Friday, September 11, 2009

T Minus One Week

August 12th marked the one-week point. Only one more week until students would be walking through our doors. One week did NOT seem like enough time to get everything done.

Construction continued to move forward; every time I went somewhere, I discovered something new that had been installed or finished. I got all of my classroom supplies unpacked (HOORAY!) and I got my room all set up. Adam and I stayed late to finish our rooms. Poor Barbara hurt her foot yesterday and has to wear a walking boot. Rachael finished making the students' schedules, so we finally have a list of names of our students! Hour by hour and day by day, this was starting to feel more real.

Moving Day

August 10, 2009 was the day we had all been waiting for. We received an e-mail late the week before letting us know that we could FINALLY start moving in our things.

We started the day with a tour through the building. We were in awe of how beautiful our new school was - such rich colors, the elegant tiles, and the lovely woodwork that is everywhere! My favorite feature is all of the light that pours in from the outdoors. That natural lighting seems to bring in such a positive energy.

After taking in all of Schoo's beauty, however, reality set in. The construction was still not done. Construction workers were everywhere. There was plywood on the floors of the hallways, the academic connections rooms weren't finished, and the worst thing of all (in my germophobic mind) was that there was still no soap in the bathrooms. "It will all get done eventually," I kept reassuring myself.

The rest of our day was spend entirely on opening boxes. Boxes of books, boxes of suppplies, boxes of bookshelves... boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes. Opening and sorting, opening and sorting.

Overall, it was an exhausting day, but also a very good one. I'm finally able to picture in my head how things at Schoo will be this year. Things became more real that day, and I was just sure that it was going to be a great year!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In the Boxes on the Semis...

All of our stuff was packed up in boxes and loaded on semis. We had access to nothing. As I sat around enjoying the lazy days of summer, all I could do was think about all of my teachers' guides that were in the boxes on semis, instead of being in my possession. If only I could have had them during the summer, I would have felt so much more prepared. I could have planned out elaborate lessons with fun projects and experiments. I could have made PowerPoints and study guides. I could have searched for additional resources to share with my class. Instead, I sat around playing solitaire and chess on my brand-new MacBook.

I am a planner, and I need to know (rather, I think I need to know) what is ahead, both in the short term and in the long term. I had high hopes of filling the pages of my lesson plan book (which was also in a box on the semis) before school even started.

I longed to decorate my classroom with colorful posters. I wanted to stock the cabinets with the brand-new school supplies. I wanted to arrange the desks and write on the white boards and stamp the textbooks with the "Property of Schoo Middle School" stamp. The posters, the supplies, and the Schoo stamp were all packed up in the boxes on the semis, and these things just had to wait. To appease my need to be in possession of something that would eventually be in my classroom, I went shopping. I spent hundreds of dollars on school supplies for my students and packed my car with my new purchases. Those school supplies came with me everywhere I went as we awaited the day when we would finally be able to unpack the boxes on the semis.

Finally, that day came.

A Moment of Truth

One of the things that I was most looking forward to in advance of the opening of Schoo was the diverse population that our school was expecting. As a girl from a small town, I have come to realize what was missing from my educational career - the opportunity to know and work with people who are "different" than me.

One of my most favorite professional development days was the day when we took a bus tour through the neighborhoods from which our students would be coming. It was truly eye-opening. We began in the Highlands - a nice neighborhood with seemingly average-sized homes. Across the highway, we drove through the sunny Fallbrook neighborhood, where the homes were bigger, and the grass was greener (literally, not necessarily figuratively). From there, we drove to the Air Park neighborhood. Although these neighborhoods are relatively close in proximity, they are not similar at all. The homes were smaller, many of them appearing as though they might collapse at any minute. The bus ride through that neighborhood reminded me of those drives my parents used to take us on whenever my brother and I complained about the rough life we thought we had. The drives "south of the tracks" that were intended to make us grateful for all that we had been given. These kids would have to board the buses earlier in the morning than I hope to wake up.

There is much to be learned about people and cultures and customs and traditions, and I believe that learning about them first-hand is the only way. Sure, it was nice to have holiday parties at school and to be able to call that three-week vacation at the end of the year "Christmas Break." It was easy to go to a school where the teachers all looked like me and spoke a language which I understood. I never had to deal with going to school over my religious holidays or pack a lunch because the school cafeteria's food choice conflicted with my mandatory diet. If I needed a Band-Aid, I could be sure that the color of the bandage would match the color of my skin. I said the Pledge of Allegience to a flag of my home country. So many of these seemingly little things are a big deal to many of my students. I hope that my students appreciate the opportunities that they have to experience the kind of diversity we have at Schoo. It is truly wonderful. I am learning so much, and, for that, I am grateful.


Truly, I intended to start this blog months ago when my journey as a brand-new teacher at the brand-new Schoo Middle School began. I failed.

In a perfect world, I would journal every day and document each day of my experiences as a new teacher. We all know that this isn't a perfect world, and I know that I can not follow through with that kind of a commitment.

This is my poor attempt to recall all of the excitement/stress/nervousness that is my first year...

When I received the call in January to interview with Lincoln Public Schools, I was elated. Prior to filling out any applications, I had deemed LPS as the "Plan A." I love Lincoln, and I love even more the schools in which I have been blessed to work over the last four years, and I love most the people with whom I have worked - students, families, and staff members. The journey from that point on is a whirlwind for me.

One day, I was interviewing in the LPS District Office. A few days later, I interviewed with the administrators of Schoo Middle School. Within the next week, I had my first teaching job. Over the winter break, I had come to terms with the possibility that I wouldn't be so lucky to work in Lincoln. My "Plan B" at that point was to move to Chicago, a place where I was sure would have plenty of openings. I even kind of liked the idea of picking up everything that I had and everything that I knew and moving to a place where everything would be unfamiliar. As spontaneous (something I am NOT) as that sounds, it was a sense of relief to have a job that I felt comfortable with in a place that I couldn't wait to officially call home.


Because Schoo Middle School is new, we were blessed to be given ten days of professional development over the summer. On these days, we really got to know each other as a staff, talked about our collective vision for what Schoo Middle School would be, and begin making plans for the year.

Instantly, I could tell that our staff was going to work. We clicked. This was our school. We, together, created a vision and a mission, and we, together, would get to see it through. What a unique opportunity we had in doing so! I love everything about the ideas in which we believe... the culture of collaboration, the focus on every student as an individual, and the pursuit of improving our students' performance. While these work days were beneficial and necessary, it was hard to picture what things would be like. All this work was being done for students who we didn't yet know. All this planning being done for a building we were not yet allowed to enter.

Although I was not sure exactly what to expect, I remained focused and excited throughout the journey.