Today was the first day of school for the students! 48 sixth graders, 48 seventh graders, and 48 eighth graders graced us with their presence today. The vice principal said it was the smoothest first day of school he's experienced. My take? These kids are LOUD. Advisory period turned into a "make labels for your locker and socialize" period this afternoon, since we still don't have the advisory curriculum, and the din that 24 seventh graders can make is amazing, really. It just surprises me how unafraid of adult authority some of them are (completely unlike me when I was their age). I mean, it's only THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL and I already had to give a seventh grader a warning for throwing a little piece of paper while the lead teacher was talking! The seventh and eighth grade math teacher has taught for 14 years, and even she had a hard time getting them all to simply stay quiet and pay attention. She's going to assign seats tomorrow, separating a couple of the especially talky groups, so that should help. One of the teachers from last year said that this year's seventh and eighth graders are used to getting away with talking whenever they want, because for a couple of their subjects last year they ended up with substitute after substitute due to teacher turnover, and their other teachers had given up, I guess, and just talked over them.
The sixth graders aren't like that, though. They're all brand new to the school -- we didn't have a fifth grade last year -- so they were much more nervous than the older kids. Plus none of them know each other enough yet to chat too much. ;) The sixth grade teachers are wonderful with them, too. Although one little girl I met this morning was funny. Her first question to me was, "Do we ever have dress down days?" She was disappointed when I told her no ("It's so boring to look like everyone else!").
As the special ed teacher for half the sixth grade and all of seventh, I'm supposed to "push in" to classes as much as possible, since we have a math specialist and a reading specialist to pull them out for extra small group instruction in those subjects. It's kind of weird, though, because I was told to just make my own schedule, but I couldn't even see the kids IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) until last Thursday when they finally arrived out of storage, and none of the other teachers even got finalized schedules themselves until yesterday. And in the three weeks of professional development we just had, we were given surprisingly little time for planning together.
So today I basically just observed and helped out in the seventh grade math and language arts classes, and the sixth grade math class. Even though I wasn't lecturing the whole class, like the lead teachers were, I went around and answered kids' questions, tried to make sure they stayed on task, etc. I barely saw our principal all day, but our vice principal was awesome, out and about in seemingly all the classrooms, an active presence. But then I felt weird because when I caught him to ask him a question (this was after he happened to come in to two different classrooms and saw me helping out), he asked how things were going, I said things seemed to be going pretty smoothly, and then he told me, "Don't be afraid to jump in."
I was kind of like, "Oh." Because to me, I *had* been jumping in. And today was fairly similar in all the classes -- going over the rules, the supplies needed, the syllabus, etc. So on the way home, I brooded. I like him as a vice principal, and I want him to think I'm going a good job. By Friday I hope to figure out when each teacher's planning periods are so I can schedule times to sit down with them and see what we can do together for our "special students."
Tomorrow is our first morning of whole-school tai chi in the wellness room (don't call it a gym; it's a "wellness room." ;) According to the wellness teachers, some of the too-cool-for-school seventh and eighth graders have been copping an attitude about it, but I'm looking forward to it, myself.