Sunday, September 23, 2012

We will get there.

I have cried not once, but two times in the past two weeks AT SCHOOL. Not in front of the children, thank goodness, but in front of my incredible colleagues. I am in Year 3 and I feel that I am striving for 100% engagement, a seamless classroom where children don't tap on the desks or wiggle the pencil holders. A classroom where students don't begin whistling in succession after I ask them to stop. I went to observe some of my amazing coworkers' classrooms, and I had this sinking feeling that I am SO FAR behind in management. So far behind. And students sit criss cross applesauce, rarely shout out, and raise their hands to tell me things. We are getting better at turning and talking, we say chants and songs all the time, and scouts are looking for kids who are "doing a great job on the rug" and give specific feedback to students on the rug. My transitions are still wiggly, the end of the day is not perfect, but as David is always reminding me...the kids are learning.
It won't be perfect and I am by no means perfect, but I need to remember that it takes years and years to feel confident...and I have a long way to go with management, but I am so excited with all the new engagement strategies I've been using and our bucket filled with sparkly hearts because of all the kind words my students have been sharing with eachother.
We will get there.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I'm sure we all would LOVE to be superwoman or superman in our classrooms and in our lives. I want to be the best at what I do, that beloved teacher who differentiates, creates, and celebrates. I am nowhere NEAR that teacher, and every day I'm reminded why....
My students talk back to me. One told me to "sh" the other day. Superwoman would know what to do. I don't. I just pretend in the moment that I do.
My students take things from the classroom and lie about it. Superwoman's students don't do that.
My students get bored. They whine. They roll on the rug and make loud, rude noises on purpose. They whistle after I ask them to stop.
Superwoman is organized. She doesn't forget to hand out homework or call back a Mom or Dad.
Superwoman doesn't have beer on a school night, or take naps after work, or forget to schedule wedding dress appointments or consultations about the venue.
Superwoman sticks to her 10k workout schedule, doesn't forget what the sight words for the week are supposed to be, or procrastinate testing the rest of her kids because it takes so much time after school.
Superwoman has it figured out, I don't, and I'm tired. I wish I was more organized, more patient, more creative, more savvy.
Until then I'll just keep on keepin' on, strive for better, and work through the days when I feel unsuccessful and underwhelmed with myself.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"What if I don't agree with our rules? Do I have to sign them?"

First graders are cray CRAY. In the best possible way. But who else would jump on eachother's backs at lunch, compare pencil length for 5 minutes before getting started on their work, or hide in corners to share hot cheetos and takis and then tell the assistant principal they didn't eat them even though they had fiery powder all over their fingers?
Oh, my students. I was feeling exhausted Friday and didn't take the time to celebrate their successes. Like, how they're already working for 13 minutes at a time quietly and independently. My classroom is much much quieter than it has ever been. We created rules this week: Be kind, be safe, work hard, and have fun. G asked me when we were signing our rules if he had to sign because he didn't agree with working hard. Oh, dear. "Yes, you still need to sign it, because we're going to learn how to work hard to go to college." "Okay, Ms. Estrada."
I have a couple students with severe social and emotional needs (not as much as in the past), but I'm super excited for Seneca to start working with those muffins to get them what they need. At this point, I'm not sure exactly what will work for them (wandering around the room, sleeping constantly, defiance, etc.) I know my interactions with them cannot be overly stern or emotion-ridden, yet I'm trying to figure out how to communicate strict boundaries for them.
We have our first long day on Monday--8 to 2:45. I'm a little nervous about what that's going to look like. I know my students will get tired, and we'll need lots of energizers and breaks, and I'll need to keep my frustrating at their five-year-old-ness in check. Ready for a weekend of resting, Catan, and baby showers!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hello, Year 3.

This mantra has been running through my head the past two weeks: "I just want to be a good teacher." I want to be firm but loving, understanding, compassionate, and strict. I strive to be better than years before, more organized, make stronger relationships with families, speak fluently and easily in Spanish with the parents, learn Mien so I can communicate with cutie C's mom, and shower my two toughest behavior issues with unconditional love and support. I aim to differentiate, conference, and interactively model my face off. I've read the Responsive Classroom guidebook at least 4 times cover to cover, and still I look for more games and energizers to fill these beginning of year first graders with positive experiences at school.
But I yelled today. I pulled out my ultra-stern "ExCUSE ME" in the hallway with two classes. I saw the looks that passed over kids' faces. "Oooh, Ms. Estrada YELLS," they seemed to say. There was that disappointed but also shocked look that emerged, and then fixing their line immediately. It's been one week and one day, people. I was tired and cranky and tired of positive reinforcing up-the-wazoo how to stand in a straight line. Tomorrow, I will remember to be gentle and to positively reinforce while also being firm with children who are acting cray cray at the back of the line, turning circles, playing tag, etc. I WILL smile throughout the day, and I will be gentle but firm in my reminders to stop TALKING WHILE I'M TEACHING OR OTHERS ARE TALKING. YEESH. I will be patient, I will be patient, I will be patient.
What I really want to do is craft with them all day. Learn how to talk to one another. Play games. Cook food. Plant a garden. Make mistakes and learn from them, without the pressures of finishing this or that assessment on time, taking away recess time, or walking in a perfect silent line. But on the other hand, our children and all children DESERVE literacy. So I will assess, I will look at data, I will meet with my guided reading groups and stress over scores and DRA until the words "Close the book and tell me about the story" show up in bold print in my dreams. I will kiss their owies, sprinkle quiet dust and pretend wake up dust on their heads, open up wrapped class books as rewards for kindness, and sing everyone's names and redirections to bring something new to this classroom and education. I have already fallen in love with my class, but feel like I'm doing them somehow wrong by being so picky, so irritable, so HUMAN.
I want to be like Ms. Honey or the seemingly flawless authors of teacher blogs who have time to do Art everyday, utilize best practices, AND make money by posting lessons. I will continue to misstep, like my students, and can only hope to do right by them. I know there will be days where I question once again what I'm doing here-- why did I ever think I could do this? And then there will be days when I walk into the room and can't imagine doing anything else...and I will survive, and they will survive, and we'll learn together how to make this work.
Hello, Year 3.