/* open id delegation ---------------------------------------------- */

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A post as disorganized as my classroom and my life

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post. I've spent my days trying and trying so hard to be upbeat. Some days I do a really good job. Some days I'm just appropriately sarcastic. Some days I'm inappropriately sarcastic. Some days I'm just sad and frustrated.

I had been hoping that things would work out and I would be given a contract - just later than the others. Now it's not looking that way at all. Because of that inappropriate hope, I haven't yet sent out any applications, which I know was a very bad idea. (Though, for my credit, I have also been waiting on letters of reference. The principal has had quite a back-log of letters to write, what with the school closing and many of the teachers getting layed off or put into positions that they really don't want.)

I occasionally have "ohmygod I love teaching" moments when I can't imagine being anywhere else doing anything else. And then I have other "ohmygod what am I doing with my life" moments where I think I might as well just give up. Really though, I think my problem is that I am afraid that I will have much more "what am I doing with my life" moments and fewer "I love teaching" moments working in a different school with a different administration, different coworkers, and different materials. I know I have been so incredibly luckily to have had this year. I have been allowed to grow so much. My school is unique, at least compared to other schools in the district. I don't know how I ended up so lucky to work at such a great place, but I did and I just need to remember that whatever happens next, wherever I am and whatever I am working with, I was given such great growth opportunities at my current school. What I have learned will help me wherever I go and whatever I do that is teaching/educating related.

In the midst of my crazy bipolar emotions (I have never felt so bipolar in my life. One minute I'll be bouncing up and down excited about something my students have done, and the next minute I'll be sitting depressed staring at my interactive whiteboard, mourning all that I will be losing.) some good things have been happening in my class. Little moments are good moments.

-My mom knit a...thing for me. One day I was telling her how I wanted something to throw at the students who got off task while I was testing or teaching a small group, just to reorient them. I was mostly joking, but she knit a creature that could be used for that purpose. I didn't end up throwing it at them, but I did show it to them and tell them it was my new pet and it had just shown up at my house one day. I have had them write about it on several occasions. They wrote about where it came from, what it was, what it liked to do, how it played, etc. This has been fun.

-Every single day I re-remember how glad I am to be working next door to my neighboring teacher. Every single day. Of all the things this school has that I have benefited from, she has probably been the more important. I forget how amazing it is, but our level of collaboration, cooperation, sharing of ideas and students and teaching philosophies, is all so great. We're such different people in so many ways, (she's old enough to be my mother, she's an observant Christian, very full of faith and belief in god, she's been teaching for 20 years, she's from the South). I guess I should be embarrassed to even think those differences are important. I guess that makes me something of an adult to realize that they aren't. But every single day, before school, during lunch, after school, during our preps, occasionally in the middle of teaching, we go into each others rooms to ask questions or share an idea or a success. She has said that during my phone interview, in the middle of the interview, she whispered to the principal that she wanted me hired and she wanted me next door to her. So, for her it's been an ideal pairing since before I was even officially hired. For me it's been an incredible journey. She's had a tough year teaching-wise. Her class is different - different than any she's had before. It's been great for me to see someone with similar teaching ideals sticking to those ideals even after 20 years and with such a difficult class. For her it's been good to see me - fresh and idealistic - supporting her despite the struggles she's been having. We work in a wonderfully symbiotic way, nurturing one-another, helping one-another, supporting one-another. She's taught me so much, encouraged me and supported me.

-I am getting more and more proficient (and I might even say expert) at using my interactive whiteboard in effective ways. I love it and spend way, way too many hours each weekending making games and activities for my students to do. One of my biggest (and most realistic) fears is that I won't have the technology resources next year that I do this year. My AP loves technology and so pushes for funding to be used for that. We have great technology. I have 4 classroom computers (one teacher computer, and 3 old and clunky iMacs) and my interactive whiteboard (though admittedly it's not a real interactive whiteboard - it's a less expensive system that runs on the same software). It's not that our school has a huge amount of technology, but that which I do have, I lovelovelove and cannot imagine working without. My teaching would be (will be) totally and completely different working without this interactive whiteboard thing. I teach every lesson every day all day using it. It is on at all times as a reference tool, or for a quick "game" (word sort, cloze activity, boring things made fun), or a reminder to the students of what they should be doing.

-My students are learning to read. Only 5 of them are not currently meeting at the end-of-the-year reading level. When I started the school year, I had only 3 students reading on grade level - and two of those students have moved. Confusingly, despite the fact that many are reading "on grade level" according to the assessment, the books they can actually read without being overly frustrated are quite a few levels lower. This is something we have been puzzling over for the past few days. (So, they're reading at a readinga-z level "I" according to the benchmark assessments, but when given a book to read, even with a lot of support, they can't read much higher than "F". (We don't actually use readinga-z for our reading assessment, that was just an example.) Has anyone else experienced something like this? Their accuracy and retelling puts them about 2 levels higher than they can actually read in their guided reading groups. I'm perplexed, as is my veteran neighbor teacher and the literacy support teacher who works with us.

-I got very kind letters of reference from the people who have given them to me. That's nice. Though I wish I didn't have to be getting letters from them in the first place.

-A girl said to me, "Ms. Grownup, how do you spell cereal? I forgot." We figured it out together, she waited a moment, and then exclaimed, "Hey! That's how you spell it in Spanish!" This one girl is really the only one of my students who is being taught to read (and write) in Spanish at home by her monolingual Spanish-speaking mother. She is also the strongest reader in the class. I'm pretty sure the two are somewhat connected. (That is, the support she is being given at home by a parent who stresses the importance of literacy in Spanish, is greatly effecting her English language acquisition and her English language literacy.)

-At a staff development the other day, we were not allowed to sit together with our grade levels, which is how we usually seat ourselves. I ended up sitting at a table with two other teachers and the principal. (We were supposed to have a variety of grades and positions at each table.) My principal declared that she had gotten the good table. Then, when I made a comment about the topic we were discussing, she volunteered me to share my idea to the whole staff. I'm such a horribly embarrassing teacher's pet (even when I'm the teacher...) but I do love knowing that my principal thinks highly of me and my ideas, despite my many struggles as a first year teacher.

-On the topic of being a teacher's pet, I also stupidly volunteered to be observed by a huge group of people. I have no idea why I decided this was a good idea at the time, because now I know it was a move whose only outcome will be immense amounts of stress. It's not like I'm going to be working with these people next year. Nothing I do, no matter how good or bad, will impact my employment situation in the district. I have nothing to prove to anyone. Except, apparently, I like the challenge of being observed by a large, judgmental team of important people from my school and district office. (Ironically, I think the only two teachers in the school who volunteered for this observation were myself and my neighboring teacher. Again - we're similar in so many pedagogical/teaching ways.)