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!

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