Tag Archives: Fifth Graders

When it’s hard, try harder.

When it's hard, try harder.

“This is too hard.” Those words make me cringe. I hear them daily. They might be the most common words in my professional life. I tried to ban them. It didn’t work. They still sneak their way into lessons, tests, discussions.

“When it’s hard, try harder.”

That’s my newest response. I wrote those words on the board today, before we took our reading benchmark. I also tried something else. The school psychologist slipped a book into my box, Teaching Meditation to Children. We closed our eyes and imagined ourselves on a beautiful spring day confronted with an enormous wall. Instead of turning around, we figured out a way over, through, under… We didn’t give up.

The irony does not go unnoticed. I teach kids to do their best, to not get discouraged by their mistakes or failures. Yet, sometimes in my personal life I want to give up. Lately writing has felt this way. At first I was unfazed by the rejection letters from my queries, but more than forty later, they are beginning to feel heavier as they pile up. The worst are those from agents who asked to see more but then weren’t interested. The others feel less real, less personal. They didn’t take the time to look.

I’m not sure what’s next. More querying, rewriting, beta readers, self-publishing, a different project, or some combination of it all. Today I realized the important part is that there is something next, that I follow my own words to try harder when it’s hard. After all, what good is a leader who does not believe her own words. Maybe a little meditation would not hurt either.

"Children experience feelings such as love, joy, fear, disappointment and anger with intensity they may never match in adult life." So true. I remember that intensity. I also remember the teachers who asked us to close our eyes and imagine.

“Children experience feelings such as love, joy, fear, disappointment and anger with intensity they may never match in adult life.” I remember that intensity. I also remember the teachers who asked us to close our eyes and imagine.

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The First Week of School, Again

I don’t want to jinx anything by saying this, but teaching the same group the second time around is already a thousand times better.  I just finished my first week of school with my fifth graders and it’s incredible to realize how much I have grown since my first week of school last year.  I now know when to move on to a new activity even when it’s not in my plans and when to stop and let the class guide the direction of our day.  I also know the value of fun.

Yesterday, my students started their own philosophical debate about the inherent easiness or difficulty of life.  Instead of finishing our read aloud, we moved into a big circle for our discussion, spurred by the respectful disagreement between two of my historically toughest students.  One thought life was basically easy, the other thought life was basically hard.  Unsurprisingly, in a group of predominantly low-income kids, most sided with the student that said life was basically hard.  Still, their comments were surprisingly respectful and well-crafted, giving me hope for a year full of high level thinking and debate.

While this was definitely a highlight of my day yesterday, the best part came at the very end.  My class is known to be loud during clean-up, leaving me to petty strategies like m&ms for the first group silent and ready, (it works).  But when that same student that started the debate requested I play his One Direction cd, (earned by his fantastic behavior, of course), I obliged.  At first I naively requested the students clean up silently while the first track played, but then I realized it was no use.

Fun prevailed.  The entire class broke out into song, with a couple dancers here and there, and I decided it was better to let them be happy and have fun than to worry about whether they were following my directions for silence.  Fortunately, the room looked amazing as a result, so half my directions were still followed.  They just looked so darn happy.  And, that kid was one smart boy. The girls loved him for it.  If you want to make a room full of fifth graders happy, One Direction is apparently the answer.

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