Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Swimming in a New Pool

Happy Back to School! I am thrilled to report that I've made it through my first two days as a high school teacher. It's been exhausting. I came home this afternoon and promptly took an nap, and now I feel like I can finally write a little bit about my new gig as a teacher of high school sophomores and juniors.

One thing on which I really wanted to focus this school year was optimism. I've blogged before about reading Deliberate Optimism last spring with my middle school team. I just loved that book. I can't tell you that starting a new job hasn't been stressful. I know how to teach, but I have spent the past two days feeling like a brand new teacher. So needless to say, I've been doing everything I can to stay positive. Everything I do can't be perfect, no matter how badly I'd like for that to be the case. I'm definitely feeling like I'm back in a "fake it 'til you make it" phase of my work life. 

However, there were some things I implemented in my first day of school routines that I feel were a real success. My favorite thing that happened yesterday was the Positive Thoughts board in my classroom. My new classroom feels pretty spacious compared to my old space. I have three whiteboards! (Yes, I was super excited about this since my old classroom had one whiteboard that badly needed replacing.) I also had a blank wall in one corner of my classroom. I covered it with whiteboard and chalkboard contact paper, so it looks like this. 

We'll use the chalkboard to track great contributions to classroom discussion and to write down great lines from literature that we love. I've already had a few students add their favorite quotes from their favorite books to our Literature Graffiti board. The Google It whiteboard will be a place for questions that need answering during class discussion and for new vocabulary we need to investigate. My favorite part of this wall is the space for positive thoughts. Yesterday, I asked my students to raise their hands if they had ever had a bad day at school before. Every hand in my room went up in every class period. Bad days happen. I asked students to keep their hands up if someone had ever had a bad day get better because someone said something nice to them. Lots of hands stayed in the air. I explained that the Positive Thoughts board would operate on a "give what you can, take what you need" basis. Students who are having a great day can write a compliment or an inspirational quote on a sticky note and stick it to the board. That way, when someone has a bad day, he can take a positive thought with him when he leaves. Hopefully it will make that person's day a little better. Here's a sample of what the board looked like at the end of the day. 

This was my favorite part of my day. I got to spend my day with awesome kids who were willing to put some goodness out into the world, and I loved it. At the same time, I was also letting my inner perfectionist get the best of me by the end of the day. I really felt like I struggled with pacing on this longer block class period and there are so many things to remember in the first days of school. I felt like it took me all day to finally hit my stride and get it together. Then, the school day ended, and I thought, "Yikes, I have to figure this all out again for tomorrow!" Just when I was about to let myself get overwhelmed, one of my new colleagues came in my room to check in, and she gave me the most encouraging pep talk. She said, "Jessica, just remember that you know how to swim. You've been swimming really well for a few years now. Just because you're in a new pool doesn't mean you forgot how to swim." Our short conversation was exactly what I needed to keep going. I'm not sure if she knew how much I needed to hear what she had to say or not, but her positive words made me feel like everything will be just fine. I do know how to swim, but I'm definitely having to adjust to the new current in which I'm swimming. I'm excited for the challenge and ready to see where this year takes me!


  1. I keep an envelope with a picture of my children, a newspaper cutting of a lady jumping for joy on her 100th birthday and various other inspirational snippets. When I have a bad day, I open the envelope and smile. I love your Positive Thoughts board and will be suggesting we have one in our office too.

    Stella Hammond @ Palm City Pools

  2. My husband job involves being transferred every few years, and I always find it difficult when I begin a new job. There are always things about the new place that can be put into the plus column, and you seem to have found them. That's helpful when adjusting, and you should keep trying to find more positive things to appreciate every day

    Nelson Myers @ Aquanetic Pools