Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why I teach

I watched my student cry from across the room. She drew in a shaky breath. Tears dripped off her nose. She gulped air and turned the page. Someone got up and got her a tissue but no one else seemed to notice. The last chapter of Where the Red Fern Grows gets them every time. At that moment, I felt like such a teacher. In the best sense of the word. Who else gets to be there right at that moment when a person discovers the power of words?

The other day we pulled out the globe. The kid in the yellow sweatshirt was the sun and we rotated and orbited around him. We talked about the Reason for the Seasons. Realization dawned and half a dozen voices piped up. Really? No, wait, really that's why?

I love my job because every day I get to watch people doing things that they didn't know how to do yesterday. They learn because of me, and that's really, very cool.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Two weeks in...

I feel like teaching again. Last year was so tough, that I was literally counting the minutes until the thing was over and I could just go home. Normally, I'm one of those teachers who leaves the classroom in June with a head full of excitement and ideas for the next school year. This summer, though, I couldn't even stomach the thought of school until mid-August when I really had to start getting my head in the game. And now here I am, two weeks down and absolutely loving it. I told my kids today before they left, "Last week, you guys were pretty much strangers, but now you're starting to feel like my people." I think it's going to be a great year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An exercise in thinking positive

After the day I had at work, I'm choosing to hone in on as many positive things that happened as I can. That way maybe I'll feel like going back tomorrow.

1. My writing lesson kicked butt. I've taken over the writing instruction in my classroom for this last quarter of the year (long story there) and it is rockin' so far. The kids are engaged. They want to write every spare minute of the day. It is the most positive time of my day because even the kids who struggle at so many other things are finding success in writing this week. I love it.

2. One of my struggling reading groups is just taking off this week. These are the kids who normally read for five minutes and then mentally wander around the room for the other 25 minutes of independent reading. They are so jazzed about the two books we are working on (Maniac Magee for the whole class and Bunnicula for their small group) that I think they forgot that they don't like reading. This is excellent news!

3. I practically fell into a piece-of-cake club for this last quarter. After waiting until the last minute to declare my club (I decided to do Paper Airplane Statistics Club) I was notified that someone was already doing a Club That Has Something to Do with Flying Things. This was like the last straw after a mostly very bad day (which I'm choosing not to write about, of course). So, five minutes before I had to leave I was scrambling for a club idea when my VP suggested I do the Reading Club. Now this is such a cushy club (think kids sacked out on pillows reading) that I just assumed that someone had already snatched it up. But she said that no one had picked it yet, so viola! I ended up with the best club of all, somehow.


I'm sure there must have been something else that went right at work, but I have forgotten it. In any case, this exercise seems to have worked. I feel like going back tomorrow, which is a vast improvement on my mood thirty minutes ago!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This is my favorite time of the year (besides September, but then there isn't much that can compete with The Reno Rib Cook-off.) This is my favorite teaching time of the year. State tests are finished. Whether we passed them or not, there's not much I can do about it now. Gone are the days of poring over the standards looking for the one skill I might have forgotten to cram in teach before the Tests. No more am I trading PE time for test prep. (Gulp-can you believe I actually did that?) I can now teach what I know they need to know but in a way that applies the learning to real life, not bubbled-in-answer life. It's liberating.

I also like this time of year because my class pretty much feels like family now. Even the stinkers have a little place in my heart. Every year at this time it's weird to think that next year they'll be someone else's kids and that I'll feel this way about a whole new class. Not that I won't be just a tiny bit happy to see them go. Okay, after the year that I've had, I'll be more than a tiny bit happy, to be honest.

Next month, I'll likely start my "Next Year Notebook" where I will spend whole hours chunks of minutes daydreaming about the very smart changes I'll make to my practice next year. That's one of the best parts of teaching--getting to start over every September. April is a perfect time to evaluate what worked, what could work better and what would be better to discard completely.

Probably the best, best part of March is that the countdown for summer is now on. Third quarter report cards go out this week, which means the weeks remaining are in the single digits. Warm weather and longer days cement into my subconscious the knowledge that summer is right around the corner.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sick Day

One crappy thing about being a teacher is you can't just call in sick. Calling in involves taking a good hour to write substitute plans and assemble all the gobbledygook that goes along with them. Upon waking my kids up for school and finding that one of them is sick, I usually fall into a frenzy, throwing on sweats, flying to the school so that I can excavate my desk and whip it into some semblance of organization for the sub. Then there is the great debate. Do I actually have the sub try to teach something or do I stick everyone with 6 hours of busywork? With CRTs two weeks away, my conscience won't let me go the busywork route. Don't get me wrong, we do have some great subs at my school--but they're just not me, you know? Then there's the classroom that I go back to tomorrow. A stack of busywork to grade (or more realistically to throw in the garbage when no one is looking) and a list of kids who were screwing with the sub to discipline. At least my desk is clean.Steve has it easy. If he were to wake up sick tomorrow morning and decide to stay home, here's how it would go: He'd say in a most groggy voice "Dee, I'm sick...will you bring me the laptop?" After I placed the laptop onto the bed next to him, he would roll over and crack one eye long enough to send an email, before pulling the covers back over his head and falling asleep again. He doesn't even have to call in. He emails in sick. Even though it is way harder for me to stay home (in my opinion, of course--he might argue that statement), we do take turns staying home when the kids are sick. So here I am--AJ's watching TV on the couch, I'm catching up on my blog and getting ready to clean house, grade papers and pay bills. I kind of wish I were sick so I could justify sitting on the couch all day with her. I do plan to catch up on Grey's Anatomy while she's sleeping, so the day isn't completely lost.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I made it out to the garden this morning and found that the garden doesn't care whether I visit regularly or not. Stuff just keeps growing and growing without me. I cut one of the smaller giant zukes up into strips, dipped the strips in tempura batter and deep fried them. I haven't deep fried anything since I started weight watchers five years ago. Man, they were yummy! I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all those cucumbers, though. I'll put them in the teacher's lounge tomorrow. Every teacher knows that the lounge is like the black hole for food. I once put a nine-by-thirteen pan of Mom's pistachio dessert out before school started and that sucker was gone by first recess. It looked like they had licked the pan. I bet the cucumbers don't go that fast, though.

Anyone have a recipe that calls for humongous zucchini? I can't let them go to waste since it was my beginning-of-the-school-year neglect that made them like this. I'm personally responsible. When I first saw them out there this morning I felt actual guilt. Like some mad scientist experimenting in zucchini deformity. My conscience won't allow me to make fried zucchini every night this week and we've had more than enough zucchini bread this summer. I don't think they'll be good sauteed, but I guess I could try it. I could send zucchini sticks in Munchkin's backpack for snack (but he'd probably disown me). I thought about entering them for a giant zucchini prize in the county fair, but we don't have a fair, here. Can you use them to carve jack 'o lanterns? I promise to garden responsibly from now on.