The Final Post

Thinking for three days has done nothing to spark any creative way to end this blog. The year is over and it’s time to close this book. Don’t worry the sequel will come out in August but this story is over. 

It has been a story of stress and learning but mostly this year has been one of friendship and belonging. I expected a year long job, doing my best to make it through my year in (what I sometimes referred to it as) fourth grade purgatory. What I needed up with was something strangely different. I ended up with people who are family. I may never look on back on my first class fondly with memories of laughing and good times but I will see my school family and smile. 

I will remember the after school chips and salsa runs several times a week. I will remember laughing about bicycles in the school building and me trying to sport. I will think about the way this group of strangers took me in, took care of me, guided me, and made me feel like I belonged. 

I can count on one hand the places I have truly felt part of and my school numbers at the top. These are the people who have seen my actual worst and still want me around. 

Thanks for a great year, thanks for the memories, and here’s to years more! 

One last time for the year; I love you all! 

Love is Peach-Os and Post Its: The Honest Account of My 179 School Days 

I started the school year alone, in a grade I hated, at a school with problems. It was my only option. No other school wanted me and I was thrown in a week before the kids arrived. 

At the end of my first day I cried from the moment I sat down in my car until I fell asleep. I could hear my parents wondering downstairs if I would even go in the next day. That went on every day for a week. My parents, who never let me quit a thing in my life, told me they would support my decision to quit. After that first week, I cut it down to every other day for the next month; then about once a week. By fall break, I had managed to make most of myself numb to it all. 

I knew I couldn’t leave. Mrs. K. had put too much on the line for me to just up and leave. I owed it to a group of kids whos’ families up and leave whenever they choose, to stay put. I made it through countless days telling myself I only had to do it for a year. I could do 180 days (179 of you remember my one sick day). I even applied for another job… I spent almost the whole year wanting to be somewhere else. I spent the whole year squatting in a room that didn’t feel like it was really mine. I didn’t move the furniture much. I barely moved the desks. 

Most people would, at this point, mention how they wish they hadn’t spent a year moping. I don’t regret it. I really, actually don’t. 

The numb started going away little by little. It was gradual and I didn’t notice it. I did notice the little bits of kindness that the others teachers showed me day after day. I couldn’t possibly have been fun to be around during that time but everyone kept me feeling like I belonged. 

Week days ending in Mexican food, Fridays laughing with so many good people, after hours laps around the school, watching sports, and holding babies… I ended up falling in love with my job, with my school, with the ridiculous weirdos I work with. 

Today was my first last day. Yesterday, I fell apart. The people around me stood up. They did what amazing people do and I did show up for work today. I spent the day being loved by my kiddos and thanking my amazing role models. 

Two or three of my students smiled ear to ear over their goofy award I gave them. I talked to them about making good choices and being ready for fifth grade. One student I fought with, scolded, took recess from, took to the office, who flipped me off approximately 9,000 times throughout the year, cried when I talked to them. The day ended with me tearing up holding some perfect gifts and being surrounded by my perfect friends. 

I know now that as teachers, we get into teaching for the kids but we stay because of the teachers. 

Your first year in the job, you learn something new every day. Every day this year, I learned that nothing is more important than the good people who smother you with love even when you know you are being hard to love. 

Love is post-its. Love is peach-os. It doesn’t let you fall without being there to help you back up. It’s there when you need it most and it’s still there when you think you can do it alone. Love is what makes us happy. 

I know I’m not going to love every day of this job. I’m just not. I won’t say it’s my dream job because it’s not. I will say, I found my dream team. The perfect group of crazies, weirdos, nerds, and wackos make it worth the shouting, office visits, flip offs, lies, tattling, and throwing things. 

If you can find your dream team, do. Stay with it. It’s worth it. 179 days have gone by since the first time I thought about quitting. I’ve wanted to almost every day since, sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve realized that the kids are why I do this, the teachers are the reason I stay. 

What Teachers Do After School

I was feeling a little stressed and my ridiculously goofball co-workers and I got into a running, shouting, throwing stress balls fight. I spent about 10 minutes creeping from one room to another teacher’s room and chucking small things through the door and running away. That happened until she waited at the door and chased me out by throwing stress balls at me. We ran from connected room to connected room throwing things… 

Finally, when we got ready to leave I waited inside another doorway and jumped out at her… 

I love these nutburgers to death! 

A Few Words

Though I’ve really only known them since January, two of my best coworkers have been so ridiculously supporting and encouraging I just have to write to thank them! 

So Mrs. S. and Mrs. J., thanks! 

Yesterday I went off the edge of sanity a little bit… It was pretty embarrassing but it happened. Mrs. S. said that she had noticed how much better I am at keeping the kids under my thumb. I am so thankful she took the time to talk to me and to calm me down a little. 

Mrs. J. reminded me that everywhere you go you will have coworkers but you won’t always find family. Family… that’s the best way to put my feelings for my fellow teachers. 

I’m feeling better and I have decided that instead of squatting in my classroom like I have all year, I am going to make it look the way I want it to before summer. I can’t leave the year not liking where I am. I just have to make more choices to be happy. 

I love all the people I work with and I think right at this moment in my life I have to choose my dream team over my dream job… It’s a tricky place to be deciding between two things you love but instead of letting it pull me apart anynore, I’m making the choice to be happy with one of those things. I’m not sure I would be happy without my school family and that makes me realize that I won’t always like my job. I may not even be able to find anything I like about it but the people who work with me. 

The people at my school are seriously amazing and I could not do life without them! 

Thoughts Before the Field Trip 

Laying in bed praying about my first field trip… 

God,

Please don’t let that one student bring her permission slip tomorrow! We’ve already made plans and it’s all good! 

If she goes… I don’t! 

God, if any of those kids say a word about me eating pretzels or drinking water on the bus to keep myself from getting motion sickness, I’m intentionally going to throw up on that one… please forgive me in advance…

Please don’t let anybody die… 

Please don’t let anybody escape… 

Please help me live through the anxiety of letting other people try to keep my class from dying…

Give me strength to make it through the day without having to eat school sack lunch…

Lord, have mercy on the student who decides to steal from the gift shop because mercy will be the last thing they get from me… 

Please keep my students from putting their mouths on other students, to bite them or otherwise… 

Give me patience so when I hear, “when’s lunch” for the 100th time before 10 a.m. I don’t loose my mind on anyone…

Please keep me from failing because yolo and that means everyone will remember everything I did wrong for the rest of my existence… 

Amen. 

Grading Re-Evaluation 

I have felt all year like I have not been doing my class justice in terms of grading and keeping my students responsible for their grades. I have been doing research about standards based grading and motivating students to feel responsible for their work. So many of my students are not motivated by their grades. I made a resolution to plan a better way for my students to track their assignments and be accountable for their learning. 

I know I have been part of the problem by not making sure completing work is required. I have not made sure everyone turns in all assignments and learns what they need to learn. Many of my students are just taking the failing grades and moving on. It cannot happen again next year. 

So I have come up with the beginnings of a plan. First I labeled each of my students as motivated and unmotivated based on my observations throughout the year. I was surprised to see that the lists were pretty close to even. I really thought the unmotivated list would be a lot longer. I separated them in order to see if there was a difference in grades between the motivated and unmotivated students. 

Then I planned the whole week. Every assignment. I gave each of them a point value. Then I decided to level each amount of points like a video game. Since my week has 60 points total in math, I decided every 6 points would be a level up. So if after the first assignment the student gets 7 points they would now be level one. After the second assignment they might get 3 points and they are still level 1. If they get less than 75% on an assignment they must redo the assignment. 

So instead of feeling like they are loosing points on each assignment, they will gain points and level up. Every time they redo an assignment the first score goes away and is replaced by the new score. It all works the way a video game does. Each student has a score card in their binder where they track their points per assignment and points over time. 

I haven’t decided if there will be some kind of reward at each level or what. I am going to experiment next week with my kiddos. We’all see…