Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Note to My Friends Out There Who Just Met a Tough Class... For Example the Fourth Grade Teachers Now Teaching My Former Students

Yesterday afternoon, I had a moment that was both good and bad. You know, like a laugh/cry--when you don't know how you feel and it comes out somewhere in the middle?

I looked at my new class perfectly performing the procedures I just taught them yesterday. They were doing work and using quiet voices and being independent. It was awesome. That is, it was awesome until the cognitive dissonance kicked in.

Suddenly I thought, "What the Hell did I do wrong last year that those kids never got in a year what these kids got in a day?"

This morning, before I left for school, I decided to search out precisely what I was thinking at this time last year. The first post I cam accross from August of last year was this one. It was about non-reader, from my class last year, and how I discovered that he couldn't read during the first week of school.

This morning as I looked at that post I had an epiphany. If I had been his fourth grade teacher this year, I wouldn't have discovered a child that couldn't read. He is still behind, but he started the year illiterate and he ended it able to read.

My class last year never became the class I dream of. They constantly forgot and/or purposely ignored procedures and rules. Every lesson required extensive planning just to make it marginally effective. They often made me want to pull out my hair or drink a lot. They still learned a lot.

Anyway, it looks like I might win the class lottery this year, but to those of you teaching the taz, the hulk, the mean girls, Angelica, and the lost boys; please remember that the measure of success is not just keeping the kids orderly and focused. Look for progress deep and wide. Sometimes when your kids are "born to be wild" and the class next door is walking down the hall in a perfect line it is easy to be hard on yourself. At the same time, magnificent changes may be happening right under your nose and you're just too close to see them. So, if you've just realized that you're in for a long year, take a deep breath and remember: those kids need a teacher the way the sick need a doctor.

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