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. 

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… 

The Dungeon 

Once there was young Queen who lived in a kingdom she ruled alone. She ruled as fairly and consistently as she could. Many of her subjects were pleased to do the hard work required to keep the kingdom functioning and their fellow subjects happy. Many of the subjects did their jobs, earned for themselves, and went about their lives in peace. There was one small group of subjects who tried to stir rebellion among the other subjects. They would often come together and attempt to take over the queen’s castle. One would distract the queen and her knights out in the forrest while the other scaled the castle walls trying to find a way in. It was a constant battle for the queen, trying to keep her kingdom running smoothly. She often feared that the rebels were those closest to her. She was afraid the servants on her castle were helping plan the attacks. 

One evening, as the queen was resting after a day full of battling the rebels, she became so distressed she could not sleep. Wandering the halls of her castle, she fretted. She found her way to a high tower where she stopped to look out over the village below. Something must be done but she feared it was not in her power to fix the troubles she was facing. 

She wrote to several queens in nearby kingdoms. They replied with letters of encouragement and carefully crafted jokes to assure the young queen of her power and goodwill. Those kind words pushed the queen through weeks of continuous fighting with the rebels. 

One morning, the queen went to the great hall to check in on her servants. One of the maids had paused in her work. She stared up at the queen with hatred in her small eyes. As the queen started forward to admonish the servant, a flash of light filled the room. All of the servents stopped and gaped. The light faded. The queen looked toward the source of the light. 

A beautiful woman stood in the center of the great hall. She was dressed in a silver robe that glittered like stars reflected in a waterfall. Her crown was fitted with thousands of diamonds. She faced the queen. 

“Salutations, my dear queen.” 

The woman’s voice was clear as a bell yet strange. She must have come from a far away land. She looked from side to side surveying the room. Her eyes paused for a brief moment on the angry servant girl before stopping in the queen. 

“I have traveled here to speak with you about the trouble that has fallen on your kingdom. Every good queen has a fairy godmother and I am here to help. Should there be any citizen who chooses not to follow your law, you may send them to me and I shall place them in my dungeon.” 

The young queen smiled to the fairy godmother and thanked her from the bottom of her heart. As the young queen approached the fairy godmother, the servant girl cried out.

“It is unfair! It is not fair that she sits quietly in this large house while we are forced to work!” The girl rushed forward, “I would rather be in a dungeon than in this castle!”

The fairy godmother smiled at the young girl, “you would choose to live in my dungeon rather than here in the light? Here in this beautiful castle where there is plenty to eat and warm beds to rest in? The dungeon is a cold, dark place. If you choose to go, that is your choice but know that if you stay you will stop stirring up trouble among the others in this kingdom. The choice is yours.” 

The servant girl smiled, “I will go to the dungeon.”

With a puff of smoke, the servant girl disappeared. The other servants looked at the spot she had been standing. They looked quite concerned. 

The fairy godmother spoke, “anyone else who wishes to live in the dungeon of my castle may but know that you will never be able to return to the splendor of this place. On the stroke of midnight three nights from this, I will return taking anyone who choses to go.” 

With that the fairy godmother smiled and nodded to the queen the disappeared. 

The young queen watched her servants carefully over the next two days. Some discussed the possibility of leaving. Most determined that life in the castle must be better than life in a dungeon. 

On the afternoon of the third day, there was knock at the castle door. An old woman stumbled through the door when one of the servants answered it. The woman asked if she could speak with the queen. She asked the queen for somewhere to stay and something to eat. 

“Of course,” the queen answered, “we have many beds here and plenty to eat. Please sit, I will have someone bring you dinner.” 

The old woman ate and rested. The queen looked in to make sure the old woman was doing well. 

The day went on and midnight came. The servants, the queen and the old woman gathered in the grand hall, awaiting the arrival of the fairy godmother. The castle clock rung twelve and she appeared. In the candlelight, the fairy godmother shone brilliantly. Her robe and crown sparkled silver and gold. 

“Salutations,” her bright eyes flashed around the room, “before I ask for those of you who wish to come with me, shall I show you something?” 

She reached out from under her robe and waved a magic wand toward the old woman standing near the queen. The old woman seemed to melt away. In her place, the servant girl stood. She dropped to her knees before the queen. 

“I am sorry. So sorry for what I have done. As a stranger, you showed kindness to me. The same kindness you showed to me as a servant before I went to the dungeon. Before I betrayed you. Please take me back. This place is far better than anywhere I have seen.”

The queen was unsure of what to say. She looked to the fairy godmother for advice. The fairy simply smiled and raised her eyebrows. 

“The choice is yours. She may come back to the castle if you please or she and anyone else who feels life would be better elsewhere may come back with me.”

The queen looked from the fairy godmother to the servant girl, “the choice is yours. If you chose to come back you may, but know that you are not free from the consequences of your choices. You shall serve the people of the town. Anyone who asks for help you must help. Anyone you see or hear in need of anything you will respond with kindness and care. If you choose not to, you go back to the dungeon. What choice will you make?” 

The servant girl looked up to the queen and the fairy godmother. With a relieved sigh she agreed. The next hundred years in the kingdom were years of peace and prosperity. The servant girl’s helpfulness and caring brought joy to the queen’s subjects. The queen ruled fairly but firmly with the fairy godmother supporting her and guiding her. 

Of course, mistakes were made but those who remembered that time in history chose to learn from those mistakes and accept the consequences of their actions. For those who can accept that their fate is their choice are the ones who succeed despite their circumstances. 

Weekend Work and the Survey

I surveyed my students anonymously about how they felt about school, the staff, and me. I felt pretty good when only 3/23 students said false to, “My teacher is a good teacher.” When I asked the students what they thought about our school most of them chose the positive answer choices. It was pretty refreshing to hear that my students don’t hate school, each other, and me as much as I thought they did.

I have spent Friday night and tonight looking over the data scanning for patterns. Something is a little depressing about that fact. It makes me feel better about some things and worse about others. The political scientist in me loves comparing all these numbers! I even had a another teacher ask for it!

 

Genius Hour

My students have been working extra hard on a preference based independent research project while were not taking ISTEP+ this week. It has been so great. One student wanted to do her project on the first artist. It has been so wonderful watching her learn about cave paintings and different famous cave paintings.

I asked her today if she expected to learn what she did. She said, “no but this is so much cooler! I thought I would learn about Picasso or something but these cave paintings are so cool!”

I love that this project gave her a new perspective on learning. She never knew that this information was out there and it just took a little push to help her learn something that interested her. I love teaching. I love that I have the opportunity to guide students in their learning without spoon feeding it to them.

The Day of Love

Valentine’s Day was a mixed bag. Actually, it was like a big box of chocolates that doesn’t have the key to tell you which chocolates are which. One moment, things are moving smoothly then bam! what was that? Chocolate with coconut in it? 

The students came in really relaxed about putting their valentine cards on the counter and their treats on the other side. They did their work all day with no crazy holiday behavior nonsense. 

At recess, a student came up to me and said hello. Then she ran away. Maybe five minutes later she came back up to me and said, “is it okay to be a lesbian?” 

I’m sorry, what? 

Where in the fourth grade did that come from? What in the fourth grade am I supposed to say to that? Thankfully, two and half summers at church camp have canned my answer to a solid don’t respond to the premise of the question. 

“That’s something you should discuss with your mom. She can help you make up your mind about that.” After a brief pause to let that sink in I added, “you still have to be nice to everyone.”

She looked at me a little concerned and assured me it wasn’t her that thought she was a lesbian. After she walked away, I looked at the other teacher and asked her if in fourth grade girls even like boys… She replied that if the girls looked around at some of the boys in fourth grade they would probably think they don’t like boys. 

I said if they were smart, the girls would look at the boys grades and run the other way! 

We’re not always the nicest people but we’re not the worst… Happy Valentines Day. 

Small 

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?