And it begins…

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After all of the excitement of travelling to Europe and back, starting my first day of TE 401, MSU vs. Boise St. football, and a Labor Day wedding, the first day of school for K-12 public education in Michigan seemed to arrive with little fanfare. It wasn’t until I was getting ready in the morning on Tuesday that I realized that I was going to my dissertation school and meeting the students that I will be working with to collect my data. It seemed to be such an afterthought to my busy August that I got nervous that  I was under-prepared somehow.

Turns out, I had forgotten that not a lot of learning (other than socialization and classroom culture) happens on the first day of school. We played a name game so I can remember everyone’s names (and I have them down now–remembering names is my specialty), and I helped them fill out their agendas and learn the signing in for hot or cold lunch (and really, all but 1 took hot lunch because it’s “free and reduced”), and gave a lot of handshakes and hugs. I had also forgotten how crazy the first day of school is–it’s been 4 years since I had a K-12 teacher version. We had a kid in the wrong room, some leave, some enter, confusion about which special class they had…all typical but I was exhausted. Day 2 was much easier–I was even able to explain to them why I was there and what we would be working on together over the next few months. It is really real now.

Believe it or not, after my first day with them I wasn’t finished. I left at noon to head to East Lansing for another meeting about my proposal. I reviewed all of the changes I had made over the summer with The Committee and they were really positive about my work. Describing all that I did this summer out loud made me realize that I actually did get a lot accomplished, and seemingly with a clear focus. I felt the most proud of myself about this–in the past, working at NHA had caused my brain to be split-focused and although that is feasibly possible to get through that way, I am glad I chose not to continue on like that. It was good validation that, so far, it appears that I have made the right choice by leaving NHA. These kiddos will need my undivided attention and I want to do their work, thoughts, and opinions justice in my writing by doing the best that I can.

The classroom teacher I’m working with had this posted by her desk and it made me smile:

I am going to practice being awesome this semester for sure. And I’m beginning it with a positive attitude and a readiness to move forward…


Good news, everyone!

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The title of this blog post is meant to be read like the Professor in Futurama:


My good news is that yesterday was my first day of teaching for the semester. I always love the first day of school even though it leaves me with a dry throat and sore feet. I got to meet two classes of TE 401 yesterday. TE 401 is the elementary social studies methods course. I had a great time teaching it last fall, and I seem to have a good group again. Last year I only taught in the morning, so I did have a bit of a rude awakening when I finished the morning class and realized I needed to summon the same energy again for the afternoon class. Hopefully I didn’t short change the 12:40 group, even after a mix-up with room assignments left me a bit rattled.

I approach the first day of class as a community-building day. The students in the elemenary prep program take their methods classes together all year, so they see each other at minimum 6 hours a week until May. Some of them even see each other at their field placements. So, I think it is super important to establish a family atmosphere and get along well together. I try this by setting up a class Social Contract on the first day. We talk about how we want to be treated in the course and what they expect from each other and from me, and then we all sign it to agree. I bring it to class every day so they are reminded of what we determined as valuable for the group and so they don’t forget that we’re all in this together.

I also start every single class with “Good News”. I learned this and the Social Contract from NHA actually, through a classroom management program called Capturing Kids Hearts that focuses on building relationships. I ask the students to share anything good in their lives for the first 2-5 minutes of class. It never fails to make people smile and it puts everybody on a positive note. This year, I’d like to try another aspect of CKH–Affirmations. At the end of class, people can share something positive they’d like to commend the group about what we have done over the 3 hours. I know this all sounds very mushy to do with adults, but I guess that’s the kind of teacher I am. 🙂 I truly think a little positivity goes a long way to ensuring our semester goes well. And at the very least, I’m hoping they see it as a model for how they can develop relationships with their future students.

I was physically drained yesterday, but mentally refreshed. I think it’s going to be a fun semester. Today is also the first college football game of the season. For the last 3 years, Mike & I have purchased MSU football season tickets with some other people from my cohort. This will be the 4th year of attending nearly every home game. Although it definitely monopolizes an entire Saturday, it’s worth it to get a brain break. These guys are not only my academic support during my doctoral program, but what I would like to call my “sanity support”. I can count on them to have fun at a football game, or grab dinner with me at Crunchy’s when I come into town, or give me a place to crash when I need it. And that’s been very important to me through this crazy PhD journey. Image

It’s not always about the academics…

My “first day”


My husband and I have been joking that today is like my first day at a new job. One where I get to work wherever and on whatever I please. Today was a pretty awesome “first day at work.” For example, this was my old work space:


Other than the large poster of George Washington, it’s pretty boring. To be fair, this is how I left my cubicle on my last day at NHA. Now here is my new workspace:



Much better, right? Not to mention the cat loves to keep me company on that big couch when I’m reading, which I appreciate. I also took the laptop outside today and worked on the deck, then went and had Monday night cocktails with some friends to celebrate my “first day”. All in all, a pretty great start to my new career as a stay-at-home-writer.

And tomorrow, for my 2nd day? I get to Skype with Bruce VanSledright. More on that conversation to come…

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