Monday, February 8, 2010

It's never easy

I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade. No joke. I was 6 years old. My teacher was Mrs. Rodman. She was pretty. She was nice. She let us earn all kinds of prizes. She had bunnies, fish, and birds for class pets. She invited us to her lake house in the summer. She even let me stay in touch & come to observe her when I was looking for a job during my student teaching. When I observed, Mrs. Rodman was now Joan to me ... but she was exactly as I remembered her.

I also observed some other amazing women during high school and college. I always hoped I could be as great as they were. I never strayed from the "education" track in high school or college. If there is one thing I regret about my classes in college, it's that I didn't allow myself a summer or a semester to study abroad. I've been babysitting since I was in 6th grade, I've tutored since I was in college, I taught summer school to preschoolers - elementary students for several summers.

Not once in all those years of learning, observing, preparing and dreaming of my own classroom did I ever think I'd be the "mean" teacher. I thought my kids would all love me just like I loved my teachers. I'd never yell. Never punish. Never make kids cry. Well ... things apparently change.

I do have a couple things going for me that help to hide my "mean" status on most days. I have what I think is a fun-looking classroom. I like to read books & they are all over for the kids to read. I LOVE to decorate for the seasons & holidays - my kids are amazed each time I pull down the next box of decorations. I DO laugh & smile & have fun. I adore my teammates/best friends and we made a great trio. I'm good at what I do & can teach (almost) any concept to any kind of learner.

To me, the most important part of my job is the not the curriculum I teach. It's definitely NOT the State Assessments that I prep for all year. The friends I've made at work are a close second. The MOST important part of my job is teaching some important life lessons & skills that may or may not have been introduced to my kids before they walked into my room for the first time in August.

I feel like it's important to create your classroom norms, tell your kids what you expect, and build a strong sense of community from day one. If I waiver at all on what I expect, the kids seem to run right over me. Twenty-six 9- and 10-year olds can do that. I learned early on that classroom management is NOT easy! Keeping up with the behaviors of 26 students (plus all the other students I see on a daily basis throughout the building) and keeping my cool is not something I can do well, without getting flustered.

I don't want you to think I have an awful class that is always out of hand & getting in trouble. I teach in a wonderful district, my colleagues at my building are honestly more like a second family and my classes are always great. However, the stories I tell about kids getting in trouble with me always shock my family. They think I'm so mean & need to let up a bit. I don't remember kids talking back to teachers when I was in school. And not that I got in trouble a lot in school (maybe Mom & Dad want to correct me here), but I don't think my parents would ever believe my side of the story over my teacher's. Things have changed.

It's never easy to contact the parents of one of my students to explain how their child is a classroom bully. It's also not easy to hear from a parent that their child has been made fun of for _____ (fill in the blank with body size, lunch, grades, hair, etc). Sometimes I think parents still see me as the "new" teacher who might not know what she's doing ... even though this is my 6th year and I'm doing a darn good job at work! I don't like having to say, "Miss/Mr. _____, will you come talk to me for a minute" when I know the conversation might end in tears, yelling or worse. None of that is easy ... but it falls under that category of the most important things I need to teach; so it must be done.

I can do the academic teaching part of my job without too many questions or worry about how my lesson will turn out. The life lessons, manners, social cues, feelings and my own goal to help my students become a better person in the future ... that is what always throws me for a loop!

** I had a lot to say tonight. Excuse my ramblings ... not sure that it really makes sense.
Isn't that what a blog is for anyway? ;) **

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The Lunds said...

It's obvious how much you care - a lot of people wouldn't make the effort. Ellen will be lucky to have a teacher like you. (And, I'll be a better parent).

Adam and Ashley said...

Even though I am sitting this year out...I know EXACTLY how you feel. I feel that teachers who are in education for the right reason feel the same too. Keep up the hardwork :)

M said...

You are a fantastic teacher, and I am very lucky to have you as a teammate AND a bff!! You are definitely fun and loving, but you have expectations too, and that's what makes you a great educator!!

distaff said...

Teachers have been complaining about similar difficulties since the beginning of time. And that's just what makes the difference --- TIME. We all remember school because we all spent a lot of time there. But it can never be the same as we remember it. Things/times change. Children still mostly succeed, despite our fears that they won't. I think the biggest change that you are experiencing has come with the necessity of so many moms in the workforce. Consequently they are not dwelling on the life skills that you are now having to teach. That's a good and bad thing, as most changes are. But we never go backward.

RachelC said...

I think it's so easy for us to see the difficulties and get frustrated by what's not going well. Really we should be looking at all the amazing things we do each day. Think of the kids that smile and get what you're saying! I'm sure you have some little Betsys in your class that are imagining teaching their own class some day.

I speak from experience. After a long day of dealing with parents and a couple students' visits to the principal's office, I just read through the valentines that some of my kiddos gave me. I'm the "best teacher ever" and "a very fun person too." They made me feel loved and appreciated.

Marie Hooker said...

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love chatter in places on exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble food, and tyrannize their teachers." Who said this?? SOCRATES! I feel your pain and am proud of you for keeping up the good fight!

chitknit said...

I wish that you and I were in the same school "family" so that I would have your fourth graders on my yearbook and newspaper staffs when they got to high school. As a high school teacher, I appreciate hearing that from you. I hope all elementary teachers feel that what you're talking about it part of their jobs. It's part of all of our jobs.

I love the Socrates quote, by the way. I think I see a journal prompt in its future.