I believe in my students…

So for a Professional Development activity we were suppose to read two articles about believing in students and the correlation to achievement and then do a self reflection.  I came up with a three page dissertation on my belief in my students.  Haha, can we say OVER ACHIEVER…. Brown noser right here…

Any-who, it’s posted below if you have 15 minutes to kill with nothing better to do… Yes, I’m an over-sharer….

 

I truly believe in all of my students. Being a teacher with extremely high expectations of my student’s means that sometimes I question myself, or my severity with my students and the rigors I expect from them. But without these expectations, there can be chaos and uncertainty. Having a clear plan in mind for your students can be the difference between success and failure. All students have the opportunity to succeed, but they must be made to realize that with all good things, it will take hard work and perseverance.

Each of my students is expected to have clear organization and responsibility where their educational experience is concerned. Teaching students that they have control over their success in the classroom can be difficult and sometimes feel like you are pulling teeth. However, teaching students good organizational habits and responsibility can be the key to their success.

My students are expected to write all assignments down in their assignment planner each day and have it signed by a parent before returning to school the next day. Ideally, students will make check boxes next to their assignments and check off work as it is done. This way at the end of the day they will know what work and supplies will be needed to finish the days work. Students have binders that are organized and labeled so there is no question as to where things can be placed or found for easy access. They keep their planner in the front and have an Unfinished Work/Take Home Folder for any assignments incomplete; they also have an ELA (Reading, English, and Spelling) folder, math folder, science folder, and social studies folder. Any papers that have been returned graded or done together in class should go in these folders until their next test. That way they have resources to study and review from if needed.

 

Students are given homework folders on Monday with the week’s assignments. I discuss with students the various ways they can go about organizing their time to complete these assignments throughout the week, and also stress that it is their responsibility to find the best way that works for them. We also discuss the other activities that they should be working on daily or weekly, such as studying for spelling tests, reading, and practicing math facts.

Students also have Friday Folders they take home at the end of each week that contain all graded papers, along with a weekly record sheet that they must fill out telling how many “D” and “F” papers they have. I allow my student the opportunity to correct any “D” or “F” papers and turn them in for additional credit. I will take the two grades (the original and the new grade after corrections) and average them together for their new grade. This activity is two-fold in that they have the opportunity to raise their grade, but more importantly have the opportunity to go back and re-learn what they may have missed before. They can ask questions before correcting and even have a parent or older sibling help them out, thus giving them further ways to enhance their learning experiences and problem solve on their own.

All of these strategies allow students to take the, “its too hard” aspect out of education to teach them that good organization and time management is half of the battle. There is no excuse in my classroom for not asking for help. All students know that if they don’t understand one of the weekly homework assignments, it is their responsibility to go over the assignments early in the week so anything not understood can be brought back to class and questions can be asked and answered. “I didn’t understand” is not a viable excuse because they had the opportunity to be proactive in asking questions and planning ahead.

I also expect my students to write in complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization. They understand a strong sentence has at least 7-10 words, uses colorful words, adjectives, adverbs, and even sometimes, figurative language. Paragraphs are at least 3-5 sentences long and restate a question or have a topic sentence.

If I were to tell my students they didn’t have to do these things, it would be the same as telling them they can be lazy, and in the real world that’s not an option if you want to be successful or if you want to follow your passion.

I know for a fact that teaching is my passion. It can be incredibly hard, and many people demean our profession, but I truly love what I do and I wake up each morning excited to get to work and educate my students. When I began college, under no uncertain terms did I want to become a teacher. I wanted to do something great, and important, and to make a difference in the world. But as my college education wore on, I began to see it was a calling for me. I couldn’t deny my love of children and my love of life long learning. As I began to teach, I began to see that I WAS making a difference in the world. Maybe not in the global mindset that I had anticipated, but I believe that’s part of growing up. Realizing that making a difference is helping one person at a time, taking time to talk to someone and let him or her know you care for him or her, or telling him or her you believe in him or her. Teaching must be an extremely selfless act in that the teacher gets very little in return, but sharing in the achievements and goal setting of your students can be rewarding in itself.

I have spent more than 10 years in and out of various professions. Some have been in an educational setting and some not. But I have realized through my own personal struggles and questioning my purpose and direction in my professional life, that the struggle and patience I have to go through to find a long term teaching position is completely worth it to me. I have waited for a job-teaching full time in a self-contained classroom for more than 5 years, and I couldn’t be happier just to have this job. It’s hard and there are good days and bad days, and I question myself, and get frustrated with the paperwork and multitude of items on a teacher’s plate, but I wouldn’t change where I am right now for the world. It’s what I’m called to do and I will continue to do it.

The final question is where do I go from here. My answer is that I continue to do what I am doing and hold my students and myself to the high standards I have set for them and myself. If I do not demand these things of my students and myself then I am doing a disservice to us both. I said before that sometimes I feel as if I expect too much from my students or I’m too hard on them, but teaching is not necessarily a warm fuzzy experience with hugs and high fives all of the time. Sometimes it’s tough love and showing students I expect more of them. Sometimes it’s taking away the extra activity or outside time in order for students to complete an assignment that wasn’t completed the night before. And sometimes its making them walk up and down the hall until they can do it correctly, because I want to teach them dignity and pride in themselves. I am changing the world, one student at a time. I am shaping a future that I will be proud to live in with adults who take responsibility and demand the same of others. I teach.

Maybe the question is… Do you believe in me?

Wait, wha…?

You want me to what?
You want me to what?

I am exhausted. I haven’t written since the astounding announcement of my impending employment. I love having a job and going to work and the challenges my classroom presents, but man, this is hard.

I was amazingly unprepared for the insanity of all that is entailed with working in an “inner” city and public school. I don’t sleep, I leave for work at 6:30am and get home at 5:30pm. Then, after dinner I work until the girls go to bed at 8PM, but not before I check their homework or give spelling tests. I work while they fall asleep, and then until 10PM.

My weekends are filled with unending searches for the magic cure for behavior management in my classroom, only to find it’s now Sunday afternoon and I need to get my lesson plans completed for Monday and to be emailed to my supervising administrator. It’s not your normal lesson plans either: objective, common core standard alignment, focus, procedure, Special Education accommodations, and assessment focus.

There are Direct Instruction times that have to be planned out for Corrective Reading, shared reading, guided reading, centers, vocabulary and word study. Math lessons with fluency, applied problems, problem sets, exit tickets, and homework assignments.

Somebody please stop the ride, I want off for five minutes, or long enough for me to use the bathroom. I would start drinking, but I’m afraid if I started I wouldn’t stop. It would help me sleep better, but I’m not sure how effective I’d be in the morning with a hangover.

Teachers are extremely under appreciated and underpaid. Have you thanked your child’s teacher today? Do it.

Where I am now opposed to where I was then… (or less confusingly, Current Life)

So, if you don’t already know, I got a new job teaching in a primary school.  Fourth grade, pretty big school, what I would classify as inner city, and yet, I love it.  I have missed the days where I wake up wanting to go to work.  I love the feeling I get each morning when I wake up and I can’t wait to start over and try again with my kids if it was a bad day yesterday, or to continue the awesome things we did the day before.  I am insanely busy, I’ve never been to so many meetings, professional developments, and training sessions, but the adrenaline rush is enough to keep me going.  I’m exhausted, but I’m remembering what it is to push on and keep going, even after a ten hour day when I get home and the girls have work to complete, or instruments to decide on, or lunches to make for the next day. I’m in my sweet spot, and its awesome.

This is all so cliche and ridiculously ironic, but I am realizing courage comes in so many different forms.  I am paralyzingly terrified of the whole teacher evaluation process, but I am jumping in head first.  I am terrified of speaking with parents, ironic right? Isn’t it usually the parents who are terrified when the teacher calls? However, I am committed to communicating with them, whether it’s in vain or not, I will know I am doing the best I can for my students. Common core, PBIS, Kagan, ADVID; all of these new terms are being thrown at me left and right, and yet I find myself soaking it in, wanting to go to each training session to learn more, but practicing my time management skills and picking and choosing what is the most important.  Lesson planning: I have never REALLY experienced lesson planning like this. Last week was a painfully long and drawn out process that I never thought I would finish, but I did, and this week it was easier, and next week will be even easier.

All of these things are equally terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, and it’s awesome.

I can honestly say I have never worked this hard, and been this committed to a job before.  Nothing can compare to the insanity of these planning periods and team meetings, and trying to corral a abnormally small class size of sixteen, which will undoubtedly turn into twenty five after Labor Day, into learning, listening, experiencing, and exploring. This is a challenge and I’m rising to it. I can’t wait to see where this leads and how I can become better as a teacher.

If you had asked me exactly four years and sixteen days ago if I would find myself here, in this place, being OK… I would have looked at you like you were a crazy mo-fo and turned and walked away.  How could I go from that to this.  That was so ugly and nothing good would have ever come from it. But that’s how life goes, and I’m so happy with the person I’ve become.  Sure, I’m far from perfect and there is SO many other things I would change, but to become a person who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, who can see the forest for the trees, that is my ultimate. A lot of people might say its laziness or plain disinterest, but I know different. To go from a person who worries about the littlest, minute details that won’t matter tomorrow, much less in a week, is simply mind blowing to me, it’s huge. I am simply choosing not to worry about the things I can’t change, or the things that aren’t life changing. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I can see the forest for the trees, I have been through hell and back and I can distinguish the life altering from the annoyingly tolerable. And I love it.

Look at me, living and shit.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or not…

schoolsuppliesSo, I am going to do something I probably shouldn’t do, but I’m going to anyway because I had one helluva experience this weekend that I haven’t had since my oldest was in first grade.

My bestie and I were on an errand from God on Sunday.  1.) Because she was getting a new phone after almost chucking hers out the window because it wouldn’t text and other highly necessary operations that are a must for the technically connected… and 2.) because the monster needed his school supplies and there would be no other time to do it in their busy schedule before Meet Your Teacher night later in the week.

She was feeling oddly bad for me because I would be standing around in a phone store looking longingly at the phones that I couldn’t afford because I’m painfully poor and am days away from having a really professional and good paying job which will actually put me back in the economy’s middle class ranking, so she suggested we divide and conquer to make things move a little faster and be more productive.  I would drop her off at the phone store then run and get the school supplies.  Sounds easy, right?  I was excited because I don’t go with the girls, their grandmother is extremely generous in offering each year to buy their supplies for them, so I would get the experience without the stress of it being with my own children arguing over Hello Kitty folders and Frozen backpacks.

No.

No, that’s not even what happened.  When I walked into the store the school supplies were directly in front of me and the mass chaos that was ensuing was both shocking and eye-opening to me as a parent as well as a teacher.

And here is where I revolt from my fellow teachers and throw them all to the wolves.  Because we are BAD people.  I mean bad, as in were are definitely going to hell bad.

I walk up to the school lists and begin to read, thinking, not too bad, not horrible. But then I start searching for the items and realize, these are really specific items being requested on this list. (5) folders, but they must be red, blue, green, yellow, and purple. I get the plastic folders because I know my friend’s son and I think, “hey, he won’t be able to destroy these, at least not easily, right?” So I start looking for the appropriate colors and find all but a yellow.

I am defiant by nature, so when I can’t find a yellow in the plastic version I refuse to switch to the paper version.  It’s just principle now. So I get orange instead.  It’s in the yellow family, a secondary color created by its primary counter parts yellow and red.  Orange will be the new yellow.

Next I had to find specific amounts of crayons, markers, and colored pencils.  Lets be honest, none of the amounts he was supposed to have were correct, me being a teacher I’m thinking, “More is better, right?” 36 colored pencils instead of 24, 10 markers instead of 8, what could 2 additional colors hurt?

Then came the dry erase markers. I don’t disagree with the purchase of these, but when the girls are specified to bring “fine tip” and the boys “chisel tip” I draw the line.  Last time I’m brought dry erasers chisel tip was the norm so I’m thinking easy peasy. Nope, apparently fine tip is all the rage these days.  Stupid, chisel I can make a fat line or a thin line, best of both worlds, but apparently higher education is more specific in their instruction of new teachers these days.  When I was in college we had to practice writing on CHALK BOARDS people.  CHALK BOARDS.  I have a strong aversion to chalk boards.  Like I’m gonna puke if even one squeak comes from a piece of chalk and God FORBID someone scratch their nails on it. I’m gagging as we speak just thinking of it…

At this point I begin to notice I’m walking the aisle mumbling to myself, “Crayons, crayons, pointed tipped scissors, magic erasers. What the f*ck is a Magic Eraser? ”  Over and over again. I think, “People are gonna start staring, so I’d better keep it together.” But then I realize all of these other parents are doing the same thing!

One guys walking down the aisle going, “Oh God, oh God…”, another is mumbling, “Stupid, stupid, stupid…”. I heard a mother say to her daughter, “You’d better make this fridge and microwave last you all four years.”

I ran into another mom looking for a specific brand of pencils.  I directed her to the correct spot, then asked, “Do you know what a magic eraser is?”

“No clue.”

“I’m actually a teacher and I have no idea what it is..” She looks at me with a mixture of hatred and pity and I scurry away.

The breaking point was the crayons.  I was in need of a 24 pack, but could only get the 8 count jumbo size or the 128 mega pack and I figured I’d have one pretty pissed off third grader gunning for me if I brought either of these home.  After angry Snapchats and rantings to my bestie, I stoop about as low as I could go on this “damned from the beginning” pilgrimage and nab a pack out of a pre-packed bag for patrons to purchase for underprivileged school students.  A new low for sure.

As I made my way back to the phone store to pick her up, I was reviewing what purchases might not be actually kosher with the teacher figuring the orange folder might be a bit of a stretch, but surely it couldn’t make that much of a difference right?  Wrong.  I was promptly informed that last year the items that weren’t correct were sent home with a note stating they were not acceptable and new items must be purchased. In fact, she informed me that she fully expected to be back out re-buying all of these same supplies the week after school started because generally half of them weren’t correct.

I was outraged.  I told her if the teacher made a peep she should let me know and I would be up at that school the next day having it out with her.  She insisted it really wasn’t worth it and that buying all new supplies was in turn, much easier.

OMG.

Today she posts this blog from People I Want to Punch in the Throat on my wall about school supplies and teachers.  People I Want to Punch in the Throat found it came from Ginny over at Praying to Darwin and its PURE GENIUS.


 

For all you Mommies dealing with this shit right now, cheers!

School Supplies
by XXXXXXXXXXXX on Monday, September 7, 20xx at 10:31am
************************************************
Dear Mrs. X:
In just over a week, you will be my son’s Grade 1 teacher. He is ever so excited to be under your tutelage. Why, since the last day of kindergarten, entering your class was all he could talk about. He gleefully thrust a piece of paper into my hand on that June afternoon, and said, “Here’s a list of the stuff I need for school next September!”
And I have to admit, I, too, was excited. I’m a school supplies geek from way back. And so, in early August, I set out to buy the items you’d listed. It was on my fourth store that the realization began to sink in.
You’re a crafty bitch, aren’t you?
This list was a thinly disguised test. Could I find the items, exactly as you’d prescribed? Because if not, my son would be That Kid, the one with the Problem Mother, Who Can’t Follow Directions.
For example, the glue sticks you requested. In the 40 gram size. Three of the little buggers. (What kind of massive, sticky project you’ve got planned for the first day of school that would require the students to bring all this glue, I cannot imagine.) But the 40 gram size doesn’t come in a convenient 3-pack. The 30 gram size does. But clearly, those would be wildly inappropriate. So I got the individually priced 40’s, as per your instructions.
Another bit of fun was your request for 2 packs of 8 Crayola crayons (basic colors). The 24 packs, with their 24 *different* colors, sat there, on sale. I could have purchased *three* of the 24 packs for the price I had to pay for the 8 packs. (Clearly, you’ll not be teaching the youngsters any sort of economics lessons this year.) Even the cashier looked at me, as if to say, “Pardon me, ma’am, but are you slow?” as I purchased these non-bargain crayons. But that’s what the list said. And I was committed to following the list.
But the last item, well, now, you saved your malice up for that one, didn’t you? “8 mm ruled notebooks”, you asked for. Simple enough. Except the standard size is “seven” millimetres. One. Millimetre. Difference. Do you realize, Mrs. X., exactly how infinitesimal the difference between 7 mm ruling and 8 mm ruling is? Pretty small, I assure you. The thickness of a fingernail, approximately. But that millimetre, that small bit of nothingness, made me drive to four different stores, over the course of three sweaty August hours. And when I finally, finally found the last remaining 8 mm notebooks, I took no pleasure in my victory. I merely shifted my focus. To you, Mrs. X.
You wanna dance, lady? Let’s dance.
Because I am just batshit crazy enough to play your games. And, in turn, come up with some of my own.
On show and share day, my son will be bringing the video of his birth. It will be labelled, “Ben’s First Puppy.” Enjoy.
He will be given a list of words, and daily, he will ask you what they mean. Words such as “pedophile”, “anti-semite”, and “skank”. Good luck with those.
At some point, you will attempt to teach him mathematics. And I’m quite sure that, like most of your ilk, you will require my son to “show his work”. And he will. Through interpretive dance.
Because that is who you’ve chosen to tangle with, toots. A stay at home mom who is not entirely balanced, and has altogether too much time on her hands. But is, most certainly, A Mother Who Can Follow Directions.
Sincerely,
Ben’s Mom

Oh yeah, ladies, I’m with you all the way…

Just a few points of interest all involved should take note of…

17bf488487d246fdcadb5c30605cc88cJust a few random points of interest that I thought I should put out here on the inter web for those of you interested, and those not interested… for future reference…

  • Remember when I use to be crafty? Yeah, well, not anymore.  I don’t do cutesy, floofy, or fancy.  It’s a birthday party/wedding shower/baby shower, throw some food on the table and have cake, voila, you have yourself a party.
  • I hereby solemnly swear I will never sign up to do overnight campouts again.  If this means I no longer qualify as a Girl Scout leader, so be it.
  • You have emotions, fantastic.  Unless they are estatic joy or contentment, keep them to yourself.

Sorry for my stupidity.  It’s contagious.

Did you know water balloons could cause emotional turmoil?

photo copy
My best friend and I joke about how we are emotionally stunted. About a month ago I posted this Buzzfeed on her FB wall and she got kind of pissy at me because apparently she doesn’t feel it fits her that well….but…

It led to this…

 

photo

It’s me trying to make light of offending her…

I’m sure I’m not helping matters now, as she’s probably planning my demise as she reads this… but there is a point…

This afternoon my children were swimming and little wanted to play with water balloons.  I went to the trouble of filling the balloons, getting myself wet in the process (always fun).  Little did I know it was going to cause the emotional turmoil it did for my oldest.  Apparently she has a major soft spot for water balloons, even giving them names and flipping a freaking lid when her sister pops them.  I mean full on meltdown.  I was speechless.  I couldn’t fathom the level of distraught she was.  Apparently I “don’t understand her” and I am a bad mom because she’s “different” and feels for all “living” and “nonliving” things.

Anyway, consider this a formal public apology my friend, because apparently I don’t have the emotional capacity it takes to understand others, and that Buzzfeed was for me.

Wow.

It’s not about me….

I have definitely had issues with Religion in the past few years.  Though the events of the past four years, I have lost some of my faith in the religious community, which has caused me to go to church less and less.  The only time I go is when I have my girls, and that’s because they are actively involved in our church.  So this morning when I woke up, I thought it would be like any other Sunday that I don’t have my girls.  But then I started thinking… I should just go.  Even though my own church has become somewhat stagnant to me lately, maybe God would have a message for me.  So I did the uncharacteristic thing and I went.

As I sat listening to the readings for the day I couldn’t help but see the irony of how these message related to me on a personal level.  The first was from Acts 1:6-14.   The disciples asked Jesus if this was the time when God would restore the Kingdom to Israel and allow freedom to the Jews from the Romans. Jesus responds to the disciples saying that, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Jedua and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 7-8)

Hadn’t I been asking myself (and everyone else with in a five foot vicinity of me) when God was going to let me follow my passion and allow me to simply teach?  Yet this reading was speaking to me telling me it’s not for me to question or choose the time-table, but God’s choice.

The Litanist then read an explanation to the second reading in which she stated that it’s not looking to others for affirmation, but looking to God for praise. 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 tells us that we shouldn’t be surprised by the ordeals that will be thrown at us because of our faith, but we should rejoice because Christ shares in our suffering and he will exalt us in his own time.  We are all struggling against our own trials, but we should have faith that Christ will “restore, support, strengthen and establish” us.

Hmm, hadn’t I also been beating my up because I didn’t get the verbal feedback I so desperately needed from others, and felt less of myself because of this? And all of this time I should have been relying on God to strengthen me instead of others. That is a difficult lesson for us to master.

In the Gospel, John 17:1-11, Jesus gives his last great discourse to the Holy Father, praying for his disciples, asking that they receive God’s protection and love as he had given it to Jesus, and the unity of the church. Pastor spoke about the unity of us all in the Holy Spirit and that we are united in Christ, despite creed, religion, or religions politics. That is the basis of the Apostles Creed, that we believe in “one holy catholic and apostolic church”. Because of the sacrament of Baptism we are one in the body of Christ.

This lead me onto another train of thought that led me to a realization, one that I already knew, but was dormant in my mind. I had lost track of it. The realization was this: The relationship we have with God is not about the action of others, but about our own actions, how we do his will and act on his behalf. Our relationship is with God and how we do his will, not how others treat us.

This was a big revelation to me, being a person who dwells on the actions of others toward myself.  If I’m honest, brutally so, I would have to say I have always been a “woe-is-me” person.  It’s always about what happens to me or what others have done to me.  It is one of my greatest weaknesses and the one I hate the most about myself.  I am an excuse maker.  I have even gone so far as to see how long I can go without making an excuse as to why something that has happened was not my fault; and let me tell you, being a human, that is an extremely hard thing to do.

In regards to me wanting to be a teacher and working in a school, I have this truth to reconcile: It’s not where God puts me, but how I do his will where I am.  Hence, it doesn’t matter if I’m in a school, office, on the street, my own home, or my parent’s home, it’s about how I act towards others in the name of God, not the other way around.

Wow, that huge.  As a simple human being, that is a hard fact to understand and learn to do.

What I have learned from this:

I need to work with God has given me and be in the places he has put me doing his will.  I need to look to him for comfort and validation and not put all of my hopes and dreams into the value from others. This will take work, I know, but hopefully these revelations will stick with me and I can be thankful for the blessings God has given me.