Monday, October 30, 2017

The Student Who Stops by My Door #SOL17

There is a student who stops by my door almost every morning. He smiles at me and I ask him about his day, his sports, how it's all going. My new students are usually walking in, or asking me a question, or need something, so this former student can't stay for long. But I'm so glad he comes by to see me. 

If you asked me last year to predict the students who would stop by and visit me, I would not have thought this young man would. I spent the first few months of school finding him very hard to reach. He seemed so disengaged, especially as a reader and writer. I felt like I couldn't make a connection with him. I even asked his second grade teacher if she had been concerned about him. She hadn't. 

Somewhere mid-year, the spark came. It was independent writing time, where he created his own illustrated books, that I first saw some excitement. Later he collaborated with a classmate to make a Google slide book about their baseball team. He even included an "About the Author" page, which made my teacher heart fill with gladness. He saw himself as an author. 

You just never know. That is one of the things I love about teaching, something that keeps me going when the papers and planning seem bottomless and it all feels like a steep mountain to climb. You just never know the students who will remember you, will look to see your smile at the start of their school day. And you can never give up on those kids that seem hard to connect with because they are probably really hoping you don't stop trying.

Tomorrow, I will look for my friend and hope he stops by to visit me. His smiling face reassures me that teaching, while so very hard, is still where I need to be. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cannot Keep Up #SOL17

When I was a new teacher, I used to arrive at work by 6:45 or so in the morning. The day officially started at 8:15, but there was sooo much to do before the students came. The day ended by 3:15, but I often stayed until after 6, lugging a bag of work home with me. The amount of work seemed endless and I toiled round the clock. Those were the days when I lived at home with my parents, was single, and could work round the clock, though it certainly did my social life no favors. 

I remember a colleague once telling me, "There are no awards for who stays the latest." She was certainly right. I wasn't looking for an award- I was looking to keep my head above water. I just couldn't seem to ever be caught up. 

I'm not a new teacher anymore- this is year 16 for me. Nowadays I get in about 7:50 and sometimes I have to leave by 3:15 now that my children have after school activities. I still bring a big bag of work home with me, but by the time I get my kids to sleep, often my eyes can barely stay open and the bag remains where it is. 

I cannot keep up.

But I couldn't keep up when I worked round the clock, either. Which leads me to wonder if teachers ever feel all caught up. (Anyone?) As a third grade teacher with 24 students, I teach every subject. And every subject now has sub-subjects. Math isn't just Math- it's daily math, concept development, problem solving and fluency. Reading isn't just Reading- it's read aloud, word study, minilessons, small groups, and conferences. There is writing. There is social studies. When there isn't social studies, there's science. There's character education. And then there's the extras I throw in because I believe in them- poetry notebook, family dialogue journal, blogging, etc. Besides all the content to plan, there is the very human component that these are children in front of me with wiggly teeth and stories of baseball games- kids with real hopes and fears and ideas about themselves as learners. Getting to know them is a very big part of my job. 

There are the forms to fill out so a translator can contact a parent who is not English speaking. There are the forms to fill out to let our team know I have academic or behavioral concerns about a student. There are the forms to fill out for friendship club, and the character award, and for appointments for parent conferences which are....right around the corner. (AAGH). 

I don't know any other life- if other people feel this constant sense of being behind at work. Is this just a teacher thing or is this just what it's like as an adult? I try to work smarter and not harder but can't find the time to listen to the podcasts which are supposed to teach me to manage my time better. 

Please don't get me wrong- I LOVE teaching and would want no other job. I just somehow wish I could feel less buried under all the things that need to get done to do the job well.