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5 Reasons Why School Opening Day Sucks / Rocks

by Jose Vilson on September 8, 2009

in Jose

Stewie, You Suck

Stewie, You Suck

Technically, most of America had their first real day of school, so in Internet years, I missed the first fleet of boats. NYC will have students in tomorrow morning, many rested from an extended break, others restless and yearning to see their friends who they may not have seen all summer. For teachers and administrators here, many teachers only started getting ready today, and with some of us wearing many hats, we haven’t had the time to really look at the important things in life, like classroom decor.

In other words, my classroom’s a mess.

Thus, here are 5 reasons why opening day sucks:

1. Summer? What’s That?

Summer vacation almost seems too good to be true mid-July … then it really is too good to be true when you step into school. I can go from the sunny, blue skies of Ocho Rios, Jamaica to the tepid temperatures of  my school in NYC. You can’t get a sunburn from the inside of a no-window auditorium now can you?

2. What Does First Day Look Like Again?

Even those of us who have been doing it for 20+ years tell me that they completely forget what first day looks like, because that was about 365 days ago. It’s like having a year-long break from that very job.

3. Nightowls Become Daydreamers

For those that know me personally, they know I stay up till all hours of the night creating and talking. Now that my mandated bedtime shifts from 1am to 10pm, I don’t always get to come up with the madness that only comes with the clock striking 12.

4. Exit Jose, Enter Mr. Vilson

It usually takes me anywhere from 5-8 days to regain my modus operandi. I need to whittle that down to maybe a day or two. It’s an exhausting process.

5. If You Mess Up, You Really Can’t Get That First Day Back

I try my best to make that first day flawless and uninterrupted. It’s important for things like rigor, instruction, and self-importance that everything go exactly as I say … or else.

… and that leads me to 5 reasons why it rocks:

1. Meet The Students … All Over Again

If you really love the job, you get a little nervous, but you really just want to jump in and do the best job possible. Except if you suck as a teacher. Then, I don’t know what to tell you.

2. Every Day Actually Means Something

There are very few jobs that pretend to have structure like teaching does. One can never predict what may or may not happen at any given point in the school building. That could easily fall into the last category, but I like a little spike in my orange juice.

3. It Reminds You Of Your Humanity

We can plan every little minute of that first day, but we know something’s going to happen. Once we realize that our plans CAN fail, it becomes easier to decompress and just let the day ride.

4. You Never Have To Do It Again

Day #2 – 180+ are a bit more flexible than that first day. They also tend to be the days we need to exert more consistency and make our students believe what we said on the first day. (:: points at self::)

5. There’s Always Next Year

Even if I can’t remember what I did first day of school last year, I know I’ll have another opportunity, and another one, and another one …

Jose Mr. Vilson, who really just postponed his website to do 3 other ones …

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Top 5 Things Not To Say At Parent-Teacher Conference

by Jose Vilson on March 3, 2009

in Jose

Liam Neeson in <i>Taken</i>

Liam Neeson in Taken

This past Thursday, I had my second series of parent teacher conferences at school. I have a good to great relationship with parents, mainly because I try to maintain some form of communication with them, either through progress reports or phone calls. Yet I’ve seen so many mistakes during parent-teacher conferences that I’m astonished we don’t have training about dealing with parents specifically. Feel free to contribute your offerings in the comment box. I’m sure to be missing other horrible things.

5. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

As you’ll see with some of the comments I’ll highlight below, a big part of dealing with parents is knowing when to say things indirectly but concretely. You want to come across as firm and confident, not defensive and / or apologetic.

4. “Your son / daughter may just need a shower.”

I’ve heard it. Personal hygiene questions should be redirected to someone else, or maybe said indirectly. Then again, I still don’t address it usually.

3. “Meeting you now, it’s no wonder why your child acts the way they do.”

Alright, so you’re not being defensive, but now you’re being offensive. Even if you’re a parent, attacking another parent directly is usually uncalled for. Unless they attack you, then I’ll turn around when anything happens. I won’t tell.

2. (while a parent is reprimanding a student) “I think you’re being a little too harsh.”

It’s one thing to think that the parent’s being too harsh, even when the child got a 65 on your report card and the parent, who works a full-time job, took time out of their busy work schedule just to see their child’s turning out to be wasting their time. And it’s quite another to do it in the middle of a heated dispute between the parent and the child. Rather than say that directly, it’s better to give a more reaffirming and positive tone to your voice if you think the child has potential to do better. If the child earns the chastising, then let it be.

1. “You’re wrong.”

Mission: abort. That’s the last thing you want to tell the person who you’re supposed to work with for the betterment of the child’s education. You can say it, but there are better ways to tell someone they’re wrong without telling them they’re wrong. I’ve had to tell parents about the facts and the realities that happen in their classroom versus what they supposedly act like in home. I’ve had to show parents their child’s portfolio and compare it to others. Again, all facts. But “You’re wrong” sends off a different connotation.

Now, all of these statements come with the stipulation that the parent isn’t threatening your life. Then, you’re free to go Liam Neeson on these fools. Otherwise, please be cautious and constructive. Parents, even more than co-workers, can be your best friends.

Jose, who let a few kids have it right in front of their parents, and they loved it …