Tag Archives: students

A minimum of talent

If you have a minimum of talent, but you sit at that typewriter long enough, something will emerge. All I had was this burning desire to be a writer and all these emotions.” – Robert Cromier

I have not written much in a while. Sure, I do semi-frequent blog updates, I write a lot of lesson plans and comments on student papers, and write out a lot (much more so, these days) of checks. But I have not written something creative, original, or even analytic in a long time. It has been 10 months since my last college paper. Some of you may think, “So what? That sounds great!”, which I completely understand. But in many ways, this lack of writing makes me feel almost hypocritical.

Let me explain. I am a language arts teacher. I teach reading and writing. And not only do I teach the act of reading and writing, but I have also decided I am a masochist because I want to teach the joy of reading and writing, which is no small feat for a 7th grade teacher. In so, in this quest of impossibilities, I have my students read, and write, and read, and write some more, all with the hopes that within this reading and writing, a small spark will ignite within them that will feed the ever-glowing embers of the love of language.

Yet, in many ways, I do not practice what I preach. Sure, I have got the reading thing down, although, in all honesty, I should read more than I do (I’m averaging about a book every two weeks, which is not that good. Even some of my students are reading more than I am). And I used to have the writing thing down, until that blissful period called “college” ended and the real world came crashing down around me. Yet, how can I expect my students to understand the value of reading and writing, which, in my opinion, correlates with the practice of these disciplines? How can I say to my students every day, “Writing can be an outlet, a way to express yourself. Just write and you will see what I mean,” when I do not use writing as an outlet myself? Of course, I do value reading and writing, or I would not have chosen to become an English teacher, but do I value it enough?

In a lot of the education books I read, they say that a teacher’s enthusiasm and love of the content can often inspire his/her students. So my question is, do I display my enthusiasm and love of the content? I try, but I think I would be more inspiring if actually DID the content: if I actually read and write daily, as a part of who I am. Readers and writers can only be taught by other readers and writers, no? If expect my students to enter the discourse of reading and writing (both those taught in school and outside of school), then I myself need to enter that discourse and not just stand on the sidelines as an outlooker (which, my students could tell you, means “watcher” as it was one of our vocab words last week. But I digress).

Now, the truth is, I am scared to death. I have not written creatively in a long time, at least not in an inspired way. And I have certainly not written anything analytical or thougth-provoking without the aid of a prompt or professor. But I cannot, and I will not, tell my students one thing and do something else. I tell my students to take risks, to try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else, until they get it right. I tell them to just keep writing, even when they think they have nothing to say (they really hate my “write in your journals for 5 minutes without stopping” warm-ups). I tell them that writing is thinking, and one of the best ways to think is to write down your ideas. I tell them it doesn’t matter how bad of a writer you think you are, practice always makes perfect, and the more writing you do, the better you’ll get.

So I sit in front of my computer, with my seemingly minimum amount of talent, and will sit here until I have something to write. Because inside, I have not only a burning desire to write (and read), but an even larger desire to see my students write. And what better way to teach them than by example?

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Meet the fockers . . . I mean, parents

Tonight was our Middle School Open House. I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I haven’t really been to a school open house since . . . oh, I don’t know . . . 5th grade! I went to the SHS one last year but it didn’t really count since there were only a few parents that showed (it was in the second semester) and I wasn’t really the teacher and hadn’t been teaching most of the students by that point anyway (since it was early in the semester). So I re-printed my “Respect Contract” (my behavioral expectations) and made a snazzy little flyer with pictures and columns and a cute border (I’m a little proud of it, can’t you tell?) and went there tonight not really sure what to expect. I got there at about 6:20ish for the 6:30 Open House, and found about two dozen or so parents waiting outside the Middle School doors; I did NOT expect that.  I also did not expect the feeling of being a celebrity . . . I literally had people lining up to talk to me as I chatted with other parents.  Overall, though, I think it went all right. I found myself repeating the same things a lot: “Here’s my newsletter that tells you about my class, how I grade, and what we’ll be learning this year,” “If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me,” “I have found that all seventh graders talk a lot,” “No, I am not a student, I am a teacher.” Okay, maybe I didn’t really have to say that last one, but I did have a few parents comment on how they thought I was a student and not a teacher. Grreaaat . . . I could understand being mistaken for a high school during student teaching, but seriously, a seventh grader?! Really? I think I will have to teach kindergarten for a few years in order for me to be recognized instantly as a teacher instead of a student.

Over all, though, I thought it was a good night and could not realize how quickly it went by. I probably met 20 or so of my students’ parents, which really is not even 1/4. It was neat to see how my students acted around their parents though and what the parents had to say about their kids. I found myself becoming more enthusiastic about teaching after tonight, so I have to say it was a productive evening. It’s also nice to know that there are supportive parents out there willing to meet their children’s parents and take a part in their education.

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Why can’t we be friends?

Yeah, I’m still sick, but now the grossness has migrated from my throat to my nose. I’m surviving on water, gatorade, peppermint herbal tea, Dayquil, Nightquil, and Airborne. And tissues . . . lots and lots of tissues.

Anyway, today I witnessed something rather, well, amazing, in my opinion. In my one class there is a boy with Asberger’s. He’s very smart, rather funny and quick with a joke, gets along pretty well with teachers, but socially around his peers, he just doesn’t cut it. He’ll get upset easily in class, yell out inappropriate things such as “SHUT UP!” or “KNOCK IT OFF, YOU RETARDS!” (which, by the way, the use of the word “retard” is a major no-no in my book, but I’m not quite sure how to get him to stop saying it . . . or if I even can), or go up to girls in the class and try to touch them. Many of the other students find him strange or, at the very least, an avoidance, and I must admit, I feel his pain. He was aware of his condition which probably makes it even more painful. He has a TSS worker who is with him throughout the day, and, while she is a great help, especially to the teachers, and works extremely well with him, I am sure her added presence just makes him feel even that much more noticeable in terms of his differences.

Anyway, there is another boy in the same class, and apparently there is some bad blood between these two. The TSS worker said they got in a fight last year, and even in my class there has already been some confrontations. I even caught the second boy making the (for lack of better words) “retard” sign at the student with Asberger’s (which resulted in an immediate visit to the vice principal because actions like that, in my opinion, are bullying and will not be tolerated in my classroom). To put it bluntly, things have been a little tense between these two boys, and I try to keep them separated as much as possible for the good of the order.

Flash forward to today. We are working on a creative project where students are allowed to work in partners or groups of three. As the students are pairing and grouping off, I keep an eye on my student with Asbergers, because I know one of his “touchy” points is group work. As he kind of fumbles around and figures out what to do, I hear a familiar voice call to him, “Hey, you wanna work with us?” I look and it’s boy number two and another classmate, who also has a tendency to be a bit . . . sneaky, if you know what I mean. In my head, I’m thinking, “Great, this is not going to go well,” but I let the boys work together and stand close by in case anything should go down.

Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . those boys worked together SO well that class and then later on during Core Plus time (I see my students twice a day; the second time is called Core Plus). I was actually completely dumbfounded. I first I couldn’t tell if the other two boys were being sincere or not but I truly think they were. All three of them were joking and working together, and while the boy with Asberger’s was actually working on his own project after all, he sat near the other two and was cracking jokes with them. I made sure to tell the first two students how proud I was of them for inviting him into their group with them, and I am truly hoping that this is the start of a new chapter for them. While I know seventh grade hormones and everything can be fickle, I am still remaining optimistic. It was truly a great part of the day.

It’s the things like this that remind me why I decided to drag my butt out of bed before the sun rises, deal with whiny twelve year-olds, read and plan until my eyes and fingers hurt . . . because I know that sometimes, it is truly worth it.

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Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I’m not a fool

So I am completely in over my head right now.

Okay, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but . . . wow, oh, wow . . . is real teaching NOTHING like student teaching. I mean, sure, there are some similarities: waking up early and lesson plans. But the management, the paperwork, the faculty meetings, the Act 48 hours – none of that you get during student teaching. And I have to tell you: I had a really really awesome student teaching experience. So that first week of real teaching? Maybe nothing can truly prepare one for that.

I should say now that while I know a few posts again I said I would probably be blogging a lot about turning “green,” now that teaching has truly taken over my life, much of this blog will be dedicated to that. I should also add that as a professional, I need to be careful about what I write here, especially considering it is a public forum and everything. However, I do think it’s important to chronicle my first year as a new teacher, and I like my friends and family to read about my life so they know what’s going on, so I will try to blog often about what I can.

So, anyway . . . the first week was pretty much a success. I have only had issues with one student so far, and I found out that it is probably not just me, so that was a relief. I have also discovered that seventh graders are chatty, chatty, CHATTY. While I do not mind students talking, by Friday I found myself a little annoyed at the amount of talking they did while getting out their materials, turning to the right page, while I was putting something on the board, etc. In fact, I told most of my 4 classes that I was rather annoyed with the talking, and I think they got the idea rather quickly. Right now I have my students sitting in groups of four because that’s how they were during student teaching and I really liked that. However, I am not quite sure seventh graders are mature enough for that much face-to-face interaction, so I may have to rethink my seating arranagements for now. While I do not necessarily want to go to rows (it’s kind of against my teaching philosophy, which relies heavily on cooperative learning), I also realize that middle school is a different ball game, and that many of my students are still learning “school” in a sense: that is, a lot of them don’t have the skills for positive, beneficial group learning yet. YET. I think by the end of the year I can definitely get them there, but I think I may have to rethink some of my expectations now that I have spent a week with my students. Not lower my expectations, mind you, but rather, adjust them for the time being and the reality of the situation. I would never lower my expectations, of course – I am too high-reaching for that. 😉

So I have been slowly getting acquainted with the school, the faculty, the other teachers on my team . . . and quickly getting acquainted with my students. I have to say that, even already, I have become fond of many of my students. There are some really funny kids are our team, and some really kind spirits, and I think this year is definitely going to be interesting. However, it has been hard getting adjusted to a new school, a new district, new teachers, new students, and, yes, a new curriculum. That is a lot of new for my life, although, let’s face it, “new” has been the key word for my life this entire summer. I am still learning the ropes of the school, while at the same time teaching and lesson planning and figuring out my curriculum. It has been a lot of learning on my part, and just a reminder that even as a teacher, I am still a student. However, despite the early mornings (waking up at 5:45 is going to get old real fast) and the 30 minute drive, I am still loving teaching. I am just trying to make sure not to become jaded by the commute, the difficult students, the loads of grading, or the other teachers (negative attitudes are abundant, unfortunately) and keeping that gusto that I felt during college and student teaching. The good news is, I have a great support system, a supportive husband, and some awesome students, so it should all be good. 🙂

However, we’ll see how I am feeling after the SECOND week . . . just kidding.

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