Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Snowpocalypse to Kiss Catastrophe

I’ve said it before for different reasons, but I’ll say it again – I am a very lucky first year teacher. This time I’m saying that because of the apocalyptic weather. While everyone else was griping about the End Days-style snow, I was praying for more to come. I basically got another winter break. And so did my kids. With the strange two-hour delays and all that, some kids weren’t in school for two weeks. On the one hand, this of course sucks because we missed out on 2 weeks of learning time. On the other hand, I got some much needed rest. Especially considering I’ve been perpetually sick since about November.

We’re back in the swing of things now. But there is one really important thing I learned during the snow and the strange scheduling… if I had only 10 kids every day, we would be doing some really cool lessons.

When the district calls a two-hour delay, only about half my students show up. And we had three such blissful days last week. Don’t gt me wrong, I absolutely love all 19 of my students. But a smaller class size just naturally gives us more options. My favorite thing about it was that I finally got to pull out some of the fancypants math and language arts games and puzzles that I got from Lakeshore at the beginning of the year. It’s mostly impossible to do anything in a big group with those, but it was glorious seeing the kids do them in small groups. I was impressed that I saw them transfer knowledge from our typical lesson structure to a more abstract game (like a puzzle where matching pieces were pictures with the same beginning sound).

This just makes me wish I had more small group time in my class. I’m still not really sure how to accomplish this, but at our last CLT meeting our CLT leader gave me a new perspective. I’ve always thought that I would have to first teach the kids a million little things to keep them occupied while I met with a small group and taught them a new lesson. See, it’s nearly impossible to keep a group of Pre-Ks occupied without significant supervision unless you’ve explicitly taught them something to stay busy with. Even games have to be taught, the rules explained, and the whole thing practiced a few times. I just had no idea how I would teach all these little busy activities in order to then have time to meet with one group and teach them the “core” lesson of the day.

After CLT I realized that what I need to do is a large group lesson teaching EVERYONE a core activity. Then, while my para supervises most of the class, I could pull aside a small group and have them do a new smaller activity. And once we’ve done a few rounds of this, I could have another small, unsupervised group doing a pre-learned activity. I think this is better. I think this may actually work next year.

Next year. Because right now I’m tired. Yes, we’ve had a lot of time off, but I think more than anything it just gave me a perspective of what I should and should not be worrying about. I’m more content saying things like “Well, maybe next year” rather than spending every waking minute of my time outside school making and preparing things for students to do in school.

Another mini success – I’ve realized that my kids are really great at sounding out (at least the beginning sounds of words). We made a list during a social studies lesson on maps the other day and they were correctly identifying the first letter in almost every word we listed. However, I don’t know how to get them to transfer this knowledge to their own writing. When we write stories, they just write a random stream of letters. This is developmentally appropriate for this time frame and also a big move from where we were in the beginning of the year when they didn’t even know what letters were or what we used them for. Still, I want to push them to that next step and I just don’t know. Does it just happen naturally one day? I’ve been giving them a lot of examples. Every time I write something in front of them I go through the process of sounding out. Do I need to be more explicit? Probably.

So all in all, I'm praying for more snow. I actually enjoy it. I love snow. I guess I was meant for the east coast? I think I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things about the east is my new radio station, WTMD. They basically play every song in my iTunes. It's definitely a more hipstery (gasp!) radio station, but I love it. And now, it can really do no wrong. The other day, while waiting for Jaren outside the library, they played Kiss Catastrophe by the Damnwells. The Damnwells is a band I saw the first time I saw my other favorite band, Augustana, when they were still playing small shows at the Big Fish Pub. This was freshman year of college, back when figuring out I had my own favorite lesser known bands and going to their shows was the newest and coolest thing ever. I fell in love with the Damnwells that night and bought their CD the next day. So, once again, it felt like someone at WTMD was playing a sequence of songs just for me. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

All The Tantrum Throwers (all the tantrum throwers)

This one is going to shorter and less dramatic than the last hopefully…

We got a new student! So far she won’t speak, only taps me, knows how to figure out which group of objects has “more” and is stubborn as all get out. Today was a big moment for me. I knew my class was special in the beginning of the year when everyone else was complaining at our Management Leadership Team meetings about tantrums, chair throwing, rolling around on the carpet, etc while I just sat in my chair thinking how awesome it was that my kids let me get through a lesson. AND they raise their hands. Well, the beauty of my situation has worn off as I’ve become more comfortable with them. As I mentioned before, I feel frustrated a lot and I don’t know if I’m being too nit-picky. They’ve also become more comfortable, so I find myself repeating directions, rules and moving clips more often. Today was a wake-up call though.

What I thought of as initial shyness by the new student turned into a strong sense of fear when I asked her, toward the end of the day, to come down to the carpet and she flatly refused. I mean, my kids were nervous the first few days, but they followed directions. We also had a new student join the class about 2 months ago. She also quickly got into our routine, and, at the very least, followed transitions from carpet to table. Not so with the newest one. When I took her hand to take her to the carpet she gave me the “stiff as a board” act. Later, when my aide made her come to the carpet she started screaming and crying. I think the most telling part of this was that I wasn’t even the least shocked person in the room… the other students were. They have NEVER acted anywhere near that. They just stared. And, in my eyes, they seemed so old and wise. It definitely made me look at my class in new eyes. They are so smart! They have never given me half the trouble the new student amounted to in the first day.

My concern now is getting her behavior on track. She seems to know a lot already, which is great since it won’t be a hurdle. But I don’t want her behavior to turn into an obstacle, or, even more frightening, to be a distraction or provocation for the rest of the class. I’m hoping that it’s just the first few days. If not, I’m going to be calling my fellow TFAers.

Another quick moment of pride (and something they don’t test for but definitely shows my students’ growth): they are giving compliments like “I like how you share in centers” and “I like that you take care of the toys in centers” and “I like how you walked to your seat.” These are AMAZING considering they didn’t know what a compliment was coming into class. We pick a kid of the day each day (as part of the PATHS to Pax behavior program my school has adopted) and then compliment them at the end. It’s a great opportunity for lessons on being nice (and I should actually take more advantage of this time). The compliments had to be modeled first, and then they were the typical “I like your shirt” (we all wear the same yellow shirts as part of our uniform). But they think about it now. And they notice each other’s actions. And they understand complimenting someone on something they do well or are supposed to do well, rather than the superficial. I’m so proud.

To end: yesterday I heard two girls humming Beyonce’s Single Ladies. I assume it’s because it was a part of the new chipmunks movie that EVERYONE is obsessed with. Well, I asked if that was what they were singing and they looked afraid, like I caught them drawing on the table or something. So, to fix it, I started singing a few lines (mostly just the “All the single ladies” part) and they flipped. Soon half the class was listening and clapping. At least some of my work gets applause?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Working for An Audience of One

I remember thinking back in August/September that if I made it to December and winter break then I would know I was ok and that I could do this.

I also remember that I never, ever once thought about quitting. Even in mid-October when it seemed like every JHU class we had was filled with people asking when this would possibly get better.

And, as it turns out, driving to the airport in Phoenix to come home to Baltimore was both the first time I thought about quitting, and the moment that I really didn’t know if I could make it to May 2010, let alone May 2011.

I’ve had two weeks back under my belt now, though. So that’s two weeks of perspective in the form of winter break, and two weeks to calm down and remember why I am here (and, at one point, loved it here).

The second hardest part about winter break (we’ll talk about the first later) was realizing/remembering what it’s like to have a life. To go to movies and just live hour to hour, without a planner. To read or cook or do whatever I wanted, just because I wanted. To have fun instead of planning in a brief moment of it. It made coming back feel even more like returning to the trenches. But it also propelled me a bit. I can’t give up my life for 2 years. I need to make some changes. Thankfully, I spent a good 30 minute gchat with Celeste (fit it in during quiet time, that says a lot about my schedule already) going over where to cut some things out, what to simplify, and how to cook/freeze chicken (the last part is just a bonus, but part of the new, bigger picture Amanda’s Taking Her Life Back plan).

Jaren and I have had about 3 dozen analytical conversations spread across the last handful of mornings since we got back. It’s how we get eachother to “power through” these first hard days. They mostly cover why are we here/how do we reconcile all we want out of life while giving just about everything we have to our current jobs. Here’s something I realized that I think makes it a little tougher to get up at 6:15 on Monday morning after 2 weeks off. I can’t take an easy Monday back. I can’t have a sucky, slow Tuesday. I can’t sneak into the bathroom every 15 minutes just to break away on a particularly hard Thursday. We’re supposed to give 100 percent 100 percent of the time. I mean, that’s what these kids deserve. And I want to give my students that. But it’s extremely daunting on a 23-degree morning when all you want is your family and friends that you desperately miss and for the sun to come out for just a second before you go into your job.

This also goes for getting sick. At most jobs it’s ok to get a sick day. We have to power through them. Everything is a catastrophe.

The cool thing about coming back is seeing that, miracle of miracles, you must have taught something well last semester because the kids remember some of it. That first Monday, my brilliant/always off the wall student reminded Trish that her name started with a T. He remembered how someone else’s name is spelled, and we haven’t even practiced spelling names in months. 15 out of 17 students can spell their names now (started the year with 3). And they can all create a rhyming word. They remember things I don’t even remember teaching them, like how to split words into sound parts (eyeball… eye… ball). Segmenting. Let’s use the teacher term (jeez).

Coming back also reminded me of how far we have to go, or at least the gap between the students that are excelling and those that need reinforcement. Name writing and number writing is a problem still, but we are practicing hardcore. Making sets too, which is disappointing because we spent two long, hard weeks on that before break.

Another good gauge of how far you are/how far you have to go is talking to other teachers. Thankfully, I have an immediate bank of these thanks to TFA. We had our first CLT meeting this week, and while we spent most of it making literacy center activities, everyone also spent a lot of time playing the “How far are you in English/Math/Social Studies” game. My conclusion – we need to learn more sight words.

I feel like part of the problem has been feeling like I’m living two lives, or like I can’t have a balance. I’ve been thinking about this blog for about a week and a half, for instance. And since it’s supposed to be about me teaching, I of course wrote down a million things that have happened in the classroom to write about. But now there’s this little selfish person inside me that’s yelling to stop ignoring what’s going on in my life outside my classroom. It seemed uncomfortable to spend this whole entry just talking about school when I’ve had a lot of big things happening outside of it (hence this back and forth, half school version that came out). It’s especially difficult when these other things are weighing on my mind… like the aforementioned FIRST hardest part about winter break…

I came back from break doubting a lot of the friendships I had back home, which is especially tough when I spent the last two weeks before break mentally psyching myself up to see my friends. I had all these visions of telling everyone what I was doing, making them laugh about how one little girl couldn’t spell her name but desperately wanted to so she spewed out a random stream of letters instead. I imagined finally seeing my friends, people I’ve known for nearly a decade, finally being really proud of me. Needless to say, I’ve grown up amongst a group of geniuses who can spout out math and science formulas like I can spout out the lyrics to Interventions and Lullabies, people who are on their way to grad school or are already finished with their masters. This would finally be my contribution to our friendly hall of fame. I didn’t really get to do that.

Instead, I came back feeling like a one woman wrecking ball. I managed to piss off nearly everyone, pretty much by accident, mostly because I don’t know how to appropriately tell people that my feelings are hurt.

So, it’s hard coming back to a life you’re proud of but that no one knows about, and leaving a group of people you’ve spent hours bragging about and now realize didn’t really notice you were gone. I guess that’s the whole thing about moving. I moved here to close one gap in my heart (being apart from my best friend and soul mate, Jaren) and in turn ripped a bunch of new ones in its place. This time I don’t know how to fix it though.

So, that was the emo elephant in my room (head) that needed to get written. Now, I’m gonna put a wee bandaid on and focus on the big things coming up: lessons on more versus less, my birthday, learning about numbers 11 to 20, Celeste’s bridal shower (people are going to judge my party planning/maid of honor abilities), my birthday, Spring Break, but before then, my birthday.

Speaking of soulmates, Jaren has decided to “give you New York” for this birthday of mine. I guess this is what it feels like when the master plan finally plays out… a little proud, a lot heartbroken, a little fate and a lot of accepting change while looking forward to the new. The new YORK that is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You're A Mean One, Ms. F

I made it to Thanksgiving!

I remember at Institute over the summer that Thanksgiving seemed like an eon away. It was something I didn’t even allow myself to think about because it was so far away. However, I did think about the fact that if I did make it to Thanksgiving, I would be golden. Thanksgiving came, it went, and I’m not any surer of myself than I was in the beginning of October. I mean, yes, I know that I can get through it. But it’s been tough, and I don’t want to have to think of it as “just getting through.” I don’t want to have to trudge on until May. I really hope that what they say is true… that the holiday break is just what you need, that you feel rejuvenated after, and that the kids actually start to truly get it once they get back from their hiatus.

Back in September I prided myself on not feeling as overwhelmed as all my fellow ECE corps members seemed to. Now, I get it. I’m so tired. Behavior is not anywhere near out of control (or the horror stories that I hear from some peers), but it’s drastically different. We have meltdown Monday and terrible Tuesday (as my Para very cleverly dubbed them). Wednesdays I tend to just give up. Also, I’m mean. I’m mean to four-year-olds! I feel myself being that grouchy teacher that you used to hate… and I hate it. But when 1:45 rolls around, the classroom is stifling, there are 4 different conversations going on on the carpet, the boy that sits on the Apple square has gone to the bathroom 7 times in the last ten minutes, and NOBODY seems to understand the concept of above and below (which we spent a whole week’s worth of math lessons on recently). At that moment I can’t be that sunny teacher you see in Matilda.

I think one of the hardest things is the unbelievable running list of “I wish I had done that differently.” From lessons to entire units, there’s so much I want to fix. My list of changes for next year is unending. Which makes me feel like crap about this year, and also very daunted by next year. It’s supposed to be easier your second year, but how can that be when in so many ways I’m going to be restarting, redoing, and fixing what I set in place this year? Behavior charts, the five senses unit, the order in which we learned patterns, the classroom layout. Next year seems scary, and like Year 1 Part II. And I can’t do Year 1 again. Ugh.

The only good thing I can think of… Thanksgiving. Although there’s all that controversy about the “real” first Thanksgiving (just like the hoopla about teaching that Christopher Columbus was simply a good-natured but curious explorer with a “first” for America), this is still a holiday that I can actually teach (unlike Christmas). So we made turkeys and read books on pilgrims with wild abandon. The fact that this is my favorite holiday had nothing to do with the three days worth of social studies and math lessons we spent on Thanksgiving…

Now, this has already become my place to list my fixes for next year. So, here are the newest additions (as always, based on a combination of failed lessons of my own coupled with the sheer genius and 35+ years of experienced advice from the Pre-K teacher next door):
1. fix the rules chart. Keep up the mandatory one from the school, but either make a new one of my own or skip it. With the whole Paths to Pax behavior program and the 3Rs from the school, there is a sense of rules overkill.
2. Put up a big numbers, colors and shapes poster
3. Do a hanging behavior chart rather than the circles on paper plates I have now. Those fall off all the time, and its especially anticlimactic when you go over to the chart, move Student B to “orange” in a huff, and then the whole orange circle clatters to the floor.
4. Post a new daily schedule that is color coded and simpler for students to understand and easier for me to actually make reference to. I get questions alllll the time about what’s happened next.
5. Implement better lit centers (see notes from PD evening at Digital Harbor on October).
6. Do more read-alouds during the day. We are not reading enough. I need more books!
7. Include more motor skills development. These kids don’t get recess. There needs to be more spread out during the day.
8. Staple their homework into their comp books or have some sort of checklist so parents can keep track of kids getting it done and doing it correctly
9. Fix OCR red band and blue band
10. In the beginning, when giving them pieces to paste, give each one an envelope with his or her pre-cut pieces so that they don’t get lost/cut in half by hands that don’t know how to use scissors yet (Yes, I have had to physically teach some kids how to use scissors to cut. That’s an interesting lesson).
11. Have folders within the student folders divided by the MMSR (Maryland Model For School Readiness) topics so that papers can be easily filed and then easily referenced later when I have to bubble in their scores.

MMSR. There’s a whoooooole other thorn in my side. So, yes, all the teachers of older grades have to feel the wrath of Stanford 10s and MSA. But, we little Pre-K’s are not to be left out of the standardized testing mania. We have the MMSR. And, since most of my students can barely hold a pencil, let alone read, I do the bubbling. All the bubbling. That’s 18 names, races, title 1 statuses, previous schoolings, birthdates, and student numbers. Then I rate them on dozens of skills, from social prowess (can empathize with others) to social studies (understands why we have rules), etc. Math, Language Arts, Science, Arts and Physical Education are in there too. What a process that was. We do it in the fall, winter and spring. So, I have two more times to look forward to.

Probably one of the happiest moments of my recent past was this last Sunday. I cried a lot on Sunday. Thanksgiving was good… too good. Sunday hit with too much reality: going back to school on Monday, my favorite holiday being over, a ridiculous project for Johns Hopkins, and a lot of financial worries suddenly coming to the surface. So, after hours of crying, complaining, stressing, I ended up sitting across from Jaren at our little dining room table for 2 at 2 in the afternoon. He had made me tea (bless his soul) when he heard all the crying. Then he swallowed the Polish pudding I had made and we just complained some more. But in a “Well, here we are. Let’s laugh because we’re out of tears” way. We even discussed how the dude flying the hospital helicopter (which lands a few buildings over) had it easy. Now, there’s a job that doesn’t require half the… energy? persistence?… that ours does. I ended up happy, just for a bit, and oddly content (resigned?).

I just want it to be Christmas.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's The Middle of November

And I'm more tired than I have ever been or thought I could be. And not just in the sleepy sense. Just exhausted all around. I just want it to be Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

See My Kids Run Circles Around Spot

I started this blog a few days ago…

I am currently sitting in the library at school while my kids watch a movie. The librarian is gone today, so we have a sub instead. The kids are watching a movie about Spot, as in “See Spot Run.” The thing is, that’s so below my kids. I mean, yes, for independent reading those Spot books are about on-level, and if you look up the movie I’m sure it says that it’s developmentally appropriate for 4 year olds. But my kids are so much smarter than this.

That’s actually something I run into a lot with the whole “pre-kindergarten/4 year-olds” thing. When I tell people you teach pre-kindergarteners, or even clarify that they are 4 years old, I often get the reaction “Oh! They’re babies! You have the babies!” or, “Oh, that must be so easy and fun! Just coloring all day…” First off, HA! (to both parts). Babies they are definitely not. My kids know more about the world than you can imagine. They “cheers” each other with their water glasses at snack time, they congratulate each other on a good job, they know if someone needs help and how to give them advice on doing class work, they (sadly) know who’s in jail in their family and why they are “locked up,” they know to give someone a tissue when they are crying, they know when others are making fun of them, and they have major anxiety about doing a worksheet wrong. We do science experiments, make KWL charts, discuss community leaders and have writer’s workshop. They are bright, brilliant, motivated and can run circles around Spot.

Well, now that that’s out, the rest should be quick…

The good… I had my first formal observation about a week and a half ago. Everyone has one of these and the process is kind of intense. That’s actually something that TFA did NOT prepare us for – all the important evaluation stuff at our own schools. At the beginning of the year we had to fill out an individual development plan listing our goals for the year and how we plan on continuing to develop. Then, we had a pre-observation meeting where the principal and I discussed the lesson she would be observing and some aspects of our class, such as what they are learning long-term and how they are being assessed. All the teachers also got a looooooong list of things that they need to have in their classrooms, like the standards and objectives visible, student work folders readily available, the Maryland State Curriculum and any anecdotal notes. Then, the principal observed me, taking notes on everything from my teaching style and how organized I was with materials beforehand, to how well the classroom is set up and whether lessons are differentiated for students at different levels.

I thought the lesson went pretty well – we reviewed what we knew about pumpkins from a reading earlier in the week, and then opened up pumpkins in two centers. In the first center I helped students use their 5 sense to explore the pumpkins and build up vocabulary while in the other center my educational aide guided the students through predicting how many seeds are in a pumpkin and then counting the actual number. Earlier this week my principal finally went over the lesson with me and basically gave me a stellar review. She said that she was actually excited to do my write-up, that I had the kids well-engaged and expanded on previous knowledge while also pushing them with new knowledge. She said my classroom is really conducive to young learners, including my colorful bulletin boards and the way tables are set up.

I made a comment about how I had a great group of students this year and she countered with this – even though a group of students might be the best in the world, they will only continue to be good with a good teacher, so I shouldn’t discount my part in it. The best thing she said was that she was really glad I had joined the staff. I’ve been feeling so blessed that I could the position I did at such an amazing school with great staff support and students, so hearing that I’m a welcome and needed member was so fulfilling to hear. Basically… yay!

Now for the improvement part. I need to get better at assessments. I feel like the Open Court assessments are both difficult to administer and are sometimes off-point on what it actually being taught. I actually talked with my savior/the veteran Pre-K teacher next door about how Open Court teaches lessons. For example, we’ve started actual lessons on the ABCs this week, like what each letter is, what sound it makes, a word that starts with it, and writing the letter. However, Open Court breezes through one letter a day. Ridiculous. The kids don’t learn anything. I was already concerned myself but then Ms. Best-Pre-K-Teacher-Ever once again blew my mind with her expertise – she doesn’t follow the Open Court curriculum on this part. So, I’m following suit and spending about 4 days on a letter and planning on looping back once we’re done. So, of course, the assessments expect my kids to be 100% good on A through E at the end of this unit, based on a letter-a-day time frame. Further, I feel like when I do have to enter grades, I’m pulling from too many sources. I have an anecdotal notes tracker, the Open Court assessments and then a billion random worksheets and projects that have B, D or P etched into the corner (Beginning, Developing or Proficient). I need a better way to synthesize all this, but I don’t know yet. Basically, Open Court is sucking. Ugh.

One recent thing that I think will be a big improvement – I recently did my Unit 2 plan for Math, Science and Social Studies (it lays out what I should be teaching each week during unit 2 for those subjects). This time, I added a component where I went through and wrote down all the things I’m going to need for each week. For example, I know that for week 18 I need a book on Abe Lincoln, since the kids really react well to books during Social Studies lessons. I plugged all those into my planner. Now, when I settle down to lesson plan each Sunday night I won’t be scrambling to find all those extra resources at the last minute! Again, yay!

Ok, time to go try to find ways to entertain Eric. He’s visiting for the next couple of weeks and I’ve already been a sucky hostess.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Numb is the new deep... in a good way.

Sam, my friend and early childhood teacher/former writer/fellow corps member (that’s a mouthful) said she heard that something happens after Halloween and the kids are never the same. In a bad way. Suddenly they reappear as slightly to severely worse behaved versions of themselves. That’s the most scared I’ve been in regard to Halloween in about a decade.
I think it’s entirely possible and more just a reflection of them losing that last bit of new-teacher, new-class innocence. I blogged a while ago that they were becoming more comfortable. We have reached a whole new level of comfort now. Yes, there are more misbehaviors. But also, their own unique personalities are really coming out. Each one is no longer just a ball of tears and wistful play-dough dreams.
First, there’s George and Weezy. There are 17 kids, only 4 tables, which means that one of the tables has 5 kids crammed into it. And these two are the craziest pair. They fight alllll the time. Yet they only want to play with each other. The boy is the smallest kid in class, and definitely the farthest (furthest? Where is my AP stylebook…) behind academically, but he tries so hard. He’s the baby of the class, and whenever I get tired of students talking over me or some of the more mature ones trying to get each other in trouble, I just look at his baby face, pick him up and he giggles. And the girl (Weezy) is my little miss attitude. She is VERY particular, mostly only talks in a whisper, and is basically a 50-year-old woman in the body of a 4 year old. They argue about who needs more elbow room, and he always tries to sit next to her or hold her hand and she screams “No! I don’t like that!” Then, five seconds later, she’s following him into the blocks area or standing right behind him in line. Sometimes she just flips out and starts crying (perhaps because he put the corner of his paper too close to hers) and he just looks at me with pleading eyes and says, “I want to play with her. But I don’t know how!”
Then, there’s my teacher’s understudy. This little girl used to be the biggest behavior problem. Now she chants the rules all the time, herds the rest of the students, and even makes random teacher calls, such as “You’re going to get moved to orange.” I’ve even heard her mimic me, turning to her table buddy and saying in a familiar singsong voice, “Oh wow. Good job! You did really good on this.” She says she wants to be a teacher. It makes me ecstatic. She’s also been the surprise. We are taught throughout TFA training not to pre-judge students. Our mantra is that every child can and will succeed. I fully believed this about every student, but I can admit that going in I started to feel like the road to success would be just a bit harder for some. Teacher understudy was one of those. Her behavior was terrible and she came into school with far fewer knowledge than many of the others. But somewhere, it just clicked for her. Her behavior has completely turned around. And, she is one of the brightest in class. She comes over to my desk during snack time to remind me of little facts that she has picked up. The other day at lunch she looked up at me, pointed to her eyes and said “Sight!” This is from our unit on the 5 senses not long ago. I just beamed.
I wish I could pinpoint where changes to her, and others, happened. Then I’d know I was a successful teacher. But I don’t know. It just seems like a miraculous gift that they are actually learning things. I guess that’s what keeps me going back, even when I have really rough days, like earlier this week.
Over the weekend one of my best friends, Celeste, finally came out to Baltimore. This was extremely special for a multitude of reasons. When I found out about TFA and moving, I had a lot of fear about my friendship with Celeste going the way of many, normal long-distance friendships (i.e. a card at Christmas and an occasional hi on Facebook). And I got really needy. But Celeste has been completely amazing. She calls me all the time, even when I don’t call her back for several days because I’m bogged down with the madness here. And she’s sent me countless little reminders of her friendship and faith in me – such as “good luck” flowers, and some of my favorite jewelry. She’s so thoughtful, and I just wanted to show her a good time here and make her realize how grateful I am for her always being so persistent and patient in our friendship. When she left on Monday I was the saddest I’ve been in months.
Feeling sad scares the crap out of me. Thankfully, moving here has been a lot easier on my heart than I thought it would be. There’s a lot here to love and a lot to keep me distracted from missing Arizona. But just in general, I tend to run away from feelings. Sad feelings, complicated feelings, even romantic feelings. I’ve been running from them all for about a year (which was the last time that I really felt them in any sort of magnitude. Back then, when Eric was ignoring me and I was breaking up with Derek, I felt them far too much, so now I’m on the other end of the spectrum). I guess we’ll see how this winter fares. Feeeelingssss. Either way, there isn’t much time to be sad. First, because I’m too busy and too focused right now (I have 17 little people counting on my every day). Second, because those 17 little people can make you smile like crazy every day. It’s the little things. Last week during lunch I helped some of the other teachers in the school hang fall-colored leaves and pumpkins down the main hall of our wing. The teacher that made them had a few left over so she let me put them up in my classroom. When the kids came back in and saw the leaves hanging from the ceiling, there was such an uproar you would have thought I’d commissioned da Vinci to paint a mural in our classroom. Oohs and Aahs. And some priceless comments: “I love this! Thank you for doing this for us Ms. F!” and “It’s beeeeeauitful!”
I wish I could make adults happy that easily.