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.”