Thursday, July 22, 2010

The speculation continues- now with a bit more information!

Well, I have gotten my exact teaching assignment. It is official that I will teach at least one class of grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 just about every day. In the lower grades, they only have science four times per week but I think that in grades 10 and 11, they have science every day. I mentioned before that my planning will definitely have to step up compared to what it has been for the last six years. Will I have time to sleep? I remember that during my first year of teaching, I was staying at school until 6 or 7 at night, EVERY night. Multiply that by 5 preps and I might actually sleep at school like I always pretend to my students that I do!

I am hoping that my lesson planning proficiency level has increased enough that I will be able to expedite the process a little bit! But, a lot of this will be content that I have never taught and so I will have to read up on my high school chemistry and physics. The high school classes are especially important because I am responsible for preparing them for a HUGE test they take at the end of 11th grade. For those familiar with the British system, these used to be called “O Level” exams but are now referred to as GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams and the results of these tests deem what students are able to study in their future. Talk about high stakes testing! As a side note, if you’ve read Harry Potter books, these same exams are still referred to as “O levels” in that they are called the “O.W.L’s.”

I have been lucky in the last six years in that I have had the flexibility to organize my units as I see fit for my particular group of students. There is a scope and sequence in the district (which I have largely ignored, if I am going to be perfectly honest) and I have taken complete liberty in terms of the order in which I teach the various units. I realize that this is not a reality for most teachers and this year, it will no longer be a reality for me! I will be teaching units that are organized around 24 exact class periods with pre-written assessments the students must take on a specific day. Short of an actual teaching script, this is about as opposite of my current situation as I can find. I look forward to this challenge because I know that this is the reality for most teachers. My test now will be to see if I can still teach in the way that I have grown accustomed while still fitting in with the required parameters.

I am not exactly sure what the following units actually entail, but here is a list of the fall semester (Autumn Term it is called there) units for each grade level. Keep in mind that I will have one classroom and to anyone who has seen my vocabulary-covered classroom, I cannot imagine how crowded the new one is going to be with words!

Grade Level

First Units


Lab Safety


Colourful Chemistry


Body Fuels



Inheritance & Health

Useful Chemistry


Chemistry-Products from Rocks

Physics- Energy & Electricity


Energy & Electriciy

For anyone who might be reading this who has several preps per day, I am sure that I sound like a whiny baby. As I am starting to really realize, I have had a very cushy situation over the last six years- one prep all in one classroom. I would appreciate any advice on managing the space in a classroom that is shared by many different classes and age groups.

I’m starting to think that more than ever, it will be important for me to have those “big ideas” of science (systems, change, equilibrium, form/function, etc.) on the walls and have kids look at how each unit of study fits into those “big ideas.” When not learning all one discipline of science over the course of the school year, it is especially important to have kids figure out how each new thing they are learning connects to prior learning and how it all fits together.

However, again, it is a lot of speculation. Without the exact parameters, I am still just blindly stumbling through the dark. However, I know that I am in for a big change and I am such an obsessive-compulsive freak about teaching that I am really trying to think through a lot of the issues before I even get there. On a separate note, I have been bleeding money for my new wardrobe as I have been “de-Coloradoing” my work clothes. No more school hoodies and jeans for me! The kids have to wear a shirt and tie- even the girls- so I know that my current style won’t fly. Thanks to my mom and my wonderful friend Natalie, I have been able to shop ‘til I drop! Stay tuned for more crazy teacher ramblings!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It is really happening...

Well, it is all really going to happen!

I leave for England on August 16th and begin work on September 1st. I have a job, a place to live, a British passport, and finally my plane ticket! Only have a few things left to do- sell my car, buy a new "non-Colorado" wardrobe, and learn how to teach high school...nothing major!

I will be teaching science for grades 7-11 at Chesham Park Community College in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England. Chesham is northwest of London but still on the London tube line (the Metropolitan Line for those familiar with it). I still don't have my exact teaching assignment but have been told that I will teach about 5-7 different classes per day! This is going to be a BIG SHOCK compared to my 4 sections of the same class that I have now taught for the last six years. Professionally, this experience will definitely be a challenge!

I've never taught high school so that is one of the aspects I am most nervous about. I think that I am the perfect amount of dorkiness for middle school (at least in the US) and I am nervous that I am overly dorky for high school and they will think I am an idiot. They will probably think that by default, given that they are teenagers. I just have a hunch that teenagers are kind of the same no matter where you live!

Chesham Park is a performing arts school-I'm hoping it will be like Fame or Glee but I think that might be wishful thinking. I'm hoping for some interpretive dances on scientific topics in my science class! I can see it now- photosynthesis, molecular structure of water, F=ma. I can't wait!

Mostly, I am just concerned about how I will be able to get to know students well (like I feel I do at home) when I will only see them for 50 minutes per day and some of them I won't even see everyday. I know that building relationships with teenagers is the foundation for learning in a classroom and I've had so much time to work on that in my current school that I hope I can figure out a way to expedite the process in my new school.

I have been having the same kind of dreams that I had before I started teaching my first year where I totally lose control of the classroom and the kids are just going wild and yelling and running around everywhere. I know that is unlikely to happen, but classroom management just freaks me out a bit in another culture.

My list of professional concerns goes on and on but it seems unnecessary to go to pieces over pure speculation. So, for now, I'll just enjoy the rest of the summer here in my favorite place, Colorado, and worry about getting some clothes that might be socially acceptable compared to my normal Colorado style.