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I’m a 7th-year teacher (6th year “official” but my first year was spent long-term subbing for a Math class and my student teaching was spent as the official Math teacher at a Charter school… so, yeah. I’ve been teaching full-time for 7 years now. My first year (the one where I wasn’t official), was a nightmare! I taught at one of those schools where all the kids go who’ve been kicked out of every other school. I hated going to work. I couldn’t get these kids to pay attention to me if I’d started barking like a dog! It was a nightmare of an experience, but one I’m ultimately glad I’ve had… I got that out of the way and now I know that teaching is the career I’m supposed to have! I mean, if I could go through that hellish experience in my first year and still love the idea of being a teacher… still WANT to be a teacher, then I’m in the profession God wants me to be in. My next two years were better… but not much. Yeah, I knew my content. Yeah, I established a pretty good rapport with my students. I had the BEST mentors I could have ever asked for. But, I still could not control my students. My classroom management was atrocious! I would turn my back for a second to answer the phone and turn around to find half a dozen kids wandering around, getting into cabinets or, worse, going behind my desk and/or taking things off my desk. I’d have kids throwing things at each other just beyond my line of sight… burrito’d backpacks, stolen cell phones, injuries. Two years of this at my old school. Sometimes, my mentor teacher would be in observing me and I’d run out crying and she’d have to take over my class (that was a crutch, admittedly… I knew she was there, so I knew I could storm out). I’d spend hours after school in my BFF’s classroom bitching and crying over what little “bleepie bleepies” these kids were! Needless to say, my Principal & I came to the same decision that maybe I should try a different school the following year. I interviewed around and landed at my 2nd school. I spent the summer researching my new school and finishing my Master’s degree and somehow stumbled upon Interactive Notebooks (INBs). I thought they were neat and decided to try them out. That year, I had more teachers ask me for ideas, ask to come observe my class, compliment me on my teaching, my classes, my students than I’d ever had before! I’d even gotten excellent eval scores (especially when compared with my previous evals)!!! I began to look at what was so different and I decided that it had to be the INBs. The amount and types of procedures that you have to have in place to really implement INBs well have contributed to a much more efficient and much better managed classroom. My students know exactly what is expected of them. They know where everything is and I almost always get positive feedback from subs. Granted, I’m sure there are other things that I’m doing differently that I did those first 3 years… we all grow and change and tweak our methods every year. But, in order to see such a dramatic change from one year to the next, I realized that it had to be the way in which I was teaching the material. The students are far more engaged with the INBs than they ever were with traditional lessons. When they’re more engaged, they’re more respectful and better behaved. The more I thought about the impact that INBs had, not only on my teaching style, but on my overall classroom environment and the respect I've garnered from my co-workers, I knew it was revolutionary… at least for me. I am now teaching 8th grade math, "step down" material wise but, I've got to say, the change has been amazingly perfect! I'm pretty sure I've found my "home" school, the school in which I want to work until I move on to writing curriculum or just plain retiring. I must say, within my first week, I was skeptical. When I first viewed my classroom, I saw the previous occupant (a non-math teacher) had tables instead of desks! Given my proclivity for group work, I asked the principal if I could keep the tables. I was met with severe apprehension. The principal, having never seen me teach or witness my classroom management, was understandably concerned. But, my biggest shock came from one of the counselors (a former math teacher) who loudly proclaimed "You can't have tables in a math class!" I thought I might be going about this the wrong way and, maybe I couldn't manage having tables instead of desk in my math class... fast forward to March when I've received the first "excellent" eval ratings of my career and the principal is constantly asking me to invite new teachers into my classroom to observe how I run my classroom! I'd definitely say I've hit my stride as a teacher... I've found my home, one that is supportive of my growth as a teacher and allows me the freedom to teach as I feel my students need me to teach and, I might add, pays pretty well for a school district, as well! I think I may be staying here for a long time!

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