Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A New School Year, An Alumni's Voice - Benjamin Posner

A New School Year, An Alumni's Voice 
Benjamin Posner

So there I was staring at a class of twenty-­‐five 1st graders on their first day of school. We stood there for a few moments, waiting for the other to move. We shared a look that said “I want my mommy.” I broke the silence and said “don’t worry, it will be alright.” I’m not sure who needed more convincing, them or me? Probably me.
Being a new teacher is a lot like being a new student. You don’t know anybody. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do. It takes about a week to meet the rest of the faculty and staff, a couple days to figure out where everything is, and a few years to figure out what you’re doing. Or so I’m told.
And I hope its true because right now I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s nothing quite like the pressure 25 audiences a week all demanding entertainment, and a decent education. I will say that proper planning helps to guide me through each week, as well as early bedtimes and packed lunches. A good mentor helps too and I’m extremely lucky to have one at school that is not only committed to my success but the success of the arts in education. In fact, my school has band, chorus, dance, and theatre.
I feel like a member of the Avengers. I’m the rookie with his chest puffed up, trying not to look quite so green. But I am and there’s no use hiding. Even the students know, but just like the teachers, they are kind, and understanding, and patient.
There are trying times too. Times when my plans go awry with lessons that are too difficult or too simple. There are snags in my curriculum. And many times I have looked to my mentor for help in those situations. I cannot overstate how helpful the guidance and counsel of a veteran teacher can be. Most of the teachers at my school are veterans in the system and they are all extremely forthcoming with advice.
Aside from lesson planning, curriculum development, classroom organization and decorating, there is also administrative work like benefit and union enrollment, and payroll logistics. Teaching is part of the job, but it’s not everything. Teaching is what you get to do when you finished all your other work. It’s like dessert. It’s the reward you get after getting off the phone with human resources. I value my graduate training at CCNY above any other but I wish they (or anybody) offered a class in navigating the avenues of bureaucracy at the New York City Department of Education. My advice to anyone becoming a teacher is to deal with the DOE over summer BEFORE the school year starts. It will save you time and sanity.
But I don’t let the minutia detract from the excitement of my first year. Anyway I’m far too busy to busy myself with busy work. I occupy my time with lesson planning and learning the wildly different names of about 600 students. Their personalities are also wildly different and interesting and I am amazed at their level of enthusiasm for drama. It feels like they’ve embraced me, taken me under their wings. They look at me like they know what it’s like to be the new kid in school. They say “hi” in the hallways. They bring their parents to see me. They tell me I look like Superman and smell like Batman. So I guess I’m not an Avenger after all. 

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