Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reflections about me and my kids

Why is it so easy to give advice, but not to take it? I was mentoring a first year teacher the other day and I told her that the first year is about survival. She is in a learning curve and no one expects every lesson to be perfect. Somewhere along the path of reassuring her it hit me. I AM a first year teacher. Okay, not completely. This is my 11th year of teaching, but my first in English and Social Studies. The reason that I am so tired all the time is that I think I have to be perfect. (Anyone who knows me KNOWS I am an overachiever!) So on Wednesday I took a deep breath. I wrote the first free verse poem I have written in years. Poetry is not my thing and has been killing me. My students will be writing free verse next week. My poem isn't bad (I am not sure any free verse poem can be bad), but I recognize it has way too much stuff going on in it. My first reaction to it was, "I need to figure this out and get it right." Guess what? I am not going to. I am typing it and putting it up on my Promethean Board on Tuesday and I am going to share my not perfect poem with my students and let THEM help me with revisions. And do you know what I realized? They will gain more from seeing that I struggle, too, than if I had tried to be perfect. They will be less intimidated by their lack of perceived skills when I show them mine. Why did I not see that before? I figure after showing this poem to four different classes next week, I may come away with four completely different pieces of poetry. I am pretty excited about this. It's all feeling so much less stressful now!

I had another big change for me this week. I learned the word no. It has been scarce in my vocabulary and it took me hours to build up the confidence to say it. Our English department head had decided to study a new writing method as a department and got it set up as a class for credit. I was feeling enormous pressure as a new member of the department to take this class, even though not everyone in the department was going to. I finally went to her and explained that I am frantically learning the current writing method AND the Social Studies curriculum AND taking a Promethean Board class AND finishing the technology curriculum revision. I told her that another class probably would cause me to go over the edge and that I appreciated the offer, but no thank you. She completely understood. Whew!

There were other bright spots in my week. I am a teacher that keeps MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo accounts. I believe that if our kids live out there, I need to know what these are about. Over the summer, a few of my students found my Bebo account and to date 45 of them have requested me to be their "friends." I make it a point to not seek them out as friends, but I accept all of them that ask. I was looking over one of my students pages the other night and found a lot of things he has written. Wow! He is an awesome writer. There were a couple of pieces about how he feels about sports and a couple of lines about his girlfriend. This young man knows how to express himself. I sent him email telling him so. He doesn't think it is writing - just putting himself out there. I explained that is what writing is and that I am greatly looking forward to what he has to offer in class. I really am, too. This young man is an athlete and tends to play the part. It isn't going to happen in English class! He sought me out on yesterday's field trip to talk to me about his Bebo page and you could see how pleased he was that I liked it. For all the bad things that I find on my kids' Bebo pages, his was worth it all!

Yesterday our school had Natural High Day. Each core takes the kids on a field trip. The purposes are to show them that they can have fun without drugs, for us to get to know them better in a different setting, and for them to get to know us when we aren't in teaching mode. I look forward to this every year. The last 8 years at North I have gone as an Encore teacher, which is just another set of hands. The core teachers do all the planning and are in charge of the event. This year I felt more responsibility. I was in charge of things like collecting all the money and paying for things. As usual, some very cool things happened. We took our kids to a retreat setting and they have an obstacle course there. It is designed for both team building and trust building. We split the kids into four groups and were guided through the different stations on the course. I always like watching kids that don't hang out together learn to solve problems together. The biggie was when they had to get the entire team across a 10 foot wall. We had one young lady that was concerned about her weight. The kids didn't let her refuse the challenge. They took her right over the wall. Two girls were terrified of heights - whoosh over the wall they went. You have to love kids!

They also were given large blocks of free time. There was an outdoor basketball court, volleyball net, and field for frisbee. Inside were a number of games and there was also a hike down to a fishing hole. The kids were awesome, but the highlight of my day was when one of our boys was sitting off to the side. He tends to be a loner by choice. He has long, blonde hair and wears more makeup than I do. He considers himself to be very goth. He is quite the artist - if you like the skulls and dark art he does. Anyway, he is sitting off to the side and a couple of the boys yelled for him to come even up the basketball teams. That alone stunned me, because they usually leave this young man alone. But he went! He played basketball with them for about 1/2 an hour! I took pictures just because I was so excited. After a while there were other kids that wanted in the game and he gave up his spot and headed back off to draw. I went and chatted with him about his experience. He was laughing because he wasn't very good at basketball, but I think that short experience changed something in him. He was a different kid all day. I am anxious for Monday!

There are times when I let the details of my job overwhelm me. The technology aspect can make me crazy. The learning curve I am on leaves me feeling behind. The English papers that must be graded are insane. But I love what I do. Lucky for me teaching isn't just about technology or English or Social Studies. It is about these kids and the amazing resilience they have. My kids don't have a lot of money. Many are from very poor home situations. They come into my classroom with a lot of baggage, but they are really all about being kids. I am so blessed to be able to share a brief part of their lives!

Okay - off to Saturday School to assist those that are struggling academically! I love my job!


TMestad said...

I am SO glad that you learned to say no. Will you teach it to me? :o) This week I took on our church website, and put my name in to do the Central website. I am teaching full time, taking 2 classes, teaching a course for Black Hills State, have two small children, and a child-husband, and a new puppy in the house that happens to be 70 pounds in weight.
Can't wait to hear what your kids do with your poem - I'll bet it will be great!
So fun to hear about your Natural High Day. Your words about your kids are so inspiring. Reminds me why I'm glad to be a teacher. :o)

SherryC said...

I quite giggled to think I inspire. But I do hope you learn the word no. I haven't mastered it yet, but I sure felt better after I did it!

What are you teaching for Black Hills State? That is something I WOULD like to do!

Good luck and hang in there!

Jenny said...

I really enjoyed this post. Your energy and enthusiasm came across so clearly and is infectious. You've got me looking forward to next week. Thanks!