The Doozy Year

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Year four.

Holy moly.

I’ve made a chart to organize and demonstrate the evolution of my beginning-of-year perspectives:

Year number
What I thought it would be like:
What it was really like:
Freedom Writers, inspirational Teach for America promotional videos, puppies, rainbows, etc.
One giant, beastly (but beautiful) learning curve. Learned to respect myself enough to require it from students. Learned 1,000 teaching methods that don’t work (and about 10 that do). How to get what I want from students and parents.  How to adjust when I don’t get I want nearly all the time from administration.
That being on the leadership team as department chair would give me a voice to change the school, thus leading to puppies and rainbows
Discover that “leadership” means “dumping grounds” to my administration. Work and teach in a culture driven by fear. Find out what it means to be feel powerless and valueless.
~~~Transition to new school/district~~~~
Terrible. The end of my teaching career. Death. (Still thawing out from previous school.)
Puppies, rainbows, etc.
Mostly puppies and rainbows, but probably a few cockroaches and flash floods

Two things are going to make this year a little bit of a doozy. For one, I am completely altering my teaching style.  For the past three years, I’ve been teaching by the traditional daily lesson plan model because it was best for me. For the record, I’m not knocking that at all; I think new teachers should absolutely try to go by what’s best for them or they’ll die/burn out.  But now that I’m feeling more confident in my classroom management and ability to plan, my focus has shifted to thinking about what’s best for my students.  And right now I think what’s best for them is giving them the element of choice, helping them develop a sense self-reliance and responsibility, and facilitating their learning instead of dictating it.

Under the workshop model, I’ll direct teach on Monday and Tuesday of the week, then Wednesday through Friday students will be working on completing 3-4 assignments related to that week’s teaching independently or in groups with me going around the room to check progress.  The student chooses his/her own seat (unless I see it’s not working for them), as well as the order and pace to complete the assignments. Phones are OK (for reference purposes). Listening to music is OK.

Sound crazy? Yeah. Don’t worry. It does to me, too. The micromanager inside me is throwing a tantrum on the floor of myself.  But I just can’t have another year of students not knowing what to do about ant-covered Cheetos or I will end up in a mental institution.

The other doozy-ish item on my agenda is that this year I’ll be starting a graduate program in Creative Writing. I know, teaching, M.F.A. in Creative Writing-- I’m just all about those dollar bills, y’all! I’m completely psyched to be a student again and to be in a community of writers, but I know it’s going to come with an at-times frustrating and tearful period of transition.

So why take on two huge changes in one year? Why not do either grad school OR reinventing my classroom model?  I can’t really tell you (glutton for punishment?).  All I know is that if I hold off on either of those, either my students miss out on life or I do.

And that’s a decision I just don’t care to make.

Let’s all grab 2013-14 by the horns.


Dodge Teach


  1. Hey, go for it! You can handle it! I took on a pregnancy/newborn baby, thesis-writing for my graduate program, a new subject, and a change of teaching style last year, also. It really isn't that bad. The thought of it all is actually worse than the actuality of it. And if the new teaching style doesn't work for you - worst case scenario is that you revert to your original way or create a blend of both.
    I LOVE your chart of self-reflection. That is awesome!
    Amy @

  2. Really funny. I just found your blog the other day. You have a great sense of humor (one of the most important tools of any educator that wants to stay away from heavy medication!). Any who, my colleague and I just wrote a book "The Ultimate Survival Guide For Teachers". In it, we do what you are trying to do--make sense of the wild and untamed wilderness of American education. We use the funny, crazy, and all but unbelievable stories of our years in the classroom...but trying to stay positive and be a difference maker. Connect with us over at We'd love to send you a free book because you are taking the time to help other teachers laugh, reflect, and remember why they signed up to teach.

  3. I also just found your blog this summer and thank you for making me snort out loud laughing in agreement. This chart you made made me giggle entirely...could have been me 18 years ago! I started as a Special Ed teacher ready to save the I'm English and Computer Tech. The day I walk in the room (multiple days in a row of course, because undoubtedly we all have those days here and there ;-) and I don't want to be there, I will leave, but I still love these nuggets way too much. They make me laugh and shake my head every. single. damn. day.

    I applaud your change in strategy, I am about to go flipped, choice, make your own damn decisions (and figure out what to do when there is an ant covered Cheeto on the floor) - style as well. I'm hoping more of their little nugget minds will be turbo charged and less drawings/offerings to the penis god in my textbooks...hmm. Should be interesting.

    2013-2014 - Giddy Up!!

  4. I think we are possibly the same person—and I am so glad for it! We have the same sense of humor, and I can assure you I will say the same things about my students when I eventually get my own variety of nuggets. When I found your blog a few weeks ago, I digested the whole three years of it in about two days. I graduated in English and worked for a writer as a year, but there was this huge void I needed filled, so I decided education is the way to go for me. I am working on my graduate degree in education, and hopefully next year I'll feel prepared for the classroom. I am also terrified. You have made me feel a little more at ease with this eventual transition into the classroom, and I look forward to each and every post. THANK YOU!

  5. A previous teacher of mine used this teaching style for his 9th grade students and it worked pretty well overall. However, it is important to make sure you have concrete and solid consequences for students who don't finish their work in the time allowed to them. Oh, and THANK YOU so much for your blog. I've had many laughs because of it. :) Good luck this next year!

  6. Your new teaching model sounds amazing. Totally "me." Wish I hadn't been laid off this year. =(

    Something to look forward to . . .

    Good for you for going back to school. There are two more programs of study (for now) that I'd like to complete, but alas, being unemployed doesn't pay much tuition. Stay brave; you can do it!

  7. I came across your blog the other day and have read through the entire thing. You are my blogging hero.

  8. I'm also starting Year 4 and really appreciate your chart. Interested to hear about how your new teaching style is working - I would love to try something like that!

  9. Yay!! I am so happy for you. You give teachers a the best rep :) Excuse me as I comment on each post because I'm catching up!

  10. People who pile up more responsibilities usually become more organized and manage their time more efficiently. Who needs nights off sipping on hot chocolate?
    To experiment with your new style, try looking up the flipped classroom. You will like it!

  11. I've spent my entire 20 years teaching in the same district, but every single year my schedule has been different. EVERY YEAR. It keeps me on my toes I tell you. I've taught: grades 5-8 Science (Dept. Chair), Language Arts, Spanish and Computer Technology. It's been a wild ride, but my students keep me here. The staff, not so much.

  12. Hi - I'm a first year teacher and I'm doing the Workshop model in my class. It's pretty rough. Not at all how I was taught to teach. My Principal said he wanted me to to do it, so I feel like I have to. It is such a struggle for me - I feel like the kids are going to wait to the last second to do any of the work and that I'm not really teaching them anything. I killed myself in the beginning setting everything up, teaching them how to use the model, reading 1,000 books about it, etc. Now, I feel useless basically and I hate it. It makes me feel so guilty, like I should be doing so much more. I've done a few mini-lessons on citing text and how to conference, but that's about it. My classes are enrichment class that focuses on responding to literature. I don't do grammar, vocabulary, or any of that stuff with them. It makes it a little hard.
    How are you finding the model with your class?

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