Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Making the transition back from maternity leave as smooth as possible

Probably something very few people discuss is how nerve wracking it can be to re-enter the classroom environment after a maternity leave. The students have just spent, in my case, 14 weeks with another teacher. They have gotten used to her style and her methods. One questions how they can possibly successful after such an absence.

To ease the transition, I decided to spend the first lesson with a balance of introductions and academics. I began reviewing the class rules and expectations. Then I did one  of my favorite (and most appreciated) lessons, "How to Write an Email." This allowed them to get used to my teaching style on a subject that all know and understand.

I explained to students that the purpose of learning how to write an email is to essentially get what they want. I taught them how they should address people in an email, what the email should say, not to use emoticons, and to provide a subject that summarizes the intent. All of the teachers in the school appreciate this lesson as they are addressed more appropriately and can understand what their students want from them quickly. This is a lesson that they will take with them once they graduate high school and it will benefit them in university and the work place.

Then I began the new unit with how I begin each school year, an identity chart. This is a lesson from Facing History. Students evaluate their own identities and then he redo the same for authors that we study. Their identity charts hang in the room. Not only does this provide the basis for a future assignment, but it also shows them that I value who they are.

Then they had write me an email for homework. The email asked the following questions:

  1. What is your favorite subject? Why?
  2. What is your least favorite subject? Why?
  3. What do you hope to achieve in this course before the end of the year?  
  4. Catch me up. What should I know about this class that will help me be a better teacher?
  5. What should I know about you academically to be a more effective instructor?
  6. What should I know about you personally to be a more effective instructor?
  7. Tell me a random fact about you.
  8. Ask me a question, any question. (Within reason)

Between the identity chart and the 8 questions I was able to get to know them without missing a beat. I am sure that there will still be challenges along the way with the transition, but I've done my best to make it as smooth as possible.

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