Monday, October 26, 2009

Dedication vs. Insanity!!

The other morning/night really, (3:00 a.m.) I awakened with a start. Where had this particular girl in my class been? She had been absent for the last four days and I was starting to worry and wonder what was going on. I know her home life. She has shared with me with me some of the not so great things that go on at home. My aunt was arrested last night for being drunk and spanking her daughter was one of her current tidbits. So, there I lay, 3:00 a.m. and I am making a mental note to call as soon as I get to school and find out what is going on. As I was racing to school the next morning I was pondering what other job there is that seems to be twenty-four seven. Teachers are never off. They cart things home after school, they do lesson plans for hours if they are going to be gone, they buy things at stores on the weekends for that great science lesson that needs supplies the school does not provide, they browse the internet for any other creative teacher who had an insight they want to share (this insight probably took place on their own hours after they left school), they talk about it at lunch, they dream about it at night, really teaching is a job that requires mental and physical abilities that force a teacher to head for the nearest couch on Friday and never want to leave it all weekend!! Instead on weekends when we need the rest, we are driving to the local teacher supply store for more ways to spruce up a social studies lesson. Being a dedicated teacher means that the mind never stops and the concern never ends. The other day I couldn't put my mind at ease when a shy little boy let me know it was his birthday and he wasn't having a birthday party, had never had a birthday party and didn't know if he was even going to have a cake when he got home. There I was at lunch looking for cupcakes and candles at the local grocery store. An eight year old deserves fan fare for the day they are born I was muttering to myself. Insanity, yes! Running at a speed most cheetahs would challenge, yes! Teachers are a rare breed of individuals. So, when I wake up in the middle of the night with a thought or concern, I know I am in the right profession. I am a teacher. If that means I am insane, them I am proud to be labled that and move on.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Testing Blitz

Famous words in the public school system these days is,"class, make sure you bubble in the right answer." Today I spent two hours of instructional time making sure my students knew how to bubble in the right bubble on their answer sheet. I couldn't help but thinking as I am doing a demonstration on the accurate way to bubble, that I could be starting my unit on the Native American Indian, but not today. We will bubble in. The test took almost an hour and a half. Then we had to transfer the answers to a bubble sheet. Waste, waste, waste. I looked in my student's faces as they seriously considered their task at hand. They worked so hard to get the right answer. They worked so hard to find the right bubble. It touched my heart to see how much they wanted to please. Tomorrow we will spend another two hours taking another test and bubbling another answer sheet. I will not have time to start my Native American unit again. We test. We theme test. We district test. We computer test. We state test. My students ask the question each time I pass out the test, "which one is this again?" Don't get me wrong, teachers need to know what their student's know. But, a good already teacher knows. They know each time they ask a question that probes their student's minds and the light goes on and the wheels start to turn, and the excitement shines on their faces as they raise their hand to answer. They know each time a student gets a math problem right on their daily work and they raise their fist and whisper "yes" silently to themselves. They know when they hear their student's talking in a group project and discussing whether the girl on the "Island of the Blue Dolphin" did the right thing going back to help her brother, which meant she was left on the island all by herself." A good teacher does not need a test written by someone else to tell them what they already have figured out. But, the system is in motion and our public school children are learning to bubble in. So, we administer, and we set aside those exciting lessons for another day. The sad thing is, in two more months we will start all over with the bubbling in, and watching our students labor to find the right answer on the answer sheet. Thank goodness our students can move on and past all the test blitz to find the real education in between. Thank goodness a good teacher can too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October Blues

There isn't a longer month than October!! In September a teacher has Labor Day to look forward to. We start the year off, just get everything in gear, and then "bam", a Monday to take off and recuperate. It is amazing how much a three day weekend can rejuvinate and recapture the energy level needed to be a teacher. I find myself after a three day weekend, saying "wow" and really meaning it at the appropriate times. Then comes October!! Nothing to jump start the soul. It is one long month of eternity. It has thirty-one days and keeps on going, with only the nightmare holiday (literally!) Halloween to keep winding up the little darlings, and have them floating at a high level until after Thanksgiving. October has no days off. We used to celebrate Columbus Day, but now that is a thing of the past. I loved singing those "Sailing The Ocean Blue," songs, but now without the holiday, good old Columbus has sailed himself into no holiday history. So now, November seems afar way off in the middle of October. The talk of costumes, carnivals, parties, and trick-or-treating goes on forever. Then just when I think I can't make it any longer, November crawls around the corner with only thirty days and a week off for the turkey and stuffing. If a teacher makes it to November, we know we are able to at least last until December, where we get a nice long break. Then comes January and the beloved short month of February, with wonderful presidents to honor. Of course, that means we can make it to March, because spring break is right after and we might as well hang around for the short month of April, and wind down with May and time off in June. Yes, October is a long month, but before we know it, it will be June and the year will start all over again. Then we will just have another October to get through!! The beat goes on.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saved By The Bell

A teacher's life is ruled by bells. There are days that I feel like a mouse in a maze where the gate has been lifted and the bell has rung. The poor little mouse races furiously to the finish line where a big hunk of cheese is waiting. The amazing thing about the mouse is that the bell is what sets it off. It is conditioned by the sound and the vibration that sends a message "make the finish line or else." A teacher feels pretty much the same way. A warning bell sounds in the morning for the students to get ready to line up. A second bell announces school has begun and all should be in order. Then it is another bell before potty breaks are allowed. We file out, and race before the next bell announces the break is complete. There are bells for fire drills. These bells tell us to march like soldiers without a sound and listen for the bell that lets us know we can resume normal activity. A bell says "lunch is over". Another bell rings for a second potty break. \Second race for the two stall bathroom with a staff of over thirty teachers. Sometimes a bell will prepare us for a disaster drill and we crouch under our desks and pray it will never be the real thing. The last bell of the day is the beloved "school is over" bell and we all heave a sigh of relief until the next day when all the bells and programming starts again. One can be confused and puzzled if the bell is late, or early. We don't know what to do? We are so conditioned to start in motion at certain times of the day, we feel like we are cheating if the bell is not doing its thing at the appropriate moment. There are blank looks and zombie movements down the pavement anyway, just because we know the drill and we are conditioned by the bell. On the weekends freedom from bells is a priority. I hate a schedule, I hate having to do something in any two hour chunk of time. I want to go to the bathroom whenever I feel like it, and eat lunch whenever I feel like it. By Monday, I have to retrain my bladder and my hunger, because the bell hasn't rung and I have to wait until the finish line. Just like the mouse, I can reach the cheese. Each day I know I make it. As the students file out, there is a certain satisfaction about planning a lesson in one hour and thirty-five minutes and knowing deep down your students grasped the concept just before the bell rang!

Monday, October 5, 2009


Let's discuss the amount of interruptions a teacher experiences in one teaching day. I have been contemplating this for awhile. A teacher has to be really brilliant to even remember where they were. One day within one half hour I received these interruptions. The phone rang and I was asked if I could send up a particular boy to the office. I listened for the name going through my head and registering who it was. It didn't sound familiar but then (I had only been in school for a couple of weeks and still trying to keep names and faces straight). I got off the phone and looked at my students. They all stared back at me, and I realized I do not have that boy in my classroom. I called the office and reassured them they must have the wrong room. I do not have a so and so. The office person (new to our school) proceeded to argue with me that I had to have that person, and they were needed in the office because their parent was waiting for them. After a few more minutes of "I guarantee you I do not have that student) I could hear on the other line, a pause, and then an "oh" "you are not so and so." No, I said, "I am not". I turned around and tried to return to my science lesson, when the door opened up and in walked two students wanting me to sign a card for a staff member. "Gladly," I replied, and signed away. I was going to get to that science lesson if it killed me. Then as I was about to give it my best, a voice came over the loud speaker. "Pardon, me," it began, "pardon the interruption," (by all means we can handle a few interruptions with ease, I thought to myself. An announcement for kindergarten through second grade teachers came through to take their students to the playground for firedrill instruction. I just so happen to teach third grade, but no bother, we all listened patiently. Just as I was finally going to get back to where I was, two students walked in with a stack of papers that had to be delivered because they needed to go out this afternoon, and would I please sign this roster for them, proof that I had indeed received the important papers. We all smiled as I signed away and I thanked the eager young men just doing their good deed for the day. "Okay," I started, trying to return to the subject at hand, when one of my students raised their hand and announced they had to take their lunch money to the cafeteria or they wouldn't receive lunch and did I have an envelope because their mom did not have one? "Of course," I reply and I go to the closet where the envelopes are kept. We look up the lunch number they can't remember and write it on the envelope. Now, I smiled, when a bright young girl raised her hand. "Yes?" I question. "Isn't it time for us to go computer lab?" I check my schedule and sure enough it is. I look at my students, "well class," I manage, "when we return from computer lab and recess, "who will be in charge of letting me know where we left off?" All hands shoot up, and they promise to remind me. We line up and march to our next destination. I am a professional and part of being a teacher is being flexible and ready to roll with a day that is interrupted. Yet, as we marched to the computer lab, I couldn't help but wondering if would ever get to the lesson that I stayed after school the day before to plan without any interruptions. I shook my head no, knowing full well a day without interruptions would probably be boring anyway!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making a Difference

Sometimes when the alarm goes off in the morning a teacher can feel like what's the point? We don't work for money, because with the hours we put in, we could certainly have picked a more profitable profession. We don't work for a job promotion, because the only promotion we get is being moved from grade to grade (not necessarily by choice!) when we are just feeling comfortable in the grade we are in and have spent a numerous amount of money of our own, and now, we get to reinvent another wheel and spend more money. So, no, a job promotion is not something we get. We certainly don't work for praise, because many times we only hear from parents when they want to complain we have given their child too much homework, or we have given their child not enough homework. Then we hear from them alot. We don't hear thanks for the many extra hours we put in trying to take curriculum that seems a little stale, and try to present it in a creative and effective manner. So, when it comes right down to it, we mainly get up in the morning to try to make a difference in a child's life. We live for it, and we look for it. Somewhere during the crazy, busy, wheel spinning day, we hope we are reaching the unreachable and they will remember how their teacher did their best. I have one of those children this year who is making me earn my money. He is distracted most of the time, and sits glazed, like he is somewhere else. But today, after we had been going over the value of money for the fifteenth time, a light went on. It actually stunned him. His hand shot up before he knew what he was doing. He had a look on his face, "I got it, pick me!" I turned, and our eyes met. "Yes?" He proudly spit out the answer. It was a treasured moment. We both nodded to each other and I gave him a thumbs up. He sat a little taller and worked a little harder the rest of the day. All I can say to him is "thank-you!" When my alarm goes off tomorrow, I will get up and I will put in another day. Because you're worth it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Oscar Goes To....

In my training to become a teacher I was never informed that I would need acting lessons. I know I need them because there are times I feel a smile is plastered on my face and I am not fooling anyone. Teachers are expected to be somewhat superhuman. We don't have lives and we live at school in a closet that doesn't have a mirror and is really quite small!! Yet, we are expected to awake refreshed and renewed each and every day. Despite the fact our personal life might be falling apart at the moment, we smile when a child shows you for the fourth time the cut they received on their backyard fence and it is now extremely painful and making it impossible to do their work, ( on the playground five minutes ago they managed just fine!!). We smile and say, "oh, I am sorry, now go back to your seat and do the best you can!!"" Smile, smile. We smile when we look at the homework we received that is torn, in shambles and the student tells you the story of the homework that was at the peril of not making it school, but due to their heroic efforts it made it after all. Smile, smile. We smile in the morning when we welcome our students on maybe three hours of sleep, because we are parents too, and we were up with our own children during the night. Yet, we paste the smile on, and listen to "I am going to Disneyland for the next three days and I need homework to be ready by the end of the day to take with me, (this is usually from your lowest student and you are thinking they should be doing six days a week instead of five, but they are now taking the next three off), but you smile and say, "No problem! Have a good time!" You smile during the staff meeting when you feel like if anymore thoughts or effort come from your brain, you might not make it to your car, you instead smile, smile. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. We smile, we act, and then by the end of the day, we actually mean it. We do enjoy our jobs, we wouldn't keep coming back if we didn't, so usually the smile is genuine, but when it isn't the Oscar goes to..................