We are studying the atmosphere in 8th grade science class and the students just learned that Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against them with a force of 14.7 pounds per square inch. Lately I’ve been feeling it. I am enormously busy!
I started the school year behind, having been hired only days before it began – and in fact working the first day without even having filled out employment papers! My classroom is a social studies room transformed into a science room with the addition of a sink and when I arrived it was a sterile blank slate. I had no supply budget so splurged at the dollar store and Goodwill and put a bunch of things on my Amazon.com wishlist. Thanks to supporters for making the room look a lot more inviting with science posters and useful supplies!
I was behind in other ways as well. The school for which I work uses a pre-packaged science curriculum and the science kits didn’t arrive until school had been in session for 10 days. This wasn’t much of a problem for the other teachers who had used the kits in past years and had copied lesson plans and activity sheets but it was a bit more of a stumbling block for me. Luckily the other science teachers (in particular the department head) were very generous and helped me out with copies of their activities. I teach both 8th and 7th grade and I try to stay on track with the other science teachers so we cover the same material. Unfortunately my schedule alternates my 8th and 7th grade classes so in the 4 minutes between classes I have to scramble to erase boards, put away books, and lab materials and get out things for the other class (and then do it all again after the next period). It makes it hard to keep my desk and room in order! In addition I had new administrative software and policies to learn so no matter how much I accomplished in a day I went home feeling farther behind in the evening!
And of course school didn’t just start for me! My kids are in 5th, 6th, 9th and 12th grade this year and as well as school they are involved in extracurricular activities like 4-H, Cub Scouts, spell bowl, choir, drama and volleyball! And my oldest daughter works 24 hours a week as a hostess at a local hotel. With one (old and unreliable) car and one driver it has meant a lot of running around and a lot of gas expense!
At home the garden continues to overflow with cucumbers that grow to monster size before we discover them hiding underneath the spiny leaves, and broccoli and tomatoes that feed a variety of bugs before we get around to picking them. Didn’t school used to start AFTER the harvest was in? Our baby chicks are about ready to leave the shelter of the bathroom (thank goodness) and move into their coop so we really need to finish transforming the old shipping container that we purchased from Habitat ReStore for $8 into a habitable coop!
We have a lot of other things we need to attend to at home – things that should be a bit easier once we have money coming in. Although I’ve been working since August 1st, because of the pay schedule, I won’t see my first paycheck until the 29th. That one will be quite small as I’m only being paid substitute teacher pay for the first two weeks (I wasn’t hired as a ‘real’ teacher till August 18 as my hiring had to be approved by the school board and that was the first meeting). So it’s been a tight month – lots of additional expenses and no income yet – but I’m looking ahead to September and October when I will be able to do things like fill up the empty propane tank so we have fuel to heat and cook with!
Despite finding it difficult to get caught up on everything (including sleep – my day starts at 5 AM and ends around midnight) and feeling not quite up to speed on all the administrative duties, I find teaching to be easy and enjoyable. One of my university advisors called me a natural teacher and I have to admit that the classroom part of things feels like second nature to me.
The kids have no idea that I’m a new teacher – I introduced myself as new to their school but said nothing about being new to teaching and they seem to find the classes engaging and interesting for the most part. I have always read widely in the science field and I frequently bring in news items and real world experiences to augment the somewhat canned kit curriculum. For my 7th grade class that included digging up dirt in the backyard at 5 AM in the rain one morning so we would have local soil samples to examine along with the sand and potting soil provided by the kits. To the delight of the kids I told them we would add a worm farm as our first class pet since we are studying soil. One of my 7th grade students even asked if I could make sure he has me for science in 8th grade as well!