Friday, September 21, 2012

Feeling Anticipation

And slightly selfish.

The school year has taken off with a bang. This year, the SoLs have been updated to reflect the changing world and expectations we all hold for today's youth to be successful in it. Unfortunately, the change in the SoLs caused a change in the test, but no one knows what is on the test or how it is formatted, the test is known to be more difficult than in the past (nicknamed "The Silent Killer"), and the cut score for passing has risen, meaning that the students who barely passed in the past would not pass this time. Oh, and it is sooner - early February instead of mid-May.

What does that all add up to? A change in curriculum, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I've been teaching the same class for 8 years. Last year, feeling a drag, I changed my curriculum specifically so I didn't burn out. It was by choice, and I still had some things on which to fall back in case I got into a slump.

This year, I and the other junior teachers are finding that the reworking of the curriculum is not only not by choice, but it is difficult to streamline what we're doing. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to what we're teaching. I told the parents at Back to School Night that I was focusing on specific SoLs and skill sets rather than teaching thematically or chronologically through time. We're all over the place. And it feels like we're developing the lessons the morning we teach them. I have not felt this unprepared since my first year.

I did find my moment of zen while working on a study guide that stressed particular skill sets of close-reading in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I felt giddy. I was excited and showing off my lessons to other teachers. I felt that ball of excitement in the pit of my stomach that indicates a lesson I believe would work really well, even with boys reading about a girl's coming of age. I planned out my lessons for the next 6 weeks, and was absolutely ready to start this week.

And then I did a book count in our storage room. I am 14 copies shy of having enough books for all my classes to read this at the same time. Talk about a sharpened pin to my balloon. I had to take a day to myself to regroup. I got a sub, brought home a slew of grading, and after dropping Syd off at preschool, graded for 6 1/2 hours in preparation for midpoint. I am not caught up, I have no further plans than next week, but I have enough in the grade book for parents to be comfortable with where their children stand in my classroom.

As it stands, my lesson is not lost. I merely have to wait until we are able to obtain some borrowed copies of the novel from neighboring schools within our system. I only hope other teachers are willing to share with me this treasure trove of literary beauty.

But this brings me back to my title for this post. That jittery feeling of excitement and anticipation I felt when I finished my lessons for the novel made me realize how long it has been since I felt that way. I've relied far too long on the same curriculum, trying desperately to stay afloat. And then, on my twitter feed, I started seeing posts for NaNoWriMo.

I got excited by that lesson because it was something I put together entirely on my own. It was my creative juices flowing. It was ME put into a lesson. I need to find ME again. I need to feel that quickening, that caffeinated kick, that desire to share. I need my next dose of NaNo. And even more exciting, Steve claims he's joining me for NaNo this year, too. I made strides in NaNo world last year when I managed to scrape together my ideas and publish my first NaNo book, Dragon's Heart. I have plans to continue the story, and hopefully strengthen the characters, for this year's NaNo novel.

So, yeah - I'm feeling anticipation. And excitement. And selfish. Last year, between school, toddler, Thanksgiving, and life in general, I struggled to get much of anything done other than writing. It will more than likely be the same this year. Even worse if both adults in this household join in together for NaNo. But it will be absolutely worth it if I find that quickening that makes me who I am. And even if nothing ever comes of my sequel to my first NaNo, I'll have found that moment of zen for myself.

So, it's time to stock up on coffee. Time to garner wages for Starbucks nights. Time to ensure I have room on my pen drives, and lesson plans are more than one week in advance (and hopefully, more group projects to alleviate grading!). It is time to count down to NaNoWriMo 2012.

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