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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

It’s been a tough year, a year of survival and many, many challenges. In my years of teaching, this has hands down been the worst year ever. I could go on and on about what made the year so tough, but it is a long list and not easily stated. I’ve had my eyes on the end all year. It has been my focus. Survival and the ability to make it to the end. 

I don’t know how to put these things into words because it is such a hodgepodge of feelings and thoughts. You see, having had to focus on the end all year, I thought for sure I would be happy once the end finally arrived. Friday was the end to my year with my students and it isn’t a happy feeling after all. I am happy that we (my teaching team, the students and I) all made it, but I am not happy to say goodbye to these kids. I will walk into my empty classroom on Monday to finish packing up for summer and posting grades. It will hurt my heart to walk into that empty classroom. The desks are stacked, the student’s self portraits are down, art work and student papers have been removed. The classroom is practically bare and ready for the next group of kids. 

Recently I looked out my classroom door and noticed that there were about 30 5th graders hanging around talking. I opened the door and loudly and sternly shouted, “GO HOME!!!” A look of horror fell upon the face of nearby adults and siblings were startled to hear a teacher yell like that. The 5th graders, however, had a completely different reaction. They turned, saw it was me, and immediately came to me for a group hug and casual conversation. They knew that I was not serious and laughed at me stating, “Oh Ms. H.” It was funny to watch this unfold. I knew that the kids would know right away that I was kidding. I had not anticipated the reaction of others. I knew that they would wonder about it, but I didn’t expect their looks of horror, followed with a quizzical glimpse and then smile upon smile. 

I taught about ten of my 33 students last year as well. It is especially tough to say goodbye to those kids. We have deep bonds and most of them I am somewhat involved with their family as well. This year, I have helped students work through social issues, I have been a shoulder to cry on for several students who found their parents divorcing, other students had parents in and out of the hospital, a mother had cancer and I was a part of the diagnosis, the chemo and the radiation treatments. The student brought in the device that was inserted into her mother for chemo treatments. I was there (in the student and family’s life) when Mom was diagnosed and I was involved when Mom had her very last treatment over a year later. I was a part of the life of a child that walked out of the courthouse with only the clothes on his back into his mother’s care. The school was able to provide clothing until Mom was able to get all that she needed. I went to baseball games, softball games and birthday parties. I listened as they talked to me about their latest crushes and shared who their current boyfriend or girlfriend was. I watched the physical transformation from child to young adult. I listened to children cry that they don’t like their Mom or their Dad and why they felt that way. I received hug after hug after hug. A known gang member began to call me Mommy and continued to do so all year long. He was insistent that I was his “other mother.” Together, we laughed and we cried and today I realize just how very attached I am to these students. They are amazing kids and I love them. I hate to see them go. 

I laugh with my kids, I share with my kids and I cry with my kids. They are so deeply rooted into my life. I couldn’t help but tell a few of them that I love them as we said our final goodbyes. I don’t usually let myself express love to my kids. Occasionally I find myself giving a kiss on the forehead, but this year, I knew that I had to tell some of them that I love them. I knew that the craziness of their home-life and the raging hormones of a pre-teen left some of them wondering if anyone loved them and I could not let them leave without hearing me say that yes, I really do love you. 

How can I not be sad to see these kids go? Kids that know that when I “yell” I am only playing. Kids that know they can get a hug from me at anytime, kids that like to stand around and talk to me about nothing. Kids that have opened up and let me fully and completely into their lives. Goodbye guys. I WILL miss you!

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We began by talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and how it appeared as if he knew he was going to die on the day that he actually did. We had an in-depth conversation about slavery, Washington DC, and President Lincoln. We talked about President Washington and even Obama. We talked about death and how it is ultimately inevitable that we all die. 

Somewhere in the midst of our deep conversation, my daughter paused to state, “You know, we don’t have your normal dinner conversations. We don’t talk about ‘how was your day’ and ‘did you stay out of trouble?’ We talk about this deep, random stuff.”

I’d never thought about it before, but she’s right. We aren’t your typical family by many standards. We don’t tend to piddle in the small talk which is somewhat ironic because I consider myself very involved in my children’s lives and my teen daughter is pretty open with me.

I have my children 24/7, for better or worst and as such we really are a close family. A typical day consists of the three of us sharing our one bathroom to get ready for school and work. All three of us then pile into the car and head off to begin our day. My son attends my school and spends the morning in my classroom with me until the bell rings and he leaves to begin his day. My daughter catches the bus at my school and takes it to her school. 

During the day, my daughter and I will text each other messages during recesses and lunch. I usually check in with her to see how her day is going. She often asks me to bring her a coffee knowing full well that not only is it not possible, but I wouldn’t anyways. We have segmented conversations in which I get a glimpse as to how things are going for her.

Having spent roughly half an hour with me before school, my son and I generally see each other once again at lunch time. Although he pretends horror at my appearance, I have been told on good authority that his face actually lights up when he sees me and that what we have is a little game. We have finally agreed that I will not kiss him and in exchange he will give me a side hug. At 8 years old and in second grade, he is too embarrassed to be seen with his mother. 🙂

After school, my son and I spend another approximately two hours together before we pick up sister. During this time, he and I have had our small talk. Once I pick up sister/daughter, she and I have some more small talk as we drive home. Once home (or out to eat), the dinner conversation begins. We have great conversations. I love how deep our conversations go, how anything is fair game, how both my 15 year old and my 8 year old are comfortable and capable in having these conversations. 

Life is good.

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*It is currently 93 degrees. Earlier in the week, the high was only in the 50s. There is something wrong with that in my opinion.

*The dog had emergency surgery this week. We were told to prepare for the worst. It has all ended well. She now has a 10 inch incision in her stomach. 

*My 5th grade boys freaked out about spiders twice this week while the girls could care less. 

*I went to a softball game this morning. That was fun. 

*Some of my students are begging me to teach 6th grade next year so that they can have me again. I taught them in 4th grade last year and 5th grade this year. I can not believe that they would want me for a 3rd year. 

*We got our preliminary state scores back (for the students) this week.  Our 5th grade students made a 65% increase in reading. That’s pretty amazing, especially considering how tough this year was. 

*I can’t get the dog to take her antibiotics without a treat, yet when I laid the cat’s antibiotic down on the bed so I could pry her mouth open, the dog came along and willingly ate it. WTH?

*A friend in Washington was told that she won’t be re-hired next year for teaching. All teachers with 3 years or less of experience have received pink slips due to the budget crises. That’s 83 teachers in her district. Meanwhile, my district is still trying to figure out what they are going to do. They are considering 4 day school weeks. 

*Government needs to get into the schools and see what is really happening instead of creating all of these regulations based on perceptions and cutting funding constantly. It’s not good for the kids and it’s not good for the future of America. We need to look at Japan and some of the other countries and get our schools straightened out. 

*Parents need to start parenting their children and stop being afraid to be the bad guy.

*I need to work on breaking my coffee addiction. It’s getting out of hand.

*I got my hair done today. That’s always a treat.

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campfireA typical day at work includes putting out several fires. I work with fifth graders. If you have worked with, or been the parent of a fifth grader, you know exactly what I am talking about. Hormones are raging, tempers are flaring, emotions are soaring. We tend to relate these things to the girls, but the truth is that boys are equally “terrible” in their own way. 

This year, my classroom has consisted of 33 students. I have 14 girls and 19 boys. It’s been an adventurous year!! In addition to the classroom, I have also been attending school full time to complete my master’s degree (I’m done!), am on various “teams” and committees, and am the Administrative Assistant. Administrative Assistant is the fancy way of saying, “We don’t have enough money in our budget to hire an assistant principal although we recognize that we need one. Instead, we will pay a teacher a small stipend to take on the roll of ‘administrative assistant’.” Of course, they are always able to find someone willing. 

This week, I have taken off my teacher hat and stepped completely into the principal role due to an illness. Whenever you cover for someone else, you find yourself in a position of knowing minimal history and trying to base decisions on what you know. For example, has this student been in a fight before or is this the first time? Is this a trustworthy student/parent or should I listen with caution? 

dinosaur_asteroid_5This is not the first time that I have stepped into the role, but this is perhaps the most difficult time. It is nearing the end of the year, the weather is in the 90s and beautiful, kids are tired of each other, tired of the system, and ready to move on to the next year. This week, instead of  in addition to the normal fires that I put out, I am finding myself battling forrest fires. I am trying to tame fires without knowing exactly how or where they began, a very difficult task.

Tonight, as I was unwinding, I found myself wondering if I had committed to attend any games this weekend and realized that I was smiling. You see, whenever a student invites me to attend one of his/her games, I makes sure that I attend at least one a season. The truth is that I am lousy at watching. I usually get caught up in talking and when a shot is made or the ball is hit, I find myself scrambling to catch up to what just happened. I’m good with paying attention during action packed games, but the reality is that my students are still learning basic skills. Few of their games are action packed. 

Years down the road, when my students look back to the fifth grade, I hope that they will remember me in a positive manner. I am willing to bet that the “athletes” will not remember that I taught them math, science or writing, they will remember that on Saturday, I came and watched their game. They will remember that;

A champion team from Garner, NC.

A champion team from Garner, NC.

“My teacher saw me make my first touch down!”

“You saw me pitch for the first time!”

“Did you see that triple home runner that I hit?!?!?!”

They will remember that I sat in the bleachers and cheered them on and we talked about it for the rest of their time at the school. They will know that I care, not because I have to, but because I really do. They will know simply because, “You really came to my game!”

This simple thing is what makes all of the fires worth it. 

 

 


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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that my son was better behaved during my meeting than I was. Let me share a few minutes of that meeting with you. My son was unsuspecting in these pics. It was shoot and click, no aiming. I got what I got. Not too bad if I do say so myself!

I also took various pictures of unsuspecting colleagues, but I will save them the humiliation of posting…especially since they don’t even know that they were victims to my bad picture taking. Keep in mind, these pictures were taken on a cell phone.

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In summary, today was a good day. Here are a few good things:

  • My 2nd grader decided to read Harry Potter today. He’s already on page 64. The book is a 5th grade level book. As such, he reads better than several of my 5th graders. 
  • I had a 2 hour meeting today. I dragged my son along. He behaved excellent and I received several compliments. In fact, he was better behaved than I was. True story.
  • I love when people look at me and try to ponder how old I am while stating, “I would have never guessed you old enough to have a 15 year old.” Yep, I’m plenty old enough. On the same lines, she looks older than 15, so it’s also fun to go out in public and watch people try to figure it all out. I don’t know how old they think I am, but not old enough to have a 15 year old, let alone an 18 year old. Nice.
  • One of my 5th grade students calls me Mommy. He is from a gang family and yet he calls me Mommy. He even told his home room teacher that I am his Mommy. This has gone on for most of the year and I find it very interesting and flattering.
  • I walked into a classroom today in which a couple of former students were. One of the girls told the assistant that I am her best friend. I’ll take that.
  • Another student who has only been here for a couple of months and has remained very introverted asked me today if I would write him an office referral so he could play an April Fool’s joke on his mother.  I wrote that he beat up another student causing a black eye and a bloody nose. I signed it Tooth Fairy. I can’t wait to hear how that one played out. 
  • When I picked my daughter up from school, one of my students was there to get her sister. She came to my car and talked to me. Most kids, especially as they get older,  are too embarrassed to seek their students out in public. 
  • One of my cats just went and cuddled with my dog. Long story, but the cats were adopted in August and were afraid of the dog for a long time. From a cat perspective, who wouldn’t be afraid? The dog is nearly 100 pounds and a lab/rotweiller mix. That’s a lot of dog. We adopted the dog nearly 5 years ago after she had spent about a year and a half in a shelter. She had one prospective family who took her home and brought her back because she chased the cats. We have 4 cats. The only time she chases them is when they run by her and all are participating in play. In fact, a year after adopting her, I felt she needed a puppy. I wasn’t going to get a pup, but I did get her a kitten. She has treated that cat as her puppy ever since. They can be seen snuggling at any given time. 

I’m sure I am overlooking more things, but it’s always nice when we have enough “simple” things happen in a day that it constitutes a good day. These are what make life good. The big things are wonderful, but they tend to be fleeting happiness. It’s the small things that sustain us.

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Randomness is my topic tonight.

  • My 95 pound lab/rottweiller mix of a dog is not allowed on my bed. However, while I am gone, she claims it as hers. While I don’t like this, it is nice when I am freezing cold to crawl into my already warm bed. Thank you, Gabby, for warming it for me. Now, GET DOWN!!! Actually, I don’t have to tell her to get down. She is down before I even come through the door. 
  • I am sick and tired of my classroom being freezing cold. Here’s the deal. If it is going to be cold, it really should be cold enough that we can have a snow day. If the weather is not going to cooperate, then bring on spring already!
  • I am sick of people making up excuses for why they can’t make deadlines and meet expectations and expecting me to pick up the pieces. Ok, this really only applies to one person, but I am not going to go there. 
  • I want it to be summer break.
  • I freak out when rubberbands are aimed at me. They can be incredibly painful, people!
  • Walmart attracts really odd people of all sorts which leaves me to ponder why I almost always run into students while at Walmart. What does that say about my students and the school that I teach at? Heck, what does it say about me?
  • How does anyone end up with a huge dog, 4 cats, a snake, a turtle and dwarf frogs and how long until the aforementioned population dwindles?
  • Why are teachers the worst students on earth?
  • Why are high school girls so moody? 
  • I think I need a date. I need to finish this class and then, maybe, I can devote some energy to dating again. Maybe?
  • If colors are caused by reflections of light on molecules, does color cease to exist if there is no light to reflect on the molecules?
  • Why are comfortable clothes so butt-ugly?
  • Why are YOU still reading this boring blog?
  • Will you please comment me? I need some traffic. LOL
  • I want to move to a small town in which I only work 4 days a week and have a much smaller classroom size. I think the pay cut would be worth it. 33 students is far too many. 
  • When will Oregon realize that teachers can not teach once their classroom sizes reach a certain point? 
  • Does legislation really expect me to meet the needs of all 33 kids in my classroom when my lowest level student tests at the first grade level and my highest tests at 12.9+? How? How do they expect me to do that?
  • Why does anyone think that I can get my job done in 40 hours a week? Can you please tell me know to do this?
  • Again, why are you still reading this?
  • My cats are named Grace, Star, Molly and Karma. Grace is old and has kidney failure. She is amazingly healthy all things considered. Normally, once diagnosed, cats die within two years. She’s made it 2 1/2 and is still ticking. Not bad. 
  • Anything else you want to know? Did I share too much? Yeah, I know I did. Oh well. Is anyone still reading this?
  • How come when others share their random information it is so much more interesting?
  • Why do humans wait as long as they possibly can before they finally get off of their lazy rear and go to the bathroom?
  • Want to see my tattoo?
  • OH! Why won’t my picture show? I have uploaded it twice now and it tells me that it will start showing my picture, but it never does. Why not? Why does the internet lie to me?
  • How much will you pay me to go away? Damnit. Quit reading this then!

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