fun with homeroom

Today was the first day of school. It was a half day, and I spent the part part of three hours with the tenth grade, for I am this year's grade 10 homeroom teacher. (We are a small school, and each grade level has only 1-2 classes. There are 22 grade 10 students in the school.)

I volunteered for it after a decade of trying to avoid being a homeroom teacher whenever I could.

I avoided it because it always seemed to me that being a homeroom teacher was more work than the benefit I got from it -- that I ended up being involved in a lot of stuff that I didn't care about.

I volunteered because I recognized that I have some gaps as a teacher. I am not as close to my students as I should be. I do not enjoy the pastoral care of teaching and only serve that role when necessary, although I think I fill that role well when forced to. I teach intense and focused classes and sometimes loose the grasp of the whole student.

In addition, it has seemed to me that for the last few years, the grade 10 students -- at our school a transitional year before the IB Diploma kicks in -- have not been terribly focused, and I've thought a lot about what they could get to help them. I plan to combine a curriculum based on self-discovery heading toward post-school planning with a pastoral care process that involves personal conversation and clear identification of strengths and challenges. I'm not saying past teachers haven't done that, but I want to try it out myself.

Most of the students know me, either from having me in grade 8 English or being on the trip to London last year. We have 7 new students, but I interviewed many of them during the last week as part of their entrance process.

So we started today with quick roll call, some business of going through the schedules, a tour of the school, and then a get to know you activity.

I gave out some paper and asked them to write down the following:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. Where have you lived?
  3. What are some places that are especially interesting or important to you?
I made a map for the bulletin board and put blue pins for #1, black pins for #2 and red pins for #3. They all stuck their pins up, and then we went around and shared. 

Of the 20 students present, we had 16 nationalities and over 50 places where we've lived. We had stories about heritage, about hopes and dreams, about curiosity, even stories about love. We should have been going over the fire drill process and the dress code, but it was so much better to hear their stories and go through the mechanics very quickly. 

It was a satisfying day.