Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 04 2010

Back in the swing of things

Coming back from Thanksgiving was a like a big whirlwind (to use a recent class vocab word) of craziness. I didn’t have a chance to get copies made, I started a new scripted curriculum, I tried something new with my centers and went to a meeting about the results of the union survey of our school. And while this may have driven me crazy earlier in the year, I got to the end of the week feeling exhausted but not kicking myself for not doing more.

Over drinks tonight with a new friend, I got to thinking about how my attitude and thought process has changed since Institute. I still tend to focus on the negative, things that I want to work out to improve, and yet somewhere along the way I’ve managed to find a way to not let it get my down. The successes in my teaching always feel like reasons for celebration — I was practically getting a head start on my Zumba class in my car on Tuesday because one of my kids made almost 3 levels of reading growth in a month.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of the second quarter. I’m not looking forward to report cards (really, does any teacher enjoy this process) but it has been amazing to see the way that some of my kids have grown. Some of them are handling their anger better. My child with a devastating stutter has learned some wonderful techniques that, in the right circumstances, almost entirely eliminate the stutter. Several of my EL (English Learner) students have become more comfortable with me and with speaking up in class.

On the flip side, I’ve had some moments that weren’t so good. I sent a few kids to the office this week — which I hadn’t done in weeks because it hit me that the kids just didn’t care anymore. I’ve also had several kids through around the word bullying and that always gets me on edge, especially because parents respond so passionately to that word and concept. There seems to be little logic or words to say to convince a kid that if you poke another child hard enough, long enough, that they will snap back and while they should not have responded in such as a manner, you are not entirely innocent.

My tolerance for all things pencil related also hit an all time low this week. I’ve tried several different approaches, and nothing seems to work. No one seems to be able to hold onto their pencils. I’ve bought several hundred pencils this year and they all seem to be consumed at a rate faster than a hot dog at a competitive eating competition. If they can’t find their pencil, someone stole it. Someone stole it? That same pencil sticking out of your pocket? If and when they do find the pencil, it is inevitably broken. The problem with buying pencils in bulk is that they are about as strong as a small bundle of matches. Somewhere along the line, no one corrected my students habit of pressing down as hard and as dark as they can when they write. Which inevitably, takes a toll on the pencils. I’ve had students loan others pencils, but then that becomes an issue when pencils are broken, not returned, loaned without permission to another student. I’ve even had students arguing over one of my clearly identifiable pencils. It’s mine Ms. Astronaut. No, it’s mine and I’ve let you use it but now you’re breaking off lead and throwing that at other students. But it’s mine. I’ve been using it.

As much as I keep hearing that that’s typical of low-income students, I can’t help but want to correct people and extend that to most 4th graders. Talking with other upper elementary teachers, it doesn’t seem to matter what the child’s socioeconomic background is — they start to get possessive about things, especially pencils.

And while the pencils drive me crazy, the hormones are worse. I know I was an offender of this in elementary school. I was in love with the same boy for about forever. I tried so hard to hide it, being mean to him and all, but it was ridiculously obvious how much I was in love with him. No memory of why, but nonetheless, I remember that I had those feelings at that age. From the other side of the situation, with a dozen years under my belt and more experiences with rejection, I want to take each of the children aside in my class and say “Stop. Just stop. He/she will not like you if you (select from the following options: poke them, tease them, steal their things, talk to them in class, kick them, cheat off them). You would be much better spent getting to know them as a friend.”

I’ve already attempted this approach to one girl in the class, but to no avail. It amuses me, as she is one of my most outspoken and lowest performing students and she has fallen for one of my quietest and potentially highest performing students. She can’t seem to grasp that he would like her more if she worked harder at school and didn’t come across as lazy and obnoxious.

But why bother with something so complicated as logic? In the end, I smile a stolen smile and realize that there are some lessons I can’t teach but will have to experience for themselves.

One Response

  1. Erika

    This was an awesome entry… and you are just as awesome.

    Thank you.

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a 2010 CM’s experiences

Elementary School
Elementary Education

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