365 Days

It has been exactly 365 days since I started my student teaching blog, The View from Student Teaching. One year and so much has changed! One year ago I wrote:

“One month from now I begin a journey the will either be the springboard to a great career in teaching or a total flop that leaves me in dark about what my job is really all about. 30 days until I am almost on my own in a sea of small people constantly in need of something from me. I think I am ready. I guess we will see!”

Boy was in for a shock! Then I was so young and knew so little. I had no clue that one of the best things that have happened to me was about to start. Since then, I really have gone off that “springboard” into the best job I could have. One year and I have learned more than I never ever knew I needed to learn. So many great people have I met in the last year. So many learning experiences where those people helped me see that failing once only means next time I can do it right! 

I learned first hand what it means when people say the ones who are hardest to love often need it the most. I learned that I can actually be a teacher and down right decent one, at that. I learned that sometimes being a person comes before being a teacher and sometimes being a stickler comes before being a person. 

I learned from some of the greatest people. 365 days is long time. Some of it dragged but most disappeared so quickly I can hardly imagine that it was real. One year ago, I was so filled with fear, confusion, and anxiety over a multitude of imagined horror scenarios. Now, I can look forward to the next day with confidence that the world won’t end because I make stupid rookie mistakes. 

I am so thankful for everyone that has stuck with me through this first year. I promise the stories will never stop and I won’t go back to where I was before. I promise that I will get better with each passing day. I have to. What choice do I have when I am surrounded by those people that changed me for the better? I have to give as much as they gave me, even from the beginning when they probably asked themselves what on God’s earth they had gotten themselves into. 

A year of progress isn’t easy and neither is a year of learning from repeated failures but I look back and know for sure it was absolutely worth every minute. 

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102 Questions 

Forget 20 Questions! Welcome to 102 Questions! It’s the game where your previous student teacher asks you more questions than you ever expect and she continues to ask them long after graduation and well into her first year teaching at the school down the street!

It’s a pretty exciting and high-stakes game if you ask said student teacher…

It is official that I have asked my mentor teacher enough questions to fill 23 pages in the notebook she and her classroom aide have me for Valentine’s Day. 102 questions about kids, parents, and being a teacher! I thought I might take this opportunity to share with you some of the most important answers she gave to my questions. I think sharing with my readers (many of whom are teachers, future teachers, or student teachers) the advice she has given me that has helped me more than either of us can ever know is one good way to keep the goods things coming in our schools!

Question 18- How do you figure out how to stop and think for a minute about what you should do or what is going on?

Practice. 

This answer made me feel a whole lot better about myself because she reminded me that I wasn’t going to be perfect right away and that it was okay not to be. It takes time to learn a skill like teaching. 

Question 20- Should I move so so many clips in that short of a time?

If you set up those rules then that is what you should enforce.

We used clips to manage student behavior. They moved up or down depending on their following the rules. It makes sense that when you tell students what you expect and they do not follow it that there are negative consequences. Even if the whole group gets that consequence, you have to stick to you guns. 

Question 26- What do you wish you had known when you first started teaching!

Classroom management.

I cannot remember what she said to expand on that but I could see it every day in her planning and implementation of the procedures and rules she set up. She was consistent and it made a huge difference in the students’ behavior. 

Question 35- How do you make judgments about situations you did not see? Example: boys pushing each other in the restroom. 

Give them the benefit of the doubt…

I don’t like this answer because I want students to be honest with me and own up to their misbehavior but being 100% honest, that is never going to happen for many of them. It makes sense and I have given my students the benifit of the doubt many times already. I simply say that I did not see it happen but in the future it should not happen. It seems to work for quite a few of them. 

Question 39- How do you determine if a situation is beyond your ability to deal with it on your own? When does it become necessary to involve the principal?

If parents hear about it and would have a problem with it. 

This came after the first time I saw her take a student to the office and not handle the situation on her own. After having gone to my building principal’s office deal with something out of my control, it makes sense. If it seems like something a parent would have a major issue with, better be safe than sorry. 

Question 72- How do get to the point where your room is quiet while you are doing an activity?

Just keep going and do not acknowledge students who talk out. Tell them, “I am waiting for you to get quiet.” Say, “okay, I’ll wait.” And watch the clock. For every second they talk they loose that much recess.

I included this answer because it proved worthwhile in my class today. We were playing a place value beat-the-teacher game that my students love! They were all so excited they could not stay quiet. Before I showed them the card, I said, “I am waiting for you to get quiet.” They took a minute to settle down but all in all it worked pretty well and I wasn’t shouting over and over again. It works with lining up too. My students are down to only four seconds of missed recess. Rather than three minutes we lost on the third day of school. 

Question 81- (this is probably the most important question I asked her all semester long. I have written about it before but felt it necessary to say it again.) Why did you become a teacher and why do you stay after so many aweful things happen?

Kids need stability. I am always going to be here. 

Even when the world seems to have forgotten some students, it is the teacher’s role to make them feel worthwhile. To show up for them every day means that someone cares enough to get out of bed for them and believe me some days I might be the only one willing to get out of bed for that student. This one really hits me every day when my students tell me about not seeing their mom or dad every day or how they live with someon who is not their parent. 

It’s a tough world, especially for kids, and I am forever greatful that I have someone to ask about the tough stuff I can’t answer on my own. 102 questions later and I still don’t know everything but I am getting there! Small steps make a big difference and every answer puts me closer to where I want to be! 

Applications are not supposed to make you cry! 

I just filled out application #11 after my mentor teacher emailed me to tell me the school district I student taught in had openings. I emailed it in at 2:04 this morning. It is now 2:18. And I have to work tomorrow morning! 

While I was filling out the application questions, I teared up a little thinking about my students from student teaching and my mentor teacher. One question On the application asked me what skills or abilities I would bring to the school. It brought me back to a moment during student teaching where I had a terrible day. It was the only day I cried in front of my mentor teacher. I felt like I had failed and couldn’t really do this. Because she is so fantastic and somehow has it figured out just how to make everything feel right, she started telling me stories about times when things did not go the way she planned and did not work out. I remember thinking at the time, at least today wasn’t that bad. Later I asked her why she stayed after all of the aweful stuff she told me about happened. Why put yourself through these situations over and over? 

Her answer is always on my mind: because these kids need someone there for them every day and she is that person. 

I almost cried again right then and there but I was able to hold it in because I was so bewildered by the simplicity in her logic. It all made sense. Why, every day, teachers put themselves through terribly rough stuff; because students need teachers who are there for them always. 

From that day forward I made a conscious effort to be there for them. To listen when they talked about video games or sports I don’t understand the rules to. To hug them for as long as they need because for some of these kids who else listens, who else hugs? In the mornings when they would come up and tell me every detail of their day after school, I listened. I didn’t send them back to the coat closet to put their things up right away. I hugged. I let them talk. Because they need to know I am there and I care. And I learned more about them that last month than the rest of the semester. 

I am not so sure if I would have ever come to the same conclusion if it had not been for my teacher putting it so simply. In the face of all the chaos that happens every day, she saw that. I cannot express how lucky I have been to have her by my side. I cannot express how lucky I am that she said that. I know things will be tough but I have to be tougher because there are kids out there who need someone to be tough for them and to listen to them and to care about them. Goodness knows that rest of the world doesn’t do such a good job at that.