Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life Goes On

Parent conferences were last week and this week.

I am ALWAYS amazed to learn more about my students. Every student comes with a story. Some stories are sad and some are funny, but each one is unique.

I am reminded this week that every teacher comes with a story as well. We don't come to the classroom as flat characters or parts of an education machine. We bring our story to the classroom with us and whether we tell it directly or indirectly it informs the work we do. My story has been catching up with me all week.

I think when people have a near death experience they become forever more sensitive to life. Seeing what they almost lost causes them to live differently. I have always been a person who was almost someone else with a different life.

I was born into an extremely unfortunate situation. My mother told me that she had to collect change along the side of the road to pay for baby food when I was an infant. My family was sick with the sickness of addiction. Anxiety ruled my home in my early years. I remember being strong during this time. I always tried to help my mom.

Later, when my Dad left his family entirely, my life changed drastically. I was about eight. My Grandparents supported our family. We had nicer things than I had ever had. We lived in one house without moving all of the time. My Grandparents became a huge part of my life, and my future no longer seemed dark and uncertain.

I excelled in school--particularly in verbal tasks. Everyone in my family felt certain I would go to Law School. In some ways, I forgot about my old life and early troubles. Yet, there are and always have been reminders. Every time I hear a West Texan drawl, every time I smell cigarettes, every time I tasted pecans or saw army fatigues; I saw a ghost--the ghost of a life I once had and almost continued.

In the end, as I looked toward my own future at the age of eighteen, who I was and the ghost of who I might have been guided me to forget about ambition. I chose teaching because I wanted to help. I watched someone help me and my family. I knew at that point that there is nothing better to do in this life than to help others.

I don't really talk about my story. In a tangible sense, it doesn't make me a better teacher. I have struggled as much as anyone in learning this trade. If there was a Hippocratic oath for education, "Cause no harm," I would have broken it many times. I struggle with confidence and competence. What my story does mean is that I know how important this work is. I take it seriously.

This week with the passing of my Dad's mother the past has been with me a lot. Life goes on, but I am reminded that I didn't wind up here by accident and I am driven to keep trying harder.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Silence in Me

I am usually the kind of person who people tell things to, but I keep a lot to myself. A lot.

I have had a long week. I've been waking up at night, having anxious dreams, crying in the car; I've been in over my head a little. The thing is that I haven't breathed a word to anyone. I worked. I worked more hours than I care to calculate with graduate school, parent teacher conferences, and Fall Festival.

It's not that I haven't had opportunity to tell anyone. It's just that I haven't wanted to.

My mom came into my school on Wednesday afternoon to tell me that my Grandmother on my Dad's side passed away. We didn't talk about it and I haven't seen her since. I still went to our school Fall Festival dressed as a ballerina and I didn't tell anyone what was going on with me. I got home at about 7:30.

Then I realized that I had missed a bunch of text messages from friends about drama with the divorce situation. My house is still looking like a bunker. I called my friend and listened to her for a while.

I still arrived at work by 6:30am the next morning to prep for a twelve hour day between teaching and the first day of parent teacher conferences. Then, I had to check my bank account because it was pay day. My budget for gas and food is approximately 40$ for the next two weeks. I got home at about 7:15.

Today was just a blur. The last day before Halloween... I came home today and fell asleep on my couch by about 7.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 3

Today, I really cut back on the blurting out by using my sign with the ear. Transitions were better, but still not where I want them to be. The biggest problem I have is when these kids are entering the room. We rotate the classes a lot among the five third grade teachers--thank goodness because none of the other classes are as difficult as this group and I get a break from these kids when we rotate. Every time that my kids come back in they get off task. Maybe tomorrow we will practice entering the room until they get it right. We have done it before, so I hate to waste the time, but I also know it will improve things.

As far as keeping a balanced perspective, I did a much better job today. I tried to notice when things were going well. Most of the day did go really well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Confidence 102

I tried to root out my confidence problems today by paying attention to what preceded occurances of feeling anxious. I don't feel anxious all day long. My problem is very episodic.

I found that I felt anxious during whole group direct instruction and transitions. The reason I felt anxious at these times is that this has been the most difficult times for me with this class. I felt like I was spending too much time redirecting student behavior at these two times. Students are blurting out comments during my direct instruction. My students are taking too long during transition.

I think to remove the stimulus that is making me anxious I need to work more with my students on listening. The resource teacher gave me this sign with an ear that I am supposed to hold up for Bob to remind him not to blurt out when it is listening time. The other side of the sign shows a student sitting still and raising her hand--that sign means students can raise their hands to ask questions. It actually was working pretty well, but I just quit doing it because it was a hastle. I need to go back to it I think. As for transitions, I need to work harder on one step directions. "Stand up. Push in your chair. Face the wall. Put your book in your cubby. Sit back down." I just cannot say to this particular group of children, "Put your books away and return to your seats." They will take FOREVER. I know this, but I tend to get lazy and ask them to do something to give me a minute to process what we are transitioning. I just have to stay on top of this group of children because of how they are.

I guess the other thing I can do to address this is to examine the question about why I am feeling so anxious over this problem. I know, rationally, that everyone struggles with teaching in some areas, and that as a relatively new teacher, I will struggle more than veterans. There are problems that I want to address and areas that I want to improve, but I am always looking for evidence that I am a bad teacher. I know that if that is the attitude I have then that is what I will find and I will continue to struggle with confidence.

I think I have to look for what I am doing well too. Generally, my classroom runs very well. My students are able to work independently and in groups or partners. I have them trained to respond to the quiet signal. They follow classroom procedures like turning in papers, finding their spots on the carpet, and performing classroom jobs.

Instructionally, I know a lot about how to reach a variety of learners in a variety of subjects. I am teaching gifted children, a developmentally delayed child, resource students, and everyone in the middle in one room. I know how to use formative assessments to direct and guide my instruction. My content knowledge is probably my biggest strength.

So, I guess starting tomorrow, I will work on the two problems increasing my anxiety. I will also try to focus on successes instead of getting hung up on bumps in the road. If I do have a student having a bad day, blurting out comments, or whatever--I can address it and forget about it when the moment has passed. I think I have been dwelling on things like that...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Confidence 101

Well, I was reading some internet tips on how to feel confident. That made me feel actually like a huge dork, but I did find one tip that was helpful: visualize yourself being successful. I am really analytical. I think about what could go wrong. So, this week, I am going to visualize myself being successful.

It's going to be a hard week for me because we have parent conferences and Fall Festival and I have graduate school. That makes three nights this week that I will be working past seven. I could visualize myself falling asleep on the floor of my classroom, but that would be counterproductive. So, let's see how would this week look if it went exactly as I wanted it to?

Fall Festival will be fun. I love my costume for the Fall Festival. I wish I could wear it every day, BUT I don't think I would be taken too seriously. I love seeing the kids' costumes too. I actually really like the Fall Festival. It is the only after school event I feel that way about.

My conferences would take a positive tone and be empowering to parents as partners in education. I am excited to share all the data I have. I think the parents will benefit from and appreciate the suggestions for helping their children at home. I really want to focus on how they can effectively help with the Writing homework.

Reading would leave the kids engaged in the story. In Reading, there are some things that I think will go particularly well. I expect that my lesson on comparing the Fantasy Selection to the Expository Non-Fiction Lesson will be powerful. The kids have to read and raise their hands between subtitles. This works well with my active class. I also think the four-square writing activity to summarize the main text will be a nice compliment to the summaries we wrote last week in Writing.

Math would leave the kids with an in depth understanding of what multiplication is. I think using math tiles to make arrays and singing the three's song will help my students still lacking an understanding of the concept of multiplication. I also really like the brainpop on arrays and the kids usually respond well to that. In today's number this week I am using virtual manipulatives and I think it will be a positive change.

Writing would be productive and result in high quality How-To Essays. I am looking forward to sharing "Puppy Chow" with the class and I think they will be very very excited to write how to make it. I am also looking forward to reinforcing the 4square framework with the lessons.

I don't have to play this stupid game with graduate school because I already feel confident about that.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I have a student in my classroom this year with some pretty profound special needs-- for the purposes of this blog I will call him Bob. It has been a challenge for me to teach Bob and a challenge for the other students to be in the same class because what I do with him is so different from what I do with the other students.

One of the students, who has been one of the biggest behavior issues in my class, I'll call him Mike was randomly assigned to work with Bob. So, I said to Mike, "Okay, Mike, you have to help Bob figure out this math game and you two are going to use one digit numbers." What I saw blew me away. Mike was amazing with Bob. Since that day the two have developed a friendship. Mike is patient with Bob. Bob looks up to Mike. Mike's behavior has improved in all areas.

Yesterday, I saw Bob, who is an extremely talented artist, drawing the above picture. I asked him what he was drawing and he just said, "Mike, he's a super hero!" I guess he is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Selfish Reasons I Write

My head is really full right now. I don't know how else to explain my current situation. I have a hyperactive brain. It hardly even sleeps--I remember what I dream almost every night. Usually, I remember two or three dreams each night. I think about a lot of things at once. My brain is like my desk and like my closet gets when I don't pay careful attention. It is just full of messy piles. Only my brain is much worse than my desk or closet. Have you ever seen that show Hoarders? Sometimes I think I am like a hoarder of thoughts. I've already stored twenty-six thoughts and ideas about a given philosophy or story, but I still want to get some more.

Writing is therapeutic for me because it helps declutter my brain. Every night when I write I have to choose from all of the thoughts. It really is hard for me to choose. I listen to music and try to write what incorporates a lot of my random, uncontrollable thoughts. When I finish writing, I can sleep better. I know that my head will feel full again within twenty-four hours, but it eases the pressure.

Usually, I try to write about thoughts that will make my mind more settled and peaceful. I write about anything in my day's thinking that needs to be resolved.

Those are the selfish reasons that I write. I just want to clean up my inner world by dumping my thoughts on paper. That is blunt, but true.

In my life, though, I have more responsibility than to just sit around thinking. Like Plato, maybe I wish I was just a philosopher king who could think all day. There is so much purpose for me in my work as a teacher. That is why that is the primary theme of this blog.

I want to be a better teacher not because it makes my inner world more peaceful, but because it is an important contribution to the outer world. Lately, I am finding my progress as a teacher paralyzed because of my insecurities. For a long time now I have tried to put the past behind me. I did that because it was the only way I could survive in the profession. I just tried to focus outside of myself and forget my insecurities. It kind of worked, but my insecurities about myself as a teacher have been my constant companions for the last two years.

Why do I get so upset over a parent who is clearly being unreasonable? Why am I so stressed when one lesson doesn't go well? Why am I incapable of having a classroom observation without being exceedingly nervous? It is because somewhere inside me is the belief that I can't do it, I shouldn't do it, and I will never learn.

I don't like thinking about that voice. I don't particularly like writing about that voice, but I am going to attempt to settle my insecurities and find that confidence through writing in the same way that I settle my thoughts. There was a definite point in time where I became insecure. I want my confidence back.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Have No Ambition

Sometimes my job relegates me to the role of being a sixteen year old trapped in a twenty-five year old's body. Okay, more like being a sixteen year old trapped in an eternally sixteen year old's body trapped in a twenty-five year old's life. I never quite lost that maiden form. Too much information? Sorry, I think my sense of humor is regressing too.

It's just that sometimes I feel like I've been possessed by a sulking teenager. I know I can't blame my job, but this phenomenon is at least correlated with my job. I mean injustice in education world is not unlike injustice in teenage world. I just want to sulk sometimes because "It's not fair." I want to have a bad attitude and be sassy.

Last week, my mom was asking me about my upcoming graduation and what I planned to do with my Master's degree.

"What are you going to do with it in the long term?" she asked me.
"Probably, spend an additional twenty years getting screwed over by the education system; it's just digging my hole deeper," I informed her.
"Very funny," she continued, "Seriously, do you plan to become a principal someday?"
"That is the last thing I want to do. Being a principal is like asking to have all of the politics and parts of the teaching job that are miserable multiplied. It's masochistic."

Tonight, as we started our final class toward the Master's program, Issues in Administration, I realized how much I really do not want to be a principal. I was thumbing through one of the recommended texts tonight. It posited the maxim that as an administrator it is important to always keep a minimal level of anxiety about the feelings of teachers when intervening. I could never ever do that. I just have no desire to. Teaching is the hardest job, and if I were a supervisor of teachers I would always care about their feelings.

I do feel anxiety if I have to confront a sensitive student. I have anxiety if I have to fail a student. I have anxiety if I have to give a parent news that will be difficult on them. It should be impactful to hurt another human--even when it is a necessary evil.

Anyway, my point is that my total lack of desire to ever be involved in educational administration is a little alarming. Honestly, I am twenty-five. I have already been teaching full time for three and a half years. I will probably not be able to retire until I am well over fifty-five. That gives me thirty more years. I can't imagine thirty years of doing the same thing either.

I don't know. I guess in the analogy of my growing up being like my maturing as a teacher, we have entered the teenage years. All I can say is that my life is not fair and no one understands!!!

I guess that parent was right about young teachers. Damn the irony, but I am feeling the part I am trying so hard not to look. Yikes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Violent Dream

Sometimes I think I need a therapist and not a blog, BUT I have what I have. I had a terribly violent dream last night, and it seemed so real. The strange thing is usually a violent dream would wake me up, but this one didn't. The reason being that I went into crisis mode and controlled my emotions exactly the way I would in real life. Remembering what I dreamed today left me more distressed than I was in the moment I was actually dreaming it.

Now, the rest of my post is rated "R" due to violence, so quit reading if you don't want to know.

My dream was set in the past. It was either in the late nineteenth century or very early twentieth century. I was riding my bike through the town (wearing a rather Victorian costume). There were storm clouds over head, and I heard the warning bells. I knew something was wrong at my house, so I rode my bike to the edge of town and then I dropped my bike to run through the woods the rest of the way to my house. Mud was getting all over my white tights and skirt. By the time I got to the clearing where the house was, the sun was setting and it was getting dark. The police (in 19th century get up) were there. I could smell ash in the air. "Excuse me Miss, you can't go any further. It isn't safe and nothing can be done," an officer told me. I shook him off of me, and ran up the porch steps into the house which had clearly been on fire. Inside it was a bloody massacre. My family (it wasn't my real family but in my dream I knew it was my family) were all either dead or dying. I ran to my sister (I don't have a sister in real life, but in my dream I did) and a beam had fallen over her severing her bottom half from her top half. She was still blinking but she couldn't speak. I knelt down over her and tried to comfort her stroking her face. I stayed with her until she died. Blood was all over my white dress.

It is just a dream. This dream, though, felt really real.

Anyway, as violent and unpleasant as this dream was it does represent who I was made to be in some ways. Recently, I've been struggling with my faith. In a church your heart doesn't always show, but your questions and your doubt seem to.

I have never been a follower. It has gotten me into lots of trouble over the years. I remember once when Principal Sadie was trying to describe how incorrigible I was, she said to me "what would it be like if everyone was like this?" I had to agree that it would not be good. That statement was strikingly like something a professor had said to me in college. I got in BIG trouble for writing a paper that apparently rocked the boat and had to undergo some review to decide if my heart was in the right place for a mission minded school. I think I passed the review by the skin of my teeth.

Recently, I have been having another experience like this as I have helped my friend leave her husband. My brother even said to me, "Divorce is wrong and you shouldn't encourage this." Yet, when my friend says, "I want to end my life because of my unhappiness in this relationship," I never hesitated in my resolve to help her.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in the body of Christ we're not all the smile or the heart beat. Sometimes we're the eyes. We see the big mess. It looks different from our perspective. It's true that if everyone was stubborn and analytical and followed logic more than advice we would not be a peaceful world. Sometimes I do go too far. It's also true that there has to be some people like that or there would be even more injustice in this world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A World We Didn't Expect

So I got another text message from a different co-worker today. Yeah, we're a texting staff (not a sexting staff, we learned the dangers of that at our sexual harassment training). She wanted to know if my paychecks are smaller than the ones I got last year because hers are. Interestingly, in a minor melt-down about the meager size of my paycheck last night, I did some research. Not only am I bringing home less than I did as a first year teacher in my weekly paychecks, but my own district would have to pay me more if they hired me as a new hire right now.

I think I have to realize that I am not on a career path because teaching in my state is just considered a job. I have been working for this district for four years. I have attained a more advanced degree, but I am actually being punished by my district for staying with them.

Now, I know it is a catch-22. My district isn't actually hiring new hires. In this economy and within my age group, the good fortune to have a job outweighs any longing for a career.

I guess I am just realizing that when my age group entered adulthood we entered a world we didn't expect. We had no clue that finding work at all would be hard. We did not expect a negative correlation between cost of living and compensation. We had no idea that when your job doesn't pay the bills you wouldn't have other options.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Real Housewife???

I am usually never at home because I work a lot, but this week I am getting a lot of household chores done and mostly staying around the house. I went through all of our boxes in the garage. I had to make sure no mice or rats had gotten into anything in our garage storage. Thank goodness everything was in tact. I vacuumed under all the furniture. I dusted and mopped. I did all of the laundry. I trimmed the vines on the side of the house.

Anyway, my neighborhood is kind of nutty; I am starting to really notice how nutty as I have been here more this week. First of all, it is kind of a retirement neighborhood, so my roommate and I are really young compared to the general demographic. Second, everyone here is really into the neighborhood. For example if we leave the garbage can out an extra hour they push it around the side of our house. Also, every time our neighbors see us they say something along the lines of "We've all been worried about you because you girls never come out of your house." Frankly, I am surprised they haven't kicked me out of the neighborhood because I don't have a little dog to walk around at six in the morning.

I thought I would write about a few of my more colorful neighbors. There is this guy that lives on the street behind us who lives with his wife and a fake woman. Now, his wife is probably in her late fifties or early sixties and the fake woman is clearly modeled after a woman in her twenties. In his garage, this guy has built some sort of man cave. He has a giant Coore's Light sign, a barrel full of beer, and several lawn chairs. The fake woman used to reside in this cave. The first time I saw her, I was really freaked out. She is all legs, and is wearing only a leotard and fish net stockings. I thought it was a very still, very strange living woman until I looked more carefully. Recently, the fake woman has been kicked out of the house entirely. She is now residing in the back of this man's truck. I think his wife said something along the lines of, "It's her or me." It still is a strange sight to see these legs clothed in fishnet sticking out of the back of this man's truck.

There is a woman that lives directly accross the street who is outside every single day. It gets really, really hot here but she is always outside. This woman does walk around her yard, but she also rides around the neighborhood on her scooter with a big red flag sticking out the top. This woman is BFFs with our landlord and his "partner" who used to live in this house. Consequently, whenever we are doing something we are not supposed to do (like trimming the vines on the side of the house) either my roommate or I have to be on guard for the scooter woman. This woman is good at giving the evil eye.

This post is really incoherent, but for anyone else enjoying Fall Break, I hope you are having a relaxing one!

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Wrote This Just for You!

FYI It is Fall Break here so I am not really doing any work and have no substantive comments today.

So, when I was worrying about someone from work finding this, I discovered an interesting tab on blogger I've never used called stats. It tells demographic information about who views your blog (I guess it is not paranoia to think Google is keeping tabs on us). Anyway, the cool thing that I learned is that there are visitors to this site from all over the world. Somehow, I just love that idea! It seems like having friends in far away places.

I am actually a huge geography nerd. I subscribe to National Geographic, I am addicted to the geography games website, and I constantly watch the travel channel. So, I was really excited to see that people in far away places visit here.

The other thing that I learned is that my posts on dating are the most visited (FYI google does not tell me who read what post or where individuals are from; the stats are very general). Something about people reading the dating posts amuses me because I have the least juicy dating life of anyone I know. Maybe, though, people read these because struggles in finding love are more universal than teaching struggles. Anyway, this got me to thinking that I never really followed up with my dating adventures on this blog.

I am not currently dating any of the guys from the website or anyone else for that matter. I quit the dating site. After ending things with Prelawguy, I realized that I had even more trouble opening up and connecting with strangers than with guys I have dated in the past. I just need to be friends with someone and have them be a part of my life first. Yeah, it's a problem for me that I work too much and don't always meet new people. My faith, however, leads me to believe that if there is someone out there for me, then I will meet him. My faith in a providential God leaves me with less anxiety about being single than most women. That is not to say that there isn't any anxiety.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Security Risk!!!

My phone had a cryptic text message this morning from the teacher I switched jobs with two years ago. "Hi Miss Understood, do you have a non-work e-mail address? I'd like to ask you about something, but not through school." I actually don't have a non-work e-mail, so I asked her to call me, but she couldn't call until about five hours later.

I was trying to figure out what she wanted to ask me about and I got totally freaked out that she knew about my blog. I actually blocked access to this website for most of this day. I keep this blog as anonymous as possible, but if you knew me, you could definitely figure out it is about me.

It turns out that she was texting me about something totally different, but it got me thinking: What if someone from my work did stumble across this. It is a long shot, but it is possible. Really, the only thing that I've written about that would get me in trouble is my tumultuous dealings with the former principal.

So, I decided to keep my blog but delete the initial year of posts. It was a tough decision because a part of me wants my initial struggles to be out there for someone going through similar things to read, but the risk is not worth it. If Principal Sadie wanted my head on a platter before, she would want it even more if those posts got out.

There was something therapeutic about deleting those entries anyway. Now, I can't go back and read them. Remembering the exact details about what happened made me a little bitter and now time will dull the memory and the sting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Pink Earring

It is like God is testing my resolve to blog about the brighter side of teaching by supplying me with an abundance of blog-worthy situations (ie legitimate complaints burning to get out of my mouth) (ie tear inducing, stress inducing incidents). Anyway, I haven't been so positive.

I was getting myself worked up on the way to work yesterday (ie feeling sorry for myself) (ie brainstorming better careers) (ie pondering injustice) (ie feeling bad about the fact that I can't control the way things are) (ie trying not to cry and ruin my makeup). Anyway, it was about 6am and I walked into good old room 24. My intervention table in the back was empty save one cheap, pink and silver, dangling earring.

On Thursday, one of the "lost boys" as I call them came up to me and presented me with the worthy gift. It was the end of the day, and I was attempting to get the kids to pack up quietly (it sounds a lot easier than it is). He walks up to me, proudly holding his closed fist in front of him. He gives a huge grin and opens his hand to reveal the earring. Now, this same student has brought an interesting list of things to school including hot sauce (the entire bottle), a spoon, an old cell phone, and a candle. "Is that your mom's," I asked him, "She'll probably be wanting it back."

"No, I found it," he explained, "It's pretty. I want you to have it."

"Thank you," I said smiling. I laid it on the back table and forgot about it.

The next day, as I was pondering how I don't get any respect or sleep or a reasonable pay check, I saw the silver and pink, dangling earring on that table alone. I can't explain how, but I realized that I do get something. There is something about the pink, probably stolen, earring that is the "why" I stay in this profession when all of the bad stuff seems overwhelming.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parent Satisfaction Survey

You know, we are always having to hear about the "Parent Satisfaction Survey" telling how satisfied parents are with their child's teacher. I want a parent satisfaction survey that tells how satisfied I am with the parents I have to deal with. I tell you what, this year I am not satisfied at all! I have two parents in my room this year. Ha ha. That speaks for itself.

The first one is "the parent" at our school. I think you know what I mean. "The parent" that makes the office staff argue about who is going to take the call when their name comes up on the caller I.D. "The parent" who administration tells the secretary to always tell them the principal is in a meeting. "The parent" who is amazed that every year they have the same problems with a different teacher. Yeah, . She actually started complaining about me before the first day of school because "she hadn't heard of me."

Today, apparently she called the principal to demand a different teacher because: I am young. She says that she had a young teacher last year and her son didn't learn anything. She feels sure that this will happen again because I am young. She says that she believes I am a good teacher, but I am a bad fit for her son because he can't be taught by a young teacher. When asked why she felt this way her only justification is that "a mother knows, her son doesn't seem to have enough sparkle in his eyes after going to school, and it is her right as a parent to demand the teacher she wants."

The other parent I have is one of those parents whose idea of being a good parent is ensuring her child gets a good education by regularly complaining. The latest e-mail I got from her was that the homework doesn't have enough Social Studies. "When she was a child she took text books home every night, and her angel has yet to take a text book home this year." The very same day I received a two page e-mail about the lack of Social Studies in the homework; she emailed the teacher of her other child with a different list of complaints. Really, did she just stay up the night before dreaming up a list of complaints for all her children's teachers?

I have so many high needs kids to deal with this year, but what is taking up my VALUABLE time? Entitled. Parents.

Please, someone give me a Parent Satisfaction Survey!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm No Superman

I had this dream the other night that I was riding in a car, but I wasn't driving. I was on a freeway, and I saw two children by the side of the road. "Stop, stop there are lost children," I told the driver. When we pulled over, one of the children had Down's Syndrome. She didn't know where her parents were, and she didn't know how to tell me. We followed a long path, but I just remember the strong urge to help her find her way. That feeling from my dream was a really familiar feeling. I feel it every day.

It is a feeling like my best isn't good enough.

In the past, I have struggled with confidence in my ability to teach. In the past, I have struggled with competence in my ability to teach. This year it is different. I really am the best I have ever been as a teacher. I feel happy and confident. I know how to reach my students. I am just truly overwhelmed by the case load of students I am dealing with. I have three students that aren't reading. I wake up all the time thinking about when I am going to teach them to read. More than that, I worry that I am spending so much time with the lowest students that I am neglecting other significant need, and I know that this IS the case.

There is all of this discussion recentely about the superior performance of charter schools in America. I get it that there are some great charter schools out there. Yet, being a really successful charter school seems less remarkable than being a successful public school.

Down the road from my school, is a charter school which by test scores out performs my highly performing public school. A lot of parents want their children to go there, but they won't take just anyone. They take students that will perform and then those students do perform.

My school and my classroom, though seems more American to me. We should have an inscription reading, "Give me your huddled masses, give me your non-English speakers, give me your disabled and impoverished yearning to learn."

On days when I am so tired, I think about the private and charter schools that don't take the tough cases. I think about a vastly smaller number of IEP meetings and not writing ILLPS. I think about how nice it would be not to call disconnected numbers. I think about getting test scores that weren't earned through blood, sweat, and tears. Then, I think about faces.

How could I not be happy to have my quiet little non-reader? How much would I be missing if I never met my little friend with a severe disability? How rewarding is it to here my monolingual student from China converse in English? Like the sick need a doctor, the tough cases need a teacher; and I am that teacher.

I am not superman and sometimes my best isn't good enough to meet every need, but until superman or the education fairy or whatever cure all people are expecting arrives I'll do all I can for whoever walks into my classroom.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


The thing about teaching is that there is no magic formula, there is no easy answer, and what works in one situation might not work in another. When I was a new teacher, people gave me a lot of advice that was helpful but it was really challenging for me to meet the specific needs of a specific group of students. Now, as a more experienced teacher, well, it is still really challenging, but I have some idea about how important it is to adapt.

This year I would refer to my class as all of the following: Where the Wild Things Are, Land of the Lost, Survivor, Area 51, and the Bermuda Triangle. The art teacher said to me the other day, "You have one of the strangest groups of children I've ever worked with. I tried to picture them as the adults they might grow into, but I just couldn't do it." I was watching third grade recess and I noticed one of my students spent the entire time hitting the tether ball alone. Another one was repeatedly spinning in a circle. Another one was digging alone. Another one was just staring at the wall.

I was watching my class at the third through fifth grade assembly. The teachers turned on some dance music and as I looked around the auditorium almost every class felt too cool to dance. They were all kind of standing there. Not my class. Those kids danced with no awareness of those around them. They ran into each other and didn't seem to notice when the music stopped. That is just who they are. They dance to the beat of a different drum.

I have learned that this group of students is not auditory at all. Even if they are silent and looking at me when I am speaking they retain nothing spoken to them. I write everything in the smartboard and they physically demonstrate what they are supposed to do.

I have to speak in a soft, whisper tone with them because if my voice is louder these kids start humming and making noises and they seem to be unaware they are doing these things.

I have to focus my kids for morning routine. I have always had my class come quietly in and start doing morning work independently. For the first time, I have to gather my kids up front and focus them on the tasks of turning in papers and folders, unstacking chairs, and writing to the morning prompt.

I have to set the kids up for the next subject before we leave the room. When they transition to work time I have to have all 23 of them stand behind their desks check to make sure the correct supplies are out. "Do you have two sharp pencils, your reading book, and your reading journal out?" Then they all sit down and push their chairs under their desks.

I pass out every paper prior to lessons and give instructions away from desks.