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The Fog is Starting to Clear: Project 180 Guest Post

Am I really doing what is best for my students?  Am I being transparent enough?  Do they realize the importance of what we do every day in class?  


Wow!  I can’t believe I’ve been with my sophomores for a month already!  Yes, I have truly enjoyed getting to know them particularly through our daily “smiles and frowns.”  That being said, this month has been filled with surprises, mistakes, discoveries, and moments of stress.  Just like the sun rising, the kids came every day.  And while we use a forecast to help guide us through our days, sometimes there are things that happen that bring less-than-desirable conditions.  

As students filled the halls and our individual classroom on day one, we hit the ground running.  We were excited to start a new school year, excited to get to know a new group of students, and excited to embark on our new grading journey.  Day by day, during the first couple weeks, I saw the looks of hesitation and confusion diminish as I shared more and more details about the new grading policy.  Students quickly realized that amidst the change to something completely different they could trust me.  The power of a positive relationship goes a long way.

And then. . .BAM!  Week three hit me.  A thick fog rolled in.  It happens pretty much every year.  I pause just long enough from the “go, go, go” for all the worry and stress to hit me smack in the face.  My week was quickly filled with meetings, department chair responsibilities, and multiple questions:  Am I really doing what is best for my students?  Am I being transparent enough?  Do they realize the importance of what we do every day in class?  When it gets this bad it’s paralyzing.  My overall demeanor changes. I shut down.  I get quiet.  And those who know me well know this is completely out of character for me.  Syrie is definitely one of them.  He knows when it’s time to say, “Okay, kiddo.  We gotta figure this out”.  

On my drive home one day that week, I was trying to think of things I could do to alleviate some of the stress.  At some point I thought, “What if I write on colored poster paper and put it all up on the walls of my classroom?”  After digging through the trays at my neighborhood Rite Aid, I found enough colors to make it work.  

And now, since those have been up, the stress has subsided and I’m back to normal.  Whenever we talk about a Must-Meet or Focus Standard, I can direct their eyes to the green wall.  When they need to do their Journey Journal entry, they can look to the wall on the opposite side and answer any of those questions.  

And now, as I continue to give feedback through our practice assignments, and as they begin to strive for proficiency with the performances, the fog that crept in during week three has started to dissipate.  I can watch my kids learn.  I can watch my kids grow.  And, more importantly, I can support them as we make our way through this journey.

Do.  Reflect.  Do better.  

Project 180 Contributor, Jenna Tamura. Jenna is the ELA department chair and teacher at Cheney High School. You can follow her @JennaTamura on Twitter.

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