Friday, November 18, 2016

Week 14: In which I get made fun of, sassed at, and challenged

I think there's got to be something about week seven when it comes to bonding with kids. I say this because it was about the seventh week when I was student teaching at the high school that certain students got comfortable enough with me that they sassed me.

This is week seven of my journey in fourth grade, my 14th of student teaching. Today a student sassed me in front of the entire class. I felt awful for the student because as soon as he did I saw his face melt into a look of horror. The words flew out of his mouth before he had time to stop them.

I couldn't let it go, though. Everyone was watching.

Another student told me that her twin sister was making fun of my looks in the hall. I found that hilarious, and assured this student that I could take it, that I like the way I look, I am pretty and nice and that's all that matters. That seemed to reassure her.

The math class this week was unruly. I think it was the supermoon because even my homeroom students were uncharacteristically ornery. Either that, or, they are just comfortable enough with me now to be awful and know I'll still care about them. (Science doesn't support my theory about behavior being affected by the moon, but it sure is interesting that when there's a full moon, kids are more rowdy...)

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Since my math class wasn't all that into math, on Thursday, I played like I was a mean old teacher. I gave the students an uexpected test which meant they had to have zero voices for the last half of the class. Then, I documented what I saw. And after my observations, I can understand why that class has a difficult time staying focused. Out of 25 students, twelve were daydreaming, wiggling, and doing just about anything except their math test. They did it with great stealth, too.

And about seven of them couldn't sit in the chair properly. So, that was telling. This class is more body smart than pay-attention smart. They want to move and talk and play. Which, I realize is normal. But this group seems a little on the immature side of fourth grade that way. And it makes it difficult for the students who do pay attention and are quiet. I feel so bad for the ones who are studious. Most of the students in that class just aren't.

Fortunately, next week is Thanksgiving week, so I have the freedom to do math activities instead of plowing through the curriculum. I say plow because that's how it feels sometimes. The state has set standards of what these students are to learn. And if we don't cover certain things on time and in time, the students won't be prepared for the tests.

I have always said we should teach children not curriculum. In a private school this is much easier to accomplish. I was differentiating curriculum for students long before it became a buzzword in education. And yet, even though we are to differentiate, and the classes are already differentiated by ability (I have the mid-level ability class), there is still such a wide range of abilities. We're teaching multi-digit multpilication by one digit and yet, there are still students who don't know their math facts. They're still using multiplication charts and their fingers.

The old-fashioned teacher in me wants to drill these kids until every single kid in the class has these facts down. But not only is drill frowned upon, it's not even possible. There's not enough time. And there aren't enough teachers to help students who are lost. That, I think, is the frustrating part about teaching a large group of students. I want so much to make sure each of them understands what's been taught before they leave the room. But it's not possible. At least, not the way the system is set up right now.

Other things that happened this week included wrapping up the social studies projects the students are doing for their Native American museums. I'll be posting pictures and videos about that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here's the newsletter I sent this week:

I'm really proud of the work the students have done on their social studies research projects. Today I filmed a little movie two of them wrote. It's fun to see talent blossom in fourth grade. It's just starting to emerge here. Kids are just learning what they're good at. I love having a front row seat!

Today I had another teaching evaluation. I only have one more to go! Then I have tons of papers to write. But that's the easy part for me. Sometimes when I'm walking through the hall at the school, I can hardly believe that's what I'm doing. It's such a privilege to get to work with these eager, thirsty minds. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.  
I was offered a good-paying job doing something else last night. And I really don't want to take that position because all I really want to do is write and teach. I can't imagine that I'd be happy doing another job no matter how much it pays. I have a lot of thinking to do, but I'm pretty sure I know the answer. Teaching is my passion. It's not going away. And if I leave it to do something mundane for tons of money? I think I'd feel cheap and useless. 

Teaching is what I do best. I might be good at other things, too, but just because I'm good at them doesn't mean I should do them. Teaching and writing -- my two passions -- touch the future. I've always wanted to time travel and this is one way to do it. I can't imagine being truly happy doing anything else.

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