Tag Archives: School

And Sometimes It’s Beyond Worth it.

Often, teaching is like any other job. Long hours, unsatisfied customers, little recognition. Some days I daydream about a world where I do not have to squish myself into a mold in order to succeed.

Then, days come around like today, where everything makes sense.

With no prep scheduled and only the second day of instruction, I knew I was in for a long haul. Add to that my body’s stubborn insistence on waking up 40 minutes before my alarm and, well, I had to force myself to think about gratitude for the human experience as I got ready this morning.

About ten minutes before school started, the door to my classroom swung open and in marched half a dozen of my most challenging boys from last year with huge smiles on their faces. The ring leader, also my most difficult, looked proud of himself for assembling such a reception.

Instead of “I hate this school,” or the alternative favorite, “I hate you,” they were excited to tell me about middle school, pleased about how handsome they looked in their sixth-grade button-down shirts. It turns out, kids really do love you, even when they kick and scream and do anything to push your buttons.

The most rewarding part of starting a new year has been seeing all those faces from my old class. I had to fight back tears as they appeared at the most unexpected moments both today and yesterday, smiling through my window, craning their necks to peer into my new world, their old classroom home. The hugs, the stories, the yells across the courtyard make it all worth it.

And, I’m happy to report, my new batch is pretty darn lovable too. I think I’m just one of those teachers who loves the heck out of my kids. I thought it would feel different with new names and stories, but instead it just feels like the beginning of another heart-stealing adventure.

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Fifth Grade: Big Dreams in Their Hearts

Today I sat at my back table during recess and listened. Three boys and three girls huddled around a group of desks and discussed their futures while they graded papers instead of going outside to play.

“Which college do you plan to attend?”

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”

I was just as amazed by their questions as I was by their answers. Children who will be the first in their families to go to college, some of whose parents work for minimum wage, answered in detail. They offered the names of obscure colleges, ones which require actual consideration instead of the obvious “Harvard because I’ve heard it’s the best” or “Sac State because it’s here.”

“I plan to be a lawyer,” said a boy who likes to argue. I often question whether he hears me when I tell him he is a born leader. He may not always act like one, but I see it in him. I also tell him he should grow up to be a lawyer. I guess he listens more than I realize.

“I plan to be a fashion designer or a doctor,” said a girl whose family does not speak English. She is undauntedly focused. Last year she wrote me a letter about how sad it makes her when other students disrupt and keep her from learning. If anyone deserves to succeed, it is this child.

I busied myself with the mess at my back desk and allowed their college talk to wash over me. Part of me was afraid that if I really listened I might cry. These are kids I have loved for nearly two years who will leave me in less than two months. Without realizing it, I am beginning to detach. Still, I am comforted to know they will leave my classroom with big dreams in their hearts. I hope they last.

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Summer in 8, 7, 6…

Today marked 8 instructional days until summer vacation.  Tomorrow leaves 7.  Needless to say, I’m excited.

Over the moon would not be an exaggeration, (although my students would happily tell you that this is both an idiom and a hyperbole!).

It has been a long, hard “first” year.  I am ready for mid-week teacher pool parties (yes, these really exist), Saturday night concerts in East Sac, a Pacific Northwest road trip, plenty of time to work on my book, plenty of time to read other people’s books, and a week in Kauai.

Maybe I’m a little over ambitious.  Regardless, I am determined to make every last second of it count.  Bring on 7 weeks of bliss, I’m ready.

I leave you with my summer anthem.  It truly stays stuck in my head for weeks:

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No, we ain’t gonna take it!

I’m feeling a bit revved up.  And, yes, Twisted Sister is stuck in my head.  This week was hard at school.  I will do my best to express myself while being careful not to overstep any professional boundaries, but I really wish that I could just say everything that’s on my mind.

The hardest part about my job can be how I am sometimes treated.  I work my butt off.  I put my heart and soul into my work.  I care about every single one of my students, even the ones that are the most behaviorally challenging.  Fortunately, the parents of my most behaviorally challenging students have been supportive this year, so that’s not what’s eating at me.

I just wish that I could invite the families of all of my students to come in and spend a day in my classroom.  I would like them to see what it is like to balance the individual social, emotional, physical, and mental needs of 30 students simultaneously while also attempting to teach a class.  A lot of times, I only have a couple of minutes to solve problems that come up in my room, and it’s not because I don’t care, (imagine one student having an asthma attack, while another is crying under her desk, while two others are bickering… that’s not an unusual scene after recess in my room).

I’m a very reflective and pragmatic human being.  I am willing to admit when I make mistakes and grow from them.  However, there are also times that I feel like families have to be present in my room during the event and know all of the students involved to truly understand the choices that I make.  Being a teacher is not the same as having children, unless you have 30 of them.  I’m not saying it’s harder, I’m just saying it’s different.  You’re more likely to get the teacher to understand where you’re coming from if you approach him or her with respect and a willingness to admit that maybe you do not fully understand what happened either.

There, I feel better.

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Separation of School and Home

I know that I run a risk having a blog and being a teacher.

I try to use my maiden name for writing and my married name for teaching, but sometimes this is not enough.  Some students found the online me today.

Teaching can be all consuming.  Papers to grade at night, lessons to plan on the weekends, after school events to coordinate, parents texting and calling at all hours.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job (most of the time), but I also need a separation of school and home.

So, tonight, when I discovered that I had been discovered, I was pretty disappointed.

Sometimes I need a little break to be me, even if it’s public, on the internet, in pursuit of my other passion, writing.

Hopefully, they found me so boring that they don’t come back…

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You’re as smart as you work to be!

I love this!

I’m telling my students over and over this month that you’re not born smart, you work hard to become smarter: “Your brain is like a muscle.  The harder you work it out, the smarter you get!”

This has fascinating implications for praise.  If we tell our kids that they’re smart, they’re less likely to take risks, because they’re afraid they’ll look dumb if they make mistakes.  On the other hand, if we praise their hard work, they’re more likely to take risks, grow, succeed.  For anyone interested in this concept, New York Magazine has a great article from a few years back:  “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.”

Makes total sense to me.  It took me 26 years to decide to try something that I might be bad at, (and, it’s still painful when I don’t immediately succeed).  Granted, my parents did not just praise intelligence, they also praised hard work, but I’d be curious to know how much praise I’ve received in life based on intelligence alone.

Maybe effort-based praise does not solve everything, but it’s still a very motivating concept for kids.  Anyone can be the “smart one” if he/she works at it!  I guess it’s a good reminder for us adults too…

Time to do some brain push-ups!

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