Thursday, October 10, 2013

Control freak.

For those who know me, I'm the opposite of a control freak. As we speak, half of the dishes I was supposed to clean this morning are still in the sink, half in the running dishwasher. There is a load of laundry in the washer that's been sitting in there since yesterday. I bought some frames a week ago that are still sitting on the coffee table. I am not at all stressed by messes or disarray.
HOWEVER. In the classroom, it's a different story. I'm still absent minded, I still leave whiteboard markers and my phone and my coffee all over the room, asking in the nicest way possible for students to find them for me. But when it comes to sitting on the rug, I all of a sudden feel like a CONTROL FREAK. At my old school, it was pretty normal to hound students about sitting correctly, where to put their eyes, etc. Walking in the hallway was a silent endeavor (not because I necessarily believe students need to be silent while walking, but for safety reasons and mostly because we were inside a building and other students were learning in other classrooms. Here, the students behave wonderfully with their teachers, but I have had yet to see a teacher give a time-out (other than myself.) The students also tend to careen down the hallways, sometimes even screaming at recess. This puts me into control freak overdrive.
I feel that I am forever telling the kids to go back and walk. To do it again. To keep it in their brain. To take a break, we don't actually touch each other's faces on the rug for fun. And today...the inevitable happened. I made a Kindergartener cry. At my old school, this was a normal occurrence. Students who wanted to do their own thing and then were woken up by annoying insistence that they stay with us would sometimes cry, not used to being told "no." That first time being told NO in a really firm way is a quite upsetting experience, and I get that. And from here I think I will see immense progress with this student.
He is adorable. Comes in every day so excited, speaks only a little English, is absolutely brilliant, and WON'T STOP TALKING. Ever. I of course give time for translating to make sure the kids understand what they're supposed to do or talk about, but I mean...constantly giggling, hopping around, making faces, basically being a typical 5 year old. He doesn't understand much English, so I believe his coping mechanism is playing. I would probably do that too. But today... we went to our seats to draw a map of the classroom. Little muffin KNEW what we were supposed to do...I had his friend tell him in Mandarin, and make sure he knew. He proceeds to draw his mom flying out of the window of his house like a witch. He even told me! I told him his picture was fun, but we were drawing our classroom so please try again. I had a different student translate. They said he understood. I pointed to the model. Then he turns over the page and starts laughing hysterically and scribbling and drawing swords. I took his paper and crayons away from him, told him I'd give him another chance when he was ready to do what we were doing, and he put his head down and cried.
I came back a few minutes later and gently asked him to try again, but he was still sad. Until it was time to go, he hurriedly drew his classroom and then ripped a paper off the corner of his map and made dollar signs all over it.
He handed me the paper and said "For you. Dollars." As an apology. I nearly cried too. I bet he won't goof off to that extent again. The new ELD specialist for the school arrives next Friday, so I'll be there one more week. Better enjoy these muffins (and the two preps a day!) while this lasts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ELD Delights

My story begins the same as so many teachers: I've been wanting to teach since I was eight. It began with wanting to be around kids all the time, then evolved into something bigger, even moreso than I can fathom now. Education is, of course, constantly undulating with the times, moving in and out of trends, so much of it politicized, so predestined for those who have access and all-so-difficult for those who do not. Teaching is now, to me, such a personal and vital endeavor, that quite like when I was young, I can't imagine doing anything else. One month ago I woudn't have told you that.
Education is frustrating and confusing. I am a privileged woman, as I have often mentioned, who comes from a home that prepared me for the American culture of school and university. One month ago, I wasn't sure it was for me anymore. Nearly every day for the past three years, I felt like I was failing my students because I was told they were failing. My self worth became based around how many reading levels my students had gained through the year, because if they weren't making gains that was on me (which it still, of course, is.) I blamed myself for classroom outbursts, for moments gone awry, for all the normal (and not-so-normal) things that happen in a classroom. My lack of confidence affected my performance, my sleep, my eating habits--all the things I needed to be on top of my game. I would stay up until 11 PM looking up some new-fangled thing to try every day, always feeling that the result was less than optimal.
I worked at a great school with great kids and AMAZING colleagues. My friends told me to keep on keepin' on, that we were all in this together, that I was good at it. I never ever believed them. My lack of confidence and self worth were ultimately what led to my discomfort as a classroom teacher, not the fact that I am probably a capable teacher who went through the same things that any other average teacher goes through. But I took it all so personally. I felt the weight of my students' learning, and a selfish sense of loss that the only thing I'd ever wanted to do was depressing and discouraging me. School shouldn't be like that. It should be fun and exciting and full of happiness.
As a sub, I still struggle sometimes. But I don't blame myself. I reflect on what went wrong, resign myself to the fact that kids are kids and we will get there with practice, practice, practice...and I come home happy and healthy, excited for the next day. Maybe subbing was the best thing for me. Moreso than someone telling me I was good, I needed to believe it. But for me, that started with divorcing myself from data, with SMILING and being playful but firm with kids, and enjoying the learning process with them. It comes from seeing them happy and excited about what they're doing, from using rich curriculum, and from part of my job as ELD sub to spend time sharing stories and translating and comparing much fun. I learned a tremendous amount from my time in Oakland, and it is validating to feel that maybe I wasn't wrong to choose this education path...
The sad part of being a sub is knowing there's an impending ending day. I've spent the last week launching ELD groups with students from every grade level, and I already really really like them and feel a little attached. (There are a couple who have ignited that all-too-familiar furrowing of the brow with their spanking-butt, giggling-for-too-long antics, but overall it's been quite delightful). I pull groups intermittently or push in and help out in classrooms where I get to observe incredible educators, and it's really been a pleasure.
After this week, onto the next sub adventure. Cross your fingers those adventures end in a Kinder job-share taking over for a maternity leave beginning in December!