The classroom is officially set up. Every single one of my 155 students has his or her name entered into Easy Grade Pro. Every one of my classes has a seating chart. All my syllabi are printed. My first day's assignments are sitting quietly in stacks on my desk. My Corner of Zen is complete with Harper Lee the betta, funky Ikea carpet, a classroom library, a Staples "That Was Easy" button, a coffee maker, and a cool chair I got from Target. The pale blue paint the covers the walls is virtually undetectable behind all the posters of authors, quotes, poems, classroom rules, and jazz pictures. The room is, I hope, inviting and a little bit different from any other room they'll be in this year. I want it to be a safe haven, a place away from the chaos.
The kids will begin arriving at school in almost exactly 36 hours. The buzz of the first day of school is beginning to get louder.
I have a very clear idea of how my American Literature course is going to go. My year is mapped out with an outline that takes me from Anne Bradstreet all the way up through Lorraine Hansberry and beyond, with stops along the way with Nathaniel, Mark, Edgar, Willa, Zora, Arthur, and F. Scott. (The "beyond" isn't mapped out too closely as of yet.) I know almost exactly what I'm doing for at least the next six days of class, down to the minute. Friday is a little fuzzy, that's all.
As for my IB World Literature course, though, I'm feeling much less prepared. I have the eight texts we are reading picked out. I've already run into a stumbling block because the first book - Death and the Maiden - is unavailable through the book distributors for the small Baltimore independent bookstore that I'm planning on purchasing all my books through. I have thus ordered the seventy copies through Barnes and Noble, but am not sure when they are going to come. We will be spending a few days doing presentations on the summer reading, then move on to some short stories. Otherwise, though, I have no clear path in mind. I wish I did. I hope I don't end up feeling my way through that course because that's really stressful. I'm already stressed about it, but also working my butt off so that should change.
My mentor recently sent me this in an e-mail response to my worries about the upcoming year:
You are a very good teacher, one of the best I've ever known in 13+ years of teaching at 6 schools, in 2 countries, in 5 cities. I don't think you give yourself enough credit. Have confidence, (Epiph). It was an absolute pleasure to watch you work and to see how much you think about your teaching. That's one of the reasons I'm pushing NCTE (note: we're scheduled to present this year, and will, if we get funding) and I'm glad about the MAT and that you are planning on Nat'l Bd's. You deserve all that will come your way and people need to hear from you. You are one of the great ones, and I wish you could just know that and accept it because, well (sounding like a parent now), I said so! I will try it this way. I'd put (my daughter) in your class as many times as I could in her high school career. So no more tsunami dreams. When I opened the desk in the Eng. Dep't Head office, (the wonderful department head he replaced) had left me a card. It said, "Leap and a bridge will appear." It's still in my desk. I see it almost every day. I am usually reluctant to embrace things that can fit on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt but I think what this one says is true. You are leaping. We are our risks, aren't we? The chances we take. Confidence!
And that's what I keep thinking: Leap, a bridge will appear. It's made me feel a lot better - in fact, excited. It's a great group of 70 kids taking that class. I wish the classes were smaller, and I wish I knew more about how I should structure things, and I wish I wasn't the only one teaching it, but I can't control any of that. I can control that I'm going to work my heart out for these kids, all 155 of them.
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