I have been trying to write a post for over a month, and nothing has been working.  I’ve been struggling with writing, deleting, thinking “this sounds ridiculous”, etc, so I’ve written nothing.  Tweets don’t count, although, I’ve at least been doing that a bit.  As I’ve thought about it, I think what the problem is is that I haven’t quite gotten a grip on my brain this school year, so congratulations, we’re going to work through this together.  We’re all on the Path, right?  Please feel free to quit reading at any point…

So this year I’m at a new school, and I’ve been working really hard to get my life together in this new place.  Let me start by saying, I love it!  I am incredibly happy, but there are challenges with how I manage my time (which I’m terrible at), how to work with new people, new and different challenges with students and curriculum, and how badly I miss some of the people I no longer see on a daily basis.  It’s surprising how heartbreaking that last one is.  Don’t discount that feeling, if that’s where you are. Change is hard.  If you’re in the situation this year of being in a new place and trying to navigate all the things and feeling overwhelmed and at the point of melting down, I can only say I totally get it, and here are the two pieces of advice I can give you that have really helped me: 1) Get to know your new students ASAP 2) Do what you know you do well and add in the new stuff.  

So, what does that look like?

Since they don’t know me and I don’t know them, we spent 2 solid weeks on every communicative “get to know you” activity I could think of.  I have heard teachers say “I don’t waste time with ice breakers”, but I strongly disagree.  I think that even if you’re teaching the exact same kids you taught last year, everyone had experiences that changed them since June, and it’s worthwhile to get a gauge on where they are this year in a no stress environment.  

With that in mind, we wrote, we chatted, we played games, we drew, we made “Cajas de Mi Corazón” to show how we each have different sides to us and how no person is just 1 thing.  We talked about how it takes time and effort to get to know the different sides of a person.  I used little boxes that I ordered from Oriental Trading Co. online, but you can easily print out a paper cutout cube and do the same thing.  Anyway, I know what these kids are interested in now.  I know who is musical and who is super-sporty, who has big or small families, who is political (and how), who is religious, and who is absolutely not religious at all.  It may not seem like big deal, but those are really important things to know.

It’s important because my new school is great, but it’s different.  It’s not what I’ve grown accustomed to, the rules are different, the style is different, the people are different…the nice thing I realized after a bit of freaking out at home is: kids are kids.  They have different “stuff” they’re dealing with, but it’s all important to them and affects their lives.  What I remembered also in spending the time learning about them is  I am still the same teacher I was in my other school.  I love my kids here like I loved my kids at my last school, and it’s going to be ok.

The other part of this transition that has been freaking me out is that the expectations at this school are different.  It’s a 1-1 technology place, and a lot of things are done with iPads that I have never done.  I started the year scared that I was going to be some dinosaur of a teacher that didn’t know how to teach.  I mean, a whole week and a half of workdays and orientations and I really felt by the end of it that I didn’t know how to do my job at all.  Once I collected myself and started to think about it, I decided I was going to do what I knew I did well, and we were going to go with that and add the other stuff in as we went.  

So we started with writing on paper copies of things and creating our 9×11 interactive notebook physically in a notebook.  We made paper cards that we could manipulate and play with for learning vocabulary, and we made foldables to use for communicative activities.  We took yoga breaks in between 13 minute segments of class, played flyswatter and “Rosa Dice”, and spoke Spanish.  The things I know how to do, that I know work, were the things that have saved me from drowning in this transition to a new school.  The kids like what we’re doing in class and constantly say how much fun it is to do active, fun stuff!

The cool part is, because I know my kids now and they know me, they are super helpful at teaching me how to do the things that are natural to them with the iPads.  We created a whole monster project based on a book we read, and did the whole thing, start to finish with drafts in between, on the iPads submitting everything through Google Classroom. When they were done, we printed the final projects and backed them on pretty paper for parent’s night!  It’s actually really nice and a lot of fun playing with the tech.  We still do so much on paper, but I am also starting to learn to have them bring the iPad and the notebook as tools for each class.

So, for what it’s worth, if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed in a new school, give yourself a break…you’re a good teacher, you’re just in a new place.  In the transition I had to admit to myself that change is hard and I was struggling mentally.  After that, I had to get to know my new kids for the cool and complicated creatures that they are, and I had to trust that what I know I do well would still work in my new situation…and it does!  I am having a blast!  Have fun, thanks for listening, and hope this helps!

Published by Rosalyn Rhodes

Rosalyn Rhodes is currently a Spanish teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. She holds a Bachelors in Spanish from UNC-Greensboro and a Masters in Teaching K-12 Foreign Language from UNC-Charlotte. She has traveled and led student groups in Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. In her thirteen years of teaching, Ms. Rhodes has taught every grade level K-12, and has worked in both public and independent schools. In her professional career in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, she served as the WL New Teacher Coordinator and WL Master Teacher, writes curriculum, and presented a variety of professional development workshops. A member of both ACTFL and FLANC, her 2014 and 2016 FLANC presentations earned top 10 status, and Ms. Rhodes was named the 2015 FLANC Teacher of the Year. She loves teaching Novice learners and states that her goal with her students is to “open their eyes to new people and new places, and to equip them with the language skills necessary for their own cultural journey.”