Decent

My principal and our data coach came into my room today while I was working with my kids on our writing. I had a poster up with emojis and hand motions to illustrate what each part of their essay should look like; introduction, body, and conclusion. The students were writing when they came in. They were a little noisy but when the principal walked in they got quiet. 

I was walking around helping them write their conclusions. One student, who probably hasn’t done a lick of work all year, was doing nothing. The principal spent some time getting him working. She took some photos of my poster and then they left. I tried to focus on getting my kids work done correctly. 

It seemed decent while the principal and data coach were there.  I will have to ask tomorrow. I felt pretty good but I know I’m not perfect. Hopefully, it was decent. 

SmallĀ 

Sometimes there are days when you feel very small. Like nothing you do is really making a difference. You reach the point where you wonder if you are just bad at the thing you are doing. 

I tell my students that no one is good at something the first time they try it. But my job isn’t simple math. It isn’t adding fractions. My job is make sure kids learn what they need to at age 10 to survive at age 11 so that can survive at all other ages. It isn’t even about being successful in their careers at this point. Yes, they will need these skills in their jobs but more importantly they will need these things just to be a person. 

If I can’t do this right the first time I don’t get another chance to. Not for these kids. Maybe next years but for the ones I have now if I fail them I fail them and there’s no going back. It makes me feel small. I can’t really change things for them. 

If 78% of your students fall below the rest of the grade level, does that mean you can do this job? Does that mean you should? 

What I Like about Fourth

I am finding more and more things I like about teaching fourth grade. The school year is officially more than halfway over (even if just by one day) and I wanted to take the opportunity to write about what I have learned so far and the things I have found that I really do like. 

The things I like:

Science and history projects. I give my students projects in science and history each week instead of busy work and memorization. I am trying to teach them to learn for themselves, problem solve, and explore new things. Ultimately, in a person’s life there will come a time when they stop researching science and history unless they are interested in it. One way I hope to keep my students reading and learning about science and history is by giving them the tools to explore it on thier own. Obviously, not all of them are so into it but it gets more involvement than most other things we do. 

When kids say, “I am going to tell my mom/dad/grandparent about this.”

“Good, you do that,” is always my response for any age student. The best part of saying it to upper elementary kids is that once they get to thinking about how they are going to tell their parents they realize they can’t do it without admitting they are wrong. Even if they outright lie, they will eventually have to reveal their own mistakes in what happened. 

Seeing the progress they make. 

I always argued that I wanted to teach younger grades for many reasons. One of the reasons I always listed was that you can really see the progress they make. I won’t ever argue that point again. You can still see very concrete evidence that things are moving forward even with upper elementary. You might have to look harder but in comparing work from five months ago to work now there are major differences.

The things I have learned:

I am learning to do things my way. 

I like rules. I like set schedules and specific directions. I like being told what I should do when and how to do it best. I spent my student teaching asking what the best way to do everything was. Now, I am learning to do it my way. I am figuring out how to make decisions and how to cope with making the ones that don’t turn out right. I still ask for help and bother everyone around me for advice, but I am nearly comfortable with letting my own brain decide what is best. 

I am learning to be tough, yet not so hard on myself. 

I  was told over and over at the beginning of this year that I would never make it through the year if I didn’t toughen up. If I let every little incident get under my skin and into my brain, I would never make it to the next day, let alone through the next day. I can’t let every moment I don’t figure out how to get students to follow the rules drive me to tears. Moments will go by where I haven’t figured it out. I have to let those be part of the whole problem instead of an entirely new problem all in itself. 

I am learning that there are good things that come in disrepectful, mouthy, and unmedicated packages. 

One student above all tries my last ounce of patience, self-control, and maturity. This student does little work, plays in class often, and tends to drag others into trouble. It is never far from my mind throughout the day how frustrated I am with this student from nearly the first moment I see her in the morning. Yet at the end of the day, I look back and shake my head. Something about this student has me rooting for her. Something tells me, deep deep (I mean way deep) down, good things will come from her if she can figure out how to use that stubborn, sneaky intelligence for something other than being stubborn and sneaky. 

Really wonderful people (who I am sure you are getting sick of reading about but I wouldn’t stop thinking them for all the readers in the world) have been the main reasons I am where I am. They have been hard on me when I needed it, and have given me all the advice I ask for, and have risen to the challenge that being anywhere near me creates. I think nothing more perfectly sums up my teaching and my experiences so far as this quote from the best tv show yet, 

“You frustrated me and you wore me out. But because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you…”

I just hope I never have to say the end of it…

“…and I’ll miss you.”

First Week of the Rest of the Year

I think I taught the best fourth grade lesson I have yet. It was on drawing conclusions. I borrowed some ideas for anchor charts on Pinterest. I was really able to get my point across to the kids. We are working on it during whole group reading and during small group reading. 

Today my writing lesson didn’t go as well as I thought. I read an article that hilighted the difference between having kids write a lot and explicitly teaching them writing strageties. I tried it and realized how poor my students writing skills really are… I had not a single paper that was even three mistakes from perfect. Things are worse off than I thought! 

My number one goal this quarter is to get into the habit of  grading papers as they come in instead of waiting until midterms. So far things have gone well. It’s only the second day but I think I am starting strong. 

We shall see… We shall see… 

A Kid in a Trash CanĀ 

My struggle as a teacher continued today as one of my students managed to get herself stuck in the trash can in our classroom. She claimed to have fallen in but being honest, this is not Mean Girls and people don’t just fall into trash cans. 

It was incredibly frustrating that my students might beat each other up and call each other names constantly but the second someone makes a big deal about falling in the trash they suddenly care. They all wanted to try to help her out. Well pulling her out is not going to work. This is something you have to get yourself out of. 

The other students were making such a huge deal about pulling her out she was enjoying the attention and I was about to loose it on her. Well, I didn’t have to because low and behold here is the principal standing in the door way. Way to go, Miss Haley… 

Then, this afternoon the principal came by for a surprise observation. Whether this was planned on her part or spurred by my inability to keep my students off the floor and out of the trash can. I do not know how the results of my observation will be expressed to me but my guess is it will be on the following scale-

A- Aw shoot, this girl stinks 

B- bad… Just bad…

C- crap she has no idea what she’s doing 

D- darn, we should not have hir d this one

F- the f- word… 

I imagine somewhere on that scale will be where I fall. I am not looking forward to that conference. Not one bit… 

The Ninth Week

I start my ninth week as a teacher tomorrow. I am a quarter of the way through the year. One fourth totally over with. It is really crazy to think that is where we are. I feel like I have learned so much but truly wonder how and if my students are improving. 

I find myself questioning whether or not things are what they should be. Am I too hard on them? Too easy? I feel a little lost in the shuffle. I feel like I should know more than I do but I don’t. There is a whole lot I think I am missing but I struggle to get to the point where I have time to do anything but get the next day ready. Honestly, I still don’t know what one earth I am doing! 

The Lostness Monster Feelings Are Back

I have wrote about my “lostness monster” feelings before and for a while things were getting better. I have slid backwards a little, though. I feel lost again. I am not sure what I am doing and it is beginning to show. 

I think people are going to start noticing soon that I really may not be able to do this. I am going to keep pushing forward but I feel very worried. This morning when I woke up I remembered something. 

Kids in a lot of schools will be fine without school. Their parents would teach them or hire someone to teach them. They will be happy and well rounded. They will be successful in life even if I am not there. 

If I am not there at my school, no one else will be. 

I was the only one who applied. Without me being there no one will be. I may not be overly qualified but at least I am there. 

The only problem with that logic is that my kids still need to pass fourth grade…