Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 07 2010

Step 1. Breathe in. Step 2. Breathe out.

I’ve always been one to talk much more than necessary and if I try to use figurative language to describe something in real life, it’s a fail. But I’ve got a really simple one, so here goes. On my way to work on Friday, my gas tank light went on saying that I was approaching empty. Much like my gas tank was drained, so was I.

This past week I had my first round of parent teacher conferences. I really like talking with the parents, and I know I have established different relationships with all of them. Some are more well-established than others and others have been a challenge to communicate. I only had one interaction that I could describe as unpleasant and, while unfortunate, I can only think that if I let it bother me the person that will be most affected is the student. That sounds pretty mature but trust me, it took me a while to actually come to that conclusion and feel sincere about it.

My big personal goal this week has been to get myself organized. Shout out to the 09er (and my School Operations Manager at Institute!) who gave me some really great ideas for how to get myself more organized. My grade level chair might actually steal one of the ideas I used! I’ve found, however, that to be better organized sometimes you have to be more disorganized first. I’m about there right now– like many things, not where I’d like to be but I have a goal of where I’d like to go.

One of the biggest challenges to my organization has been the number of kids coming in and out of my class throughout the year. To recap

Beginning of the year: 26
Week 1: One student moved to Exceptional Ed (-1)
Week 3: Student moves out of district (-1)
Week 4: Students move to newly created classroom (-7)
Week 4: ELL student moved into my room (+1)
Week 6: New student arrives (+1), another student leaves (-1)
Week 7: New student arrives (+1)
Week 8: New student arrives (+1)
Week 9: Student exchanged with teacher next door (-/+ 1)
Week 9: Student moved to another classroom at parent’s request (-1)
Week 10: New students arrive Monday and Friday (+2)
Week 11: New student arrives Wednesday (+1)

and we’re going on Week 12 this week. That’s part of what being at the school with the highest in/out rate in the district looks like.

That means over the course of the first part of the year, I’ve had 34 students in my classroom at various points. Being at a school that’s given extra money to have small class sizes, about 23 max, that’s a lot of turnover. That’s also changes in students every week for the last 7 weeks. I’m really struggling to maintain a classroom culture when each child contributes in such different ways. Some of my new students are really great and I am incredibly encouraged to see how well they are doing after being dropped in a new school in the middle of the year. I do worry about how well some of them are adjusting.

While many of these kids have left the school, I still feel a special attachment to the ones that were in my room for any period of time. We had our recognition ceremony this week for report cards, and two of my kids that were in the newly created classroom received the highest award for behavior that we offer — I was so proud of them, I even told some other teachers “those were my kids”.

In all honesty, all the kids in my grade level are my kids. There’s been so much turnover and confusion that all of us teachers rely on each other for support. I have kids that respond well to the male teacher. Others fear being sent to the room of another teacher. On top of the children’s retention rate, the newly created class has had teacher retention issues which means I also feel invested in the kids in that classroom.

So that empty tank of gas? Much to the chagrin of my bank account, it’s full. My feeling drained? Working on it, slowly and surely.

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    a 2010 CM’s experiences

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