Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well, I made it through my first quarter. Or, did I? I'm not completely sure. I got report cards done, completed all the data, filled out all the forms, input everything (or so I thought). Then, today I received feedback on the result of my second observation by the principal (which I must say left me feeling more inadequate than I ever have felt). She asked me for the checklist from which I calculated the grades. "Are you talking about the rubrics we filled out for third grade?" "No, the checklist that addresses the standards." I nearly collapsed then and there from my failing lower back which I apparently continue to strain from coughing through the night - I've had the flu for a week - and tried to narrow my eyes so as not to look like the deer in headlights that I was. So, I thought I was calculating everything correctly and now..... jesusmarynjoseph what checklist? How did I miss that? Granted, the flu was really taking over as the day went on last Friday when I was doing report cards, but did I do it all wrong?

In a panic I rushed to my team leader and asked her about it. Turns out it is something everyone is supposed to do, but it doesn't really happen (most use their rubrics). Ok, well I don't want to cause an ordeal, so I got the software from her and downloaded it on my computer and, with her assistance, set it up to fill in the data to turn into my principal. I am needing a little time to complete the spreadsheet and I'm hoping she will be ok with me taking a few days to get it done.

All this, and we're at the end of the first week in the 2nd quarter. And I can't stand up, and I can't sit down, and I can't get my daughter to her doctor appointment at 4:20 because there's a new set of data I need to input. And I need to come up with new materials for the new standards to address (thank goodness for my amazing colleagues, who share anything and everything). My head is spinning, I sound like Rachel Ray (not that there's anything wrong with her voice - it's just not what I usually sound like and it's exhausting), I feel like a complete idiot, and I'm concerned that I misunderstood my calling to be a teacher.

Hmmm. The kids, you ask? Yes, the students....the students. We now have the reputation for being the loudest class on the 2nd floor. The same 8 students are bouncing off the walls all day, no matter what we do. I now have anywhere from 1 to 2 additional adults in the class with me to keep students on task and quiet. My one aide is about 6'5" - big dude, big voice, strong father of one of my best students - and the kids don't care! They fuss with each other, argue, steal from one another, talk over me during instruction, during silent reading, during tests and assignments. And, I'm told the problem is me, not them. Ok. I've never had such a time with students. Ironically, they know I love them and I believe they love me. Some of my worst behavior cases won't leave my room at the end of the day without a big hug from me. I've read the books, tried the strategies, connected with the kids, tried various consequence policies, instilled more positive reinforcement - had a meeting with them where they voted on what they thought would be the most effective consequences (didn't work).

I try to do activities that would be more engaging....but I guess it's not enough. Maybe more activities? More involvement? I'm going to keep trying new things and challenging them in new ways. I don't want to think that I have chosen the wrong path - that my profound need to teach was misunderstood by me. Do I not have enough stuff on the walls? I'm trying to get things up! That takes time! I feel like I'm always behind. And my extremely compromised salary doesn't provide for me to buy the things I need. Thank goodness for the $300 I just got to get things for the room. I'm barely surviving.

My amazing colleagues encourage me to press on. "The first year is a nightmare, no matter who you are," they tell me. I've yet to meet a teacher who didn't say some version of this.

Most of all, I don't want to disappoint my principal. She gave me a chance, and I want to come through. I feel that I can be a great teacher. I'm called to make a difference. I hope I'm right. At this moment, I'm not sure.

In the meantime, I will continue to show the kids how much I care for them, will try to not raise my voice (even when that's the only thing some will respond to), will find more exciting things to do during instruction, and will sprint out Friday afternoon for at least a couple martinis. After all, it IS payday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Front Lines

Hello and welcome to my new blog! As a first year 3rd grade teacher approaching the end of my first month, I decided to create this space as a therapeutic outlet and a place to engage in dialogue with colleagues known and unknown.

So, here I am on the front lines with a class of amazing, adorable, often difficult students in a high poverty school. My kids are beautiful. Their lives are not simple. I'm spending the majority of my day working on getting them to behave - pay attention and follow directions. No easy task, let me tell you.

I have learned many mind games in these short weeks - and despite my determination to not become emotional, I actually was moved to tears on Friday when I reached my limit getting the class to be in line, quiet, eyes noses and toes forward, hands behind their backs so they could go to lunch. The bickering and refusal to be in alphabetical order (as if it was a new concept after 3 weeks) put me beyond my limit. I paced back and forth for a few seconds, composed myself and quietly whispered, "I don't work 14 hours a day for this." They fell silent and were surprised to see that I was upset. I said absolutely nothing more to them as we traveled to the lunch room, and they visibly felt bad. Of course, by the time lunch ended I had moved on and returned to my usual smile-filled greeting of them when I picked them up. They were relieved. In fact, one student went back to the room and presented me with a folded makeshift envelope filled with a picture she had made for me - it was a beautiful, colorful design of my first name, Dawn. The note at the top read, "This is for being a good darn teacher." This time, the tears welled up for a different reason altogether, and I realized that I made it through another week.

I can't wait to see them on Monday. After all, because I got more points than them by Friday, I get to eat a delicious treat right in front of them. Let's hope they win next week so they can get me back!