with their new freshman homeroom teachers, and bond with their classmates while learning what it means to be a Yellow Jacket and express school pride.

All the freshman who showed school spirit by dressing up in purple and gold
lined up to await the big vote for "Most School Spirit."

Yesterday was the second and final day of Freshman Friday. There was music, there was food, there were rah-rah speeches, there were glittery handmade homeroom banners, and there were students racing all over campus in a freshman version of The Amazing Race. As a junior homeroom teacher this year, I wasn't involved in the race, but I nearly got knocked over when I stepped out my classroom door at the exact moment that Mr. Crain's freshman homeroom kiddos rushed by to look for clues in the library!

Based on the applause and cheers of the crowd, the candidates are whittled down.
The boy on the far left is in my first period English class. As he left class yesterday,
he asked if I'd be there today to see him win first-prize, an iPad mini. That's confidence!

After the games, I joined the crowd back at the gym for the final activities. My favorite was watching the kids vote (by applause) for the students who'd gone to great lengths to dress up in their most spirited purple-and-gold outfits. They can get quite creative! At stake were two prizes: the coveted iPad mini and a Starbucks gift certificate.

The final two contenders are judged.

As it turned out, I didn't see which of the two finalists won first place because I had to go out and meet my son Jacob. I'd loaned him my car to haul a borrowed lawnmower (from his Grandpa Butler--my dad), and Jacob brought my car back on his way to work, so I had to step out to get my keys from him. Then I ended up helping out the crew that was preparing lunch for the kids, so I never made it back into the gym for the end.

Mr. Gouker mans one grill with the aid of Mrs. Slaughter and Mrs. Barton.

My assigned duty was to ferry the barbecued burgers from the grills to the concession stand, where another group of teachers served them up to the freshmen for lunch, along with chips, potato salad, and beans, before the buses came to carry the teens home at noon. 

Mrs. Slaughter preps the raw meat while Mr. Williams mans the second grill
and Mrs. Howard drops the patties onto the hot surface.

Now, my duty may have seemed a simple one, but au contraire! By the time both grills were cooking away at full capacity, the smoke was so thick we literally couldn't see the meat in front of us. My eyes are extremely sensitive anyway (can't even chop an onion), so I had tears pouring down my face. There were times when it felt like my stinging eyeballs were melting. Sometimes I'd just squeeze my eyes shut, hold out my pan, and hope Mr. Williams could find it to drop the burgers into it!

Mrs. Clark, Mrs. London, and Mrs. Shores prepare the burger toppings
before the freshmen are released from the gym for lunch.
(The male teacher is new and I can't for the life of me remember his name
or what he teaches. Ask me to tell you about my prosopagnosia sometime...)

When all was said and done, I survived the ordeal, and it was fun to be among the teachers serving the students. Freshman Fridays, established by our former principal Eric Harmon, has become a great way to develop confidence and build school spirit among our favorite newbies, the freshmen.

Freshmen enjoyed their lunches before heading home at noon.

And so here we are at the conclusion of the second week back at school, and I have to say my new schedule is kicking my booty a bit. For thirty-five years I've primarily taught special education classes for students with average (sometimes even gifted) intelligence who have processing difficulties in reading, writing, or math. I've taught English, earth science, and general math over the years. But, due to the nature of smaller Resource classes and the need for more one-on-one instruction for students with learning disabilities, I doubt I've ever had more than thirty or forty students at one time (total for all daily classes) in any given semester.

Now here I am, teaching regular freshman and sophomore English classes for three out of six classes--half my day--and no prep time, with about one hundred thirty-five students to plan for, provide instruction for, and (groan) grade for. And, although I've now stepped down as special education department chair after 22 years, I still have the responsibility to monitor the progress and write IEPs for about a dozen special education students. (Individual Education Plans are at minimum 14-page documents that must be renewed annually, detailing a plan to provide for the academic and vocational needs of students with special needs.)

It is all very time consuming. My contract day is 7:30 to 3:30, but I was at the school until 6:35 on Monday, 7:45 on Wednesday, and 5:40 on Thursday. I'd have stayed late on Tuesday, too, but Mark had an appointment in Snowflake after school. This extra investment in time is to be expected since I'll be paid extra for teaching on my prep time, but those are some very looooooong days.

My own low-carb plate after the students were fed.
I've lost 12.2 lbs between July 7 and August 7!

Despite the stress of keeping up with such a load of work and the nonstop nature of wall-to-wall classes with no prep time to take a break and catch my breath, I really do enjoy teaching, and it looks like I've got another great group of kids this year--all one hundred thirty-five of them! Here's to a successful year for the students, teachers, and staff of Blue Ridge High in 2015-16!

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