Getting hired at Research Triangle High School on February 29 of this year was both good and bad.  Well, it was mostly good – it was a perfect situation both professionally and geographically, I knew that my boss was going to be awesome because I had known him for seven years, and I had a job locked down way ahead of graduation from Auburn.

But one downside was that I had to wait months and months to actually do anything teaching-wise.  Sure, I’ve been working hard on developing a curriculum for world history, getting our sports teams going, and heading up the process of picking out a mascot and colors (there’ll be much more on that once it’s been revealed to the school community), but I haven’t had any kids to work with.

Until today.

A group of RTHS freshmen work on developing a list of core school values

Most high schools don’t do a freshman orientation because they don’t have to – many of the students know each other from their middle schools and the learning will be done the same way it has been since they entered school when they were five.

But Research Triangle isn’t like most schools.  First of all, no upperclassmen, at least not for this year.  We’ll have 160 freshmen this year, and then add a class every year until we have about 420 students in grades 9-12.  Furthermore, those 160 freshmen are coming from nearly 70 different middle schools across the Triangle region.  So they need to get to know each other a little bit, and we facilitated that with some icebreakers and activities that required the them to interact a little bit.  We’re also utilizing the flipped classroom model that I’ve talked about here before, which is going to require the use of a lot of technology.  So the kids need to have a structured time to work through how to do that; to that end, they’re making a video in small groups that will be presented tomorrow.

As I’ve said many times, the most fascinating aspect of this school for me so far is the fact that it’s a tabula rasa; nearly everything, from the building itself to the policies and procedures and everything in between, is a work in progress.  The students got to take part in helping form the school today, by working in groups to devise a set of core values for the school, and then combining those lists to create one larger one for the school.   It was refreshing to see that the students found things like integrity, honesty, responsibility, and persistence to be so important.  It further reinforced that this is an amazing, rewarding journey we’re all about to go on.

So today, for the first time since June of 2010, I got to work with students.  It wasn’t history – in one sure sign of the apocalypse, I walked students through a couple of science-related activities – but it was teaching.  The kids were funny, excited, and engaged, and at the end of the day that’s all a teacher really needs.

It’s good to be back.

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