I was scoring writing last week so I read a number of writing samples written by grade three students. My group thoroughly enjoyed reading stories, narratives and letters written by grade three students. My favorite letter was written by a little boy who was describing a Barbie. He had a sister and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t asking for this Barbie for Christmas. At this point in the letter he wrote “if I were a girl (not that I want to be) I would ask for that Barbie for Christmas.” It doesn’t matter how old a person is, they can still write with a lot of voice!
In Science today we were testing the weight of towers made from paper. I had a student walk down the hall with me to pick something up. It was a cold day here, not many students were at school and I was complaining about how tired I felt. I jokingly asked this student if she would give me a piggy-back ride. She said she couldn’t. I asked why and she said because I was too heavy. She then went on to tell me that she thought I weighed more than 1000 grams! (That was the greatest weight the students had to use) I told her that usually I’m sensitive about my weight but I could live with someone telling me they thought I weighed more than 1000 grams!
My students are forever saying funny things and telling me funny stories. I remember these stories long enough to tell a couple of people but after a few days I can’t remember what made me giggle inside or roar with laughter. So I thought it best to record some of these funnies in this forum.
Yesterday my class was in Gym for the first period of the day. I was working in the classroom when two of my students walked in late together. We greeted each other and they told me of how they met up with each other along the way and walked the rest of the way to school together. As they were putting on their shoes they continued their conversation. Student one, “I wonder how many Native students we have in our class?” Student two, “Yah, I wonder how many Ukrainian students we have in our class.” Student one began to list whom she thought were Native students in our class and counted. She stated her final tally to Student two. Student two said “Hmm, I thought we had more Ukrainian students than that. I think Julia* is Ukrainian because she is going to Texas to visit her grandparents in a month to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas.” Student one, “Oh, okay. I didn’t know that Julia* is Native but that makes sense now.” At this point the two girls had their shoes on and walked out the door. Sometimes I feel like I’m having conversations with people who aren’t understanding me but I’m usually aware that we may be talking about two different things! Obviously not with these two! As a side note, Julia* is neither Ukrainian or Native!
It seems like forever since I have blogged. And yet, it’s not because there is nothing going on or that life is boring by any means! I’m not sure why I haven’t been blogging. Maybe because life has been too busy and I haven’t had time for this. As I look around my classroom I realize that I haven’t had time to keep on top of organizational issues on a tangible basis either! I am having trouble keeping up in many areas and it’s bugging me like nobody’s business! I miss blogging though.
For the second year in a row I am teaching a new grade. New curriculum, new age level, new teaching methods, new programs, but similar kids – I’ve moved from grade one to grade two to grade three with the same bunch of kids. And these kids still have great needs that I have blogged about in the past.
I’m finding that I no longer have a balancing act – all of the balls seem to have fallen on the floor. I try to balance work life (time to plan, assess,organize, learn), home life (time with my kids, time with my husband, time with my dog, time to clean the house and make meals) and my health (time to exercise, time to relax). I also have other duties and expectations from other people with organizations I am involved with and commitments I need to fill. It’s so easy to say yes to help others but so hard to say no to keep my sanity. And yet, I feel like I am letting so many people down with everything I seem to be forgetting.
This post is how my mind is working and how I am feeling lately – cluttered and unorganized. When I started writing this post my intention was not to write about what I have written about. I guess the beauty of a quick write is to write about what is deeply bothering/worrying you or what you are thinking about and then reading it to find out what your thoughts are. Hmm, I need to add blogging as one more priority in my life and see what has happened? – I’ve added one more committment! But it’s a worthy committment that I have neglected!
In my third year of teaching a girl in my class said to me “my brother says that teachers only remember the bad kids they teach.” I laughed at this statement and then assured her that no, teachers don’t remember the bad kids but rather all of the good kids. That was nearly 15 years ago and as I reflect upon the first half of my teaching career, I think back to the kids I remember. In my original draft I included the names of each of these memorable characters but have reconsidered including names and have decided to omit names but rest assured, I remember each name which matches each of these characters!
I remember my first month of teaching. I was new to the job, new to the community, and all I wanted to do was impress my principal and fellow teachers. I remember having aspirations of being a kind, loving caring teacher who never raised her voice and everyone would be happy as they learned in my presence. On one of these fine and happy days we were doing an art project. Two boys decided to chase each other around the room. I can’t remember the details but I’m sure they were carrying scissors and threatening to stab each other. I asked them to stop running around the room while I helped another student. They didn’t listen. They didn’t listen the first, second or third time so I started to yell. I yelled “Get to your desks and sit down! Sit down in your desks now!” and I’m sure I yelled this more than once because I remember the door opening and seeing the principal standing at the door and I remember thinking “you should stop yelling now” but the other part of my thoughts said “no way, keep yelling at these kids until they sit down, I don’t care who’s watching”. I don’t really remember what happened after that but I do remember that I never yelled like that again.
In my second year of teaching I had my first experience with a student with ADHD. This student was active, he was busy, he was brilliant. I remember a story the principal told me about him which I never witnessed and yet I can see it so clearly in my head. This student was sent to the principal’s office for some reason. He was frustrated and climbed up the principal’s tie and said to him “what, do you think you’re the boss around here or something?” The principal told me that he didn’t really know how to respond but he desparately searched the room for a pair of scissors to cut off his tie as well as the clinging kid!
In my third year teaching I met a boy who wanted to be the class clown but unfortunately he often said the wrong things at the wrong time in hopes for a laugh. He hated reading but found a novel study about snowboarding and read that book in a day; I hunted for more books along the same reading style. The next year I was preparing for maternity leave. I was due near Christmas time and one of my students saw the ad in the paper for my position. I remember him saying “I saw your job in the paper and it says that anyone with inquiries about the position can phone … I would like to inquire about who they are planning to hire for you so I think I will call that number.” When I returned from maternity leave I taught a boy whom I babysat and changed his diapers ten years previous. This leverage helped me with him in the grade 7 classroom! During my last year of teaching grade 7 a brilliant boy created a website called “What’s the Beef” all on his own. It was amazing that he could create such an online forum at that time (as online forums nine years ago were not as common as they are now) but it became a secret forum for kids to write about people in kind and unbeknownst to him, in hurtful ways as well.
I remember one day teaching grade one and standing at the back of the room thinking “this is so easy, look at all these kids working quietly, it’s almost too quiet, it’s almost boring.” No kidding, the very next day I met a boy who did not last long in our school but his stay was memorable. There was a rash of J boys for a few years who arrived in the spring and left only a few weeks later and were surprisingly memorable. I often wonder what happened to these kids.
I could go on. Every year there has been at least one memorable student, or as my uncle would say, character. And yes, most of these memorable students could be considered or labelled “bad”. I remember the names and their stories and now that I am removed from the situations I can laugh. I’m not sure why the boys are predominantly the memorable characters, er, I mean, students. However, I would really love to share these two memories of someone who was not a “bad” student and yet, these memories make me laugh and feel warm and comforted inside. One morning I looked out my classroom window and I saw a boy walking to school, carrying his homework in his hand. One of the many stray dogs in town ran up to him, snatched his homework from his hand and ran off with it. All this boy had left was a ripped corner. He was very upset when he came into the school because really, who would believe that a dog ate his homework? On another day some book club money had gone missing. It wasn’t a lot of money and I wasn’t really sure what to do but I decided to give every student a piece of paper to write anything they might know about the money. This same boy wrote that he did not take the money but that he would give me his allowance money to help cover costs. I thought that was so sweet and I still have that note, 14 years later. I guess overall I do remember the characters but I prefer to remember them as the memorable kids. And by the way, I remember that girl with the brother too.
I finished reading Room by Emma Donaghue. I remember reading the first chapter of the book and I couldn’t understand why this woman would keep this child in a room; what was her motivation? Were there other rooms with other women and children nearby? But I also couldn’t believe what a day in the life looked like. Jack, whom narrated the story, wrote about having to turn the TV off after a certain amount of time. Jack wrote about the yucky vegetables he had to eat. Jack wrote about the daily routine in Room; he wrote about having Phys. Ed and reading time and art times. He wrote about the importance of having a bath everyday, washing the clothes and sheets. All of this made me question Ma’s motives even more. However, in the second chapter, it is revealed that Ma is kept prisoner by Old Nick as well as Jack and from that point I admired Ma so much. Here she was locked in a room with a 5 year old and yet she insisted upon proper nutrition, she limited Jack’s TV time, she kept him clean, she sparked his creativity and she did her best to keep his small body moving during Phys. Ed.
Eventually Jack and Ma escape and they are in the safe care of a psychiatric hospital. It was at this point in the book where I realized the importance of early intervention and the importance of doing the best with what you have. When I imagine stepping into Ma’s shoes (socks rather as she did not wear shoes in Room) I can’t help but think that I would probably turn the TV on and lay under Duvet and sleep my worries away. I admire Ma for her ability to make the best out of a terrible situation. Ma inspires me to do better; to do the BEST I can do with what I have and I am fortunate, I have a lot. I have happy healthy children, I have support from family and friends, I am healthy, I have a successful career, I have a home and most importantly I have freedom. I have the freedom to do what I wish to do when I wish to do it.
I like to teach art. I am not an artist but I like to experiment and I like to craft. So most of the time I try things with my students which make the janitors cringe (“you’re using glitter again?”) as well as the educational assistants working in my classroom (one year an EA had blue fingers for the first month of school due to one of my great ideas). Earlier this fall I discovered a website by That Artist Woman for teachers of Art. The artist’s photographs explain each step of each project. I reluctantly decided to try the stamped penguin project with my students. I say reluctantly because although I liked the techniques presented, I thought it was rather cookie cutter-ish and I thought the personal experience and creativity of the students may be lost. I stapled the artwork in the hallway and I received so many compliments. I think I received a couple of compliments each day for the first two weeks. I received compliments from teachers who usually don’t go down our hallway. I received compliments from students. It truly was a great way to start off a new year. And as I look at these penguins, I realize they reflect the students in my class. At a glance, they all look the same – they look like a group of 7 and 8 year olds but once you get to know them you see the individual personalities in each penguin.
Happy New Year!