Sunday, May 30, 2010


I have had more self-imposed breaks from writing since I came back than ever before. I have this rule for myself that if something particularly controversial comes along, I will take a mental break before I write about it. This protects everyone involved from rash words which have a tendency to come out in haste during the most explosive moments in life.

On Thursday something happened with one of my students that made me question my entire approach all year long. There's no other way to explain it (trust me, I've spent the last several days trying) than to say that one of my students absolutely and completely freaked out.

What you need to know:
Personality - sweet, quiet, insecure (she is a little bit bigger than my other girls, hates gym, and always wears a large baggy sweater), always respectful, always does what she is told, slightly lazy (does the bare minimum to get by).
Back story - On the very first day day of school I asked my students to work oh an all-about-me type of book to get them started with writing. One of the requirements was to write about their future goals in regards to occupation. As I watched my student stare blankly at the paper I came to sit next to her and we started to talk and brainstorm things that she liked and how those things could translate into different careers. As I poked and prodded I found that her goals simply did not exist. She was not trying to be obstinate, she just simply didn't care about anything except sleep and TV. It worried me (as did several of the things that I noticed throughout the first week, like reports of her penchant for missing school...alllll the time) so I referred her to social work. A week later she was seen, but she didn't claim to have any real life worries, so she was not picked up on the case load.

*While never becoming more motivated, my student stopped missing school this year. She also opened up to me on numerous occasions, talking to me about her family, her birthday party, and even bringing me pozole (my favorite) after week had a conversation about it one day. She did not, however, ever become more open or confident in herself and so on Tuesday, May 25 when we were asked to make social work recommendations for the middle school, I again put her name on the list.*

Thursday, May 27 (one week before the end of the school year)
I get a call in the office 2 minutes after the students enter that my girl student is in the office with her mother and she refuses to come to class. The assistant principal came to my class to cover for me as I went to the office to translate/sort things out. I walked my student (sobbing) and her mom into the principal's office and we began to talk. Her mom spouted some story about how my student was upset with her sister from an argument that they had the night before and my student wasn't saying a thing. I didn't buy that as the issue because the sisters never really get along. I told my student, "___________, your mom did the right thing by bringing you to school...and now, she is going to leave." Mom stood up (still crying about her daughter's anguish) and with the principal's help, was shoved out the door while daughter tried frantically to follow. Then, to make a long story short, my child became a different person. Between hysterical sobs she adopted a hideous speech pattern (one that I have never heard from her and could never believe he capable of) accusing my principal of "talking smack" and explaining that she hated school, has always hated school, found nothing redeeming in it EVER, and would not be coming back. Then, she demanded that we call her mother so that she could go home. Her responses to my principal, while totally illogical and said in the heat of passion, were little windows into a secret side of my student. She said to my principal at one point that she didn't need an education, that she didn't care who she was hurting by acting this way, that she's rather be in juvy than at school, and that nobody knew about her or her life and that we didn't care about her. It was at that point that tears starting streaming down my face and I had to walk out.

I had to go pick up my students from Gym and when she refused to follow me, I left her there, walking away from someone who I didn't know...who I haven't known for an entire year. It took THREE truancy officers to get her to class 3 hours later and I felt sick to my stomach as they stood outside my room watching to see if she would bolt. But she didn't...

Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that, upon seconds of returning, she was back to her "normal" self. She was smiling with friends, answering questions in class, even talking to me as if nothing had happened. She showed up on Friday the exact same way, choosing to work one on one with me during her math test. I rolled along with it, because I wasn't sure what to do. In the back of my mind though, I couldn't help but think of the secret person lurking inside my girl, and it scares me that I don't know how to free her.

The one positive thing to come out of possibly the most stressful situation of my teaching career thus far, is that I've changed my ideas for my end-of-the-year student gift. I'm going to dial it back down to mean something more for us. I know each of my students on a personal level and I have a good idea of the struggles that each of them will face as they go to middle school. This weekend, I've chosen to write a letter to each of my students, extolling their strengths and providing the advice that I believe will make them the most successful once they leave my doors, and therefor my guidance, this Friday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sahara Special

Sometimes something profound comes along at the exact moment that you need it to touch your heart. For me, it was kind of a mix of things. First, my life and the lives of my students were irreversibly altered when I took a chance on a then unknown book to me, "Sahara Special" by Esme Raji Codell. This is, incidentally, the author of the beloved book, "Educating Esme: Diary of a First Year Teacher" but this time she's writing for young adults.

As a culmination to the year, and a kind of graduation of sorts, I presented my students with three chapter books, one of which they would select to read for the last month of school and perform literature circle tasks with. The students have taken a great liking to the idea that they are responsible for discussing their books, and that each of them has a very special role to fulfill within the group. They have also blossomed under the notion that they are to take the role of teacher, ensuring all group members' understanding and explaining past tasks to their new owner.

As every teacher hopes to do, I chose books that were relevant and completely dynamic. I described them each in turn, read some excerpts aloud, and challenged my students to make a choice for themselves. They were to pick the book that THEY wanted to read (they weren't even allowed to be seen talking to a peer while filling out their secret ballot. I also did not sugar coat things, explaining that "Sahara Special" was indeed the longest and most challenging of the selections and asking students to step up if they felt they were ready. "Sahara Special" is, in fact, my biggest literature circle group.

Yesterday one of my girls was clutching her book to her chest as I talked about how each of our books have different personalities. She just kept professing her love over and over again. Another of my much more shy students came up to me privately yesterday and confessed that she wasn't really interested in reading until she started reading her story, "Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing" and now she is surprised how much she really loves reading. (Don't I wish I had done this earlier in the year!?)

"Good try," said Miss Pointy, "but I don't know if that's a lesson that is always so. What else can we come up with?"

"Wishes are powerful," said Dominique.

"Good," said Miss Pointy.

"Things change. They don't always stay the same," said Cordelia. "Like, you don't have to stay a kid."

"That's a good one, too. Anyone else?"

"School is a powerful place where things change and wishes come true," Paris said slowly. "It's a place where you can grow up, if you let yourself."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Out There Looking

Previously, I kind of thought my duty as an educator was to help screen candidates in order to find the best person to work with/understand our student population with a willingness to collaborate and work cooperatively on an ever growing and changing team.

I learned today that that is simply not true. It is so much worse than that.

Today I met three fantastic candidates. They are each beautiful and fantastic individuals who are all trying to make it in the worst job market my lifetime has ever seen. As I sit from my cushy side of the conference table, I just feel my heart breaking for all of the candidates that will be seen who are more than passionate and qualified, but who will be left out in the cold when our time here is done.

This decision sucks and I feel like a bad person.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Interview Questions

Calling all teachers: I am going to be sitting in on interviews for an open 5th grade teaching position this week. I was asked by The Powers to have a list of interview questions ready. Now obviously I can make some up and fare pretty well...but I just realized that I have a wealth of talent and brilliance out there and I would love to tap into it. So what do you, my fellow educators, consider to be the most important factors in hiring a candidate?

What would you ask?

Friday, May 21, 2010


Sometimes I am amazed by the maturity with which my students handle disappointment.

Sometimes I wonder where their strength and poise comes from...and it makes me sad to think that they might have been trained through years of suffering disappointments the likes of which I was blessed not to face until adulthood.

Sometimes my students amaze me. Sometimes they act like 3 years olds and annoy the you-know-what out of me. But today, they were phenomenal. We were scheduled to have field day, a pirate theme, and some of them were so into it that they came in costume (something I totally encourage). We got to wear normal clothes instead of our stuffy uniforms (yes, that's right, my teacher clothes bind me and hinder my ability to be as bubbly and vivacious as I would be if I felt like myself, so I feel their pain). We had the most fantastic activities planned.

But then, mother nature happened. It rained, and rained, and continued to rain some more. Some evil and omenous weather person even predicted thunder storms as if it were just another day in the hood...not the most important day ever...the day that we stretched our wings, shed the shackles of the classroom, and displayed the awesome amount of team spirit that has been instilled in us over the year. (Epic, right?)

When my students walked in to school, one of them looked up at me and said dejectedly, "Field Day is canceled." It wasn't a question. I nodded, though it was a highly unnecessary action. Then, the students set about unpacking their backpacks, checking in the homework, and getting ready for the day. I thought, "Hmmm...I probably shouldn't let this go. Maybe I should say something about it." But nobody really looked like they needed anything said. I waited and let them learn about the rescheduled date on the announcements. One of them asked me what day of the week that would be. I hyped it up by adding that they would now get to wear regular clothes TWICE and that our last week of school would include a day off, a half day, a one hour day, AND field day. How lucky they were! They looked at me encouraged and with TOTAL trust that it would happen eventually, and that they could bide their time until then.

I didn't even offer consolation prizes (movies instead of "real work", indoor games and activities, etc.). They didn't ask. I just took them to Art class with a new sense of pride and admiration. These are not the whiny babies of years past, not even the less than mature students who I started the year with. These are the big kids, the kings and queens of our school. It is their last chance to be at the top for a while and they are wearing their crowns with grace and elegance today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The End Times

It's true what they say, you never really realize what you have until it's gone (or almost gone). My students seem to be experiencing this mentality in droves (possibly for the first time in their lives).

Every day my 5th graders do something new and interesting to surprise me. I don't know why, after all these years, that it actually surprises me...but hey, maybe I'm a slow learner. In any case, they are starting to get this sense of The End Times and losing everything that they are comfortable and safe with as we heartlessly kick them out of the nest and send them out into the cruel cruel world (aka Middle School).

The evidence started small. I have this one kid (who actually isn't even a 5th grader, he's just moving over the summer), we'll call him Bob (no seriously, we do. even in class. It's a long story.) He has always been very wary of any physical contact from anyone. He doesn't appreciate a friendly pat on the shoulder and when his friends try to grab him for an enthusiastic hug he complains loudly and tries to get them off. We've all established that you just don't touch Bob because he doesn't like it. Throughout the year, my students have learned to respect that. Anyway, about two weeks ago, Bob started to randomly pat me on the arm as he passed me. The other day (completely out of nowhere and in the middle of a spelling lesson) he declared in sing-song voice, "Ms. Teach in the best teacher in the wooooorld." Yesterday when he put his hand up to answer a question I gave him five (because I'm goofy like that) and he grabbed my hand and held on.

Then, yesterday I was in the middle of a math lesson and it was just not going well. The students were frustrated, and I don't think I showed that I was, but they must have picked up on it. I gave up on the lesson half-way through, explained that we needed a break, and that we would pick it up again tomorrow. One of my students asked, "Well what are we going to do now?" to which my (secret) Favorite Pumpkin (the one with ADHD who has revolutionized my entire teaching process this year) responded promptly, "Hug Ms. Teach!!!" Then, all of a sudden, I had a swarm of small people all around me. May I remind you that these are FIFTH graders?! In my world, for the majority of the time, 5th graders are a little too cool for hugging their teacher.

My students are safe with me. This makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but I think it makes their transition process even harder. If they were looking forward to leaving me, maybe things would be different. I'm trying to guide them through this just as I've guided them through everything else this year, but as I try to gradually let go, they are clinging to me for dear life.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Help Me Help You

My roommate and I (who conveniently teach in exactly the same school in exactly the same hallway and have exactly the same lunch period) were discussing our day yesterday and, as the year comes to an end, we were boiling down to the same theme in both of our classes.

The end of the year is home to all the good stuff: parties, Field Day, recognition ceremonies, etc. The fun is endless. For most (all) teachers this also provides a fair amount of leverage. And for most children, it works. But then, you have the student who needs to go outside and run around during field day more than anyone else, and yet they can't seem to make the right choices that will get them there.

And you play the loving teacher card: "I really WANT everyone to get to go to Field Day and have a great time. I don't want you to have to sit inside in the office and do work while everyone else is enjoying such a glorious day. But friend, how many chances can I give you?"

They inevitably stare up at you blankly with the beginning of a tear forming in their eyes because they know they've pushed you too far this time. But then you give them hope, that maybe if they turn things around in the next 3 days, you'll reconsider.

The next morning rolls around and the same kid who you really thought you had gotten through to yesterday is missing the same darn thing that they've been missing every day, the same thing that got them into this mess in the first place.

I guess the truth is that they've made their bed. Why then, do I have such a hard time letting them lie in it?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Teacher Fog

When I first started teaching and I realized how much work teaching truly can be, and how it's a choice how much of life that we commit to it, I realized that this would not be an easy balance to create. I find that this is a struggle that never really goes away; it just takes different shapes and forms depending on the point in life that you find yourself in.

Today, for example, I realized that I have, once again, confused my job/students with actual life. It was an easy downward spiral. My boyfriend got stationed in Italy, I started to have some family issues (that were more easily avoided if I didn't show up to deal with them), and my most immediate friends were busy for several weekends in a row. That said, I just kind of slipped into my teacher pants and never really took them off.

As I've said before, the job of a teacher never ends. There is always another project to create, assessments to finagle, papers to grade, students to counsel, after school activities to participate in, etc, etc, etc. Often times I measure my success as a teacher by how many of these things I am actively engaged in.

The problem is: burnout is not a myth! In order to be the most productive and successful teacher, we need to take a break...for ourselves, and for our students. This, if nothing else, keeps us from getting resentful of the ever-present amount of work that goes into this crazy profession.

Today I went to the mall for a couple of hours. I talked to random sales people and smiled at random passersby and just generally felt like I was part of the human race for a little while. Sometimes a cute shared story among strangers is enough to make us realize that we need to expand our horizons and become a more complete person. Sometimes it would do us well to give ourselves experiences such as this on a regular basis just to wake us up out of our teacher fog.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Well, I took a break a couple of days ago because I had a really big and anger-inducing event to write about and I didn't want to spout off anything that I would later regret. Unfortunately, my one-day self imposed break turned into a mini-writing vacation due to some late nights at school events and now I really just need to stop making excuses. ;) The good news is that I was actually apologized to by one of the offenders (the cause of the aforementioned angst) and I will always respect someone who is willing to step up and admit fault and ask forgiveness instead of leaving me to sit feeling bad and uncomfortable with a situation that I did not create, nor am I responsible for fixing.

Anyway, I feel like the kids and I finally got our life back this week. Our schedule has been interrupted so much since Spring Break that my students have kind of mentally extended their vacation. This week was a full week of lessons without interruption and man have they been craving the structure. We are back in action and working hard.

Best part of the week: Literature Circles

There are educators (especially at the middle school level) who are comfortable jumping into the year with this kind of reading strategy. For me and mine, we had to work up to it. After a long year of learning independent reading strategies, practicing with short text, and tying it all together with the Read 180 program, I feel that it is time for the baby birdies to grow wings and read chapter books for class. Now, this is not part of the curriculum (also part of why I did not start it until the last month of school) but I can't imagine better results.

Now that I trust my students to follow routine and put out their best effort, I've started to try to teach them to trust themselves. As I've stepped back and allowed students to choose the book that they want to read, I could see their faces light up with excitement at being given the responsibility to choose their fate. As I watch students gradually stop looking to me in the small group setting, but refer to their discussion director instead, it is like watching them allow themselves to dip their toes in the pool for the first time. They have not jumped in head first, but they feel good about themselves that they can be trusted to handle and direct their own learning.

As they sat around the table with their role sheets, sharing their portion of the work and asking for feedback to add to it, one of my girls turned to me (while shuffling her papers importantly) and said, "Ms. Teach, I feel like we're in a meeting! Everyone has paperwork and takes turns asking for ideas and sharing what they've done." And that was the coolest thing ever, because that's how they should feel. It means that they're taking it seriously and that they legitimately believe that what they have to say is important.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution Rules

1. ______ If it is not about you, don't report it.

2. ______ If you didn't hear/see it happen, let it go.

3. ______ Talk directly to the person.

4. ______ Give each other time to cool down. (At least 24 hours/one FULL day)

5. ______ Check back in with the person. (24 hours later!)

6. ______ Think about if the person is really your friend. (and if not, choose to keep yourself away from them)

7. ______ Write your complaint.

The rule is that, unless a student has met physical harm, students must attempt to resolve the conflict on their own first. If they have tried all of the steps and the person they are dealing with persists in causing conflicts or being unreasonable, they are then allowed to write their concerns. The goal is that this will weed out small pet peeves, but it may bring about some of the more real and major issues that students might even have trouble articulating. I already have one over-eager student who is excited for the chance to write and rat someone out. I fear that he might be my new friend Mr. Example. Because, in order to discourage unnecessary meanness and ridiculousness, there are now strict consequences for complaining without following the steps or fabricating checklist completion.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Indulging the Madness

So, with one month left, my students have managed to annoy people who don't even have a lot of direct contact with them during the regular school day. The social worker came to me last Friday and told me that she was tired of all of the "he-said she-she said blame game" that my kids seem to enjoy playing off each other. Basically, my children have a huge issue taking personal responsibility for any wrong doing and it has been a huge focus of our C.A.R.E. meetings this ENTIRE year.

Unfortunately (and this is a big UNFORTUNATELY) I would say that the C.A.R.E. program is responsible for breeding that kind of behavior. Students are required based on Rule #2 to tell an adult at home and/or an adult in school when they feel that they are being bullied. My students decided to take this rule a little liberally, coming to me every day after recess to ensure that they have told an adult about any minor qualm that they could think about. It got to a point where they were basically pushing and shoving trying to get to me first in order to head off what the other would tell me about the negative things are being done to them (without owning up to any part of the process). Basically, it has taught them to be poor innocent little victims.

In 5th grade, nothing makes me more disgusted than tattle tales. We created a room full of them and then the social worker came in and yelled at them for not dealing with their issues themselves. Well friends, I'm going to own up to my responsibility in this mess right now. I have had bad experience with NOT listening to a student who needed to come to me with a serious issue. Ever since then, I have always heard my students out before judging how to handle a situation. This does, however, take an extremely large amount of instructional time when you have a group of students who take advantage of your sympathetic ear.

So, I agree that something needed to be done. And it still makes me intensely uncomfortable to tell students that they simply must deal with things on their own, especially when they feel safe confiding in me. I feel that our social worker came up with a fairly good solution. Tomorrow we are implementing a checklist. Students must complete every step (things like talking to the other person first, giving it a day, writing about it instead of complaining verbally, etc.) before actually bringing their issue to me. I feel like the writing alone will deter some of the lamer complaints from distracting from class time.

If anyone has the same issue and could use the checklist as a jumping off point, just comment and I'll type it up when I'm at school and have it accessible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I was in the bathroom at a store yesterday and I noticed something on the bottom of the door. It was a little metal piece sticking out of the bottom right corner that you could hook your foot/shoe into in order to open the door without using your hands and actually touching the door handle. Now, at the risk of stepping on some toes here, I just got to thinking that enough is enough.

In a world where we give hand sanitizer (my bilingual students call is "hanitizer" and it makes me giggle and endears them to me every time) to small children and teach people that we can't touch door handles (for fear of other peoples' icky germs) sometimes I feel like we are one step away from putting people (especially children) in a bubble for fear that they might get a bump or bruise on occasion!

When I was little I vividly remember trying my hand at eating a dirt sandwich. Not my finest hour, but I survived. My older brother used to squish ants (yeah, the little crawly bugs!) between his thumb and index finger and then EAT THEM. He's still alive and well (and getting married next apparently bug-eating didn't even limit his long term appeal). Now medical science is coming out and saying that hand sanitizer actually has the ability to kill good bacteria (GOOD) that we actually need on our bodies.

Now, I'm not a doctor or any form of medical professional, but I do know that exposure to germs and bacteria in small amounts can actually STRENGTHEN the immune system. I don't know a single mother/teacher/mentor/etc. that wouldn't want their children to be strong. So, in the spirit of Mother's Day, I ask that we all let the kids go outside, make Mom a nice mud pie, and let them test out the first piece.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

You Inspire Me, so I appreciate you!

Sometimes...OK, a lot of the time...OK, often I'm cynical. I didn't used to have so little faith in humanity. Unfortunately, it's a learned thing. The good news, I've learned, is that all is not lost! On this most standard and average Teacher Appreciation Week (ok, there I go again being cynical, but really, what's changed?), I've found several reasons to be inspired.

1) First and foremost, if you read this blog, you INSPIRE me. The posts that I read every day keep me going, motivate me to be better, make me feel better conspiratorially, and just honestly make my life stronger. It is such a boost to know that there are other educators who, at the end of a long crazy day (in addition to all of the home and personal obligations), take time to sit and think critically about their jobs and the fact that the students that we teach every day are so much more than just a job.

2) Today I had to take a sick day due to a nasty sinus infection and something on TV actually inspired me. (I know, I was shocked too.) Jessica Simpson's "The Price of Beauty" is a show on VH1 that I was immediately intrigued and skeptical of all at once when I first heard of it. Basically, Simpson and her two friends travel to different countries in order to find what defines beauty in a variety of different cultures. The amount of respect and genuine seriousness with which the three travelers approached the people that they met along the way was actually awe-inspiring. Today was the finale where Simpson chose to celebrate the different types of beauty and really the confidence and self-love that she had found within herself. As I sat watching, sniffling and thinking, I realized how badly I want to empower my own girls in the same way. Heck, I want to inspire my own self in the same way. It is a goal that I am going to work vigilantly in order to implement in the next 4 weeks before my students move on to the middle school.

3) My students find ways to amaze (and annoy) me every day. I have a little one with untreated ADHD this year who has filled my life with more challenges and tests of patience than I have had in a long while. In truth, I love this student fiercely and the way that we work together to understand each other has really inspired me this year. Even in conferences, when his parents asked how I thought he would do next year at the middle school level, I answered honestly that he was kind of like my baby and that I was a little bit worried to send him on to people who might not understand him and have the tactics I have developed to support and ensure his success. But even in that I have found some inspiration because I stopped to realize that I had no idea what I was doing with this pumpkin when I first had him handed to me, but I managed to figure it out. The educators that he moves on to will learn just as I had to (and if they have any prior experience, they'll probably be way better apt to handle his needs than I). And that kind of brings the list full circle because it is other educators (like you) that inspire me to continue to grow and learn from them for the next group of students whose lives I'm blessed to affect!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good Friends

Today I was not allowed to stream the videos that I wanted my students to use for our C.A.R.E. meetings because apparently it interferes with the testing that our students do on the computer 3 times a year. Instead, at the last minute, I decided to put up two pieces of chart paper to assess where we are now that there are only 4 full weeks of school left and many of my students will be moving on to greener pastures (aka the middle school) next year.

The chart paper said, "I Learned" and "I Want."

Students were first asked to make a list of everything that they'd learned about bullying, respect, etc. over the year. They were slow to start (1st thing on a Tuesday morning sometimes I'm lucky to get them awake enough to speak at all) but by the end we were cramming things into the margins of the page. Then we got to truth time..."I want." I have asked my students to really look at themselves this year and come up with goals (several times in fact) in order to become better people.

As in many grade levels, my students are still often of the persuasion that you only don't do bad things because you'll get in trouble, and that you only do good things because you'll get rewarded in some way (even if the reward is *sigh* not getting into trouble). I've started a revolution of personal responsibility and being a good person because it matters. Some of them have taken well to it, others are stuck in a Tuesday morning mentality. Either way, I feel like it's important so I persevere.

A couple of my more deep and introspective kids were able to express some of the things that they want to do better in the future (especially after being given copious examples, including one from my own life.) Most of them wanted to do the one thing that infuriates me more than anything, ask what happens when other people do bad things to you.

At one point I practically screamed "personal responsibility!" before I realized that the same was coming up over and over again. "Miss Teach, what do I do if I ask someone nicely to stop what they're doing but then they get mad at me?" "Miss Teach, what happens when someone that you are friends with always tells you what to do even if it's something you don't want to do?" "Miss Teach, what if someone tells you they aren't going to be your friend anymore unless you do what they say?"

Are you noticing the same theme? I added two goal to the "I Want" paper.
1) I want to communicate more clearly with my friends.
2) I want to make and keep GREAT friends.

I found myself coming up with the same answer every time. Instead of pushing your friend or yelling at them, ask them nicely to change their ways. If they respond poorly to kind wording and friendly reasoning, FIND YOURSELF SOME NEW FRIENDS. Leave, walk away from the situation, hang out with people that you actually like!

Now, I had the same problem as a 5th grade girl. I remember them well. This is really nothing new and all part of the socialization process. But my students need to understand something. Sometimes I don't want to tell my friends something because I know they won't like hearing it, but I have NEVER been afraid of telling them things because they are going to leave me. Furthermore, some of those very friends that I'm referring to are friends that I've had since 5th grade. So, with good training, I have to believe that for them this stage too shall pass.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Amazing Distracters

Distracters are actually known in the education world as the multiple choice answers that are meant to distract a test taker from the correct answer, thereby forcing them to really know their stuff. In this case, however, the distracters are the students (more specifically, MY students).

I have written before that one of the most difficult plight of a teacher is that, even when the world around you is crumbling, you need to paste on a happy (or at least tolerant) face and go be in charge of a whole group of little people who are all looking at you expectantly to lead them. In short, you don't really have the luxury of having a bad day.

That said, it kind of works both ways. Some of the times that I have been absolutely miserable have been the exact times when I needed my students the most. I will get to school worried about something serious and the next thing I know I am caught up in the whirlwind as my students rush through the door and begin to regale me with stories and rely on me and my undivided attention. All of a sudden it will be 3:30 and time to say goodbye and it is only then that I realize I hadn't though about my own concerns once all day.

It was this way last year as I prepared to leave my school after a year that had been truly awful for me personally and emotionally. It is this way now as I begin to experience trials once again. Even when you are mired in your own issues, the students pick up on things like that. Then, if you have a good relationship with them, they'll do something small to make sure you're ok. For example, even if I have a moment of dry throat, one of my students will invariably run to my desk and grab my water bottle for me. Or they'll notice something that they picked up long long ago that you're sure that they never would actually remember. Like when I told them at the beginning of the year that I'd had knee surgery. Then, several months and a lot of therapy later, I knelt down to write something on the bottom of the board and one of my students exclaimed with glee, "Ms. Teach, you can KNEEL!!!"

Sometimes the best blessing we receive is the smiling faces, ridiculous jokes, sweet troubles, and kind words of the people who really do fill our hearts and minds for all of the time that they are in our presence. And sometimes, especially when they try so hard to take care of me, I feel very lucky for the distraction.