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Lessons Learned in 3 Weeks

Ok I want to start by saying that today was a great day. It was the first full teaching day that I felt was a success in each class. I started this year with ridiculously high expectations of both myself and my students. The imposter syndrome set in as I approached the beginning of the year and as kids started coming in and parents started reaching out it only amplified. You would think that hearing how excited kids are, or how happy parents are that kids are in your class, because you are the "reading teacher" that it would excite you. But it really had the opposite effect. I developed a sense of impending doom and really have been battling it a lot until tonight. It was our final day of back to school meet the teacher and the kindness extended to me by parents and the events of the day finally helped me shake this feeling that I am not enough. Today was amazing, my students wrote about events in their lives and absolutely kicked butt as we looked at theme and conflict in a short story. Our classroom discussion was rich and their words were beautiful. After a 145 minute (yes you read that right) Language Arts block with amazing 8th graders ended I had my 9th grade students waiting at the door. This year so far has been a struggle. Grade 9 is hard. Kids deal with too much and the emotions and hormones and silliness and all of those other wonderful things that impact our students seem to all be added into a pot and the results have been Thursday before lunch and mayhem. Mayhem that has until today derailed my room. But today was different. After an initial talking to about hallway etiquette, because WOW, they all sat down with their books. They all started reading. I was checking in on them and asking how books were going and then as time wrapped up and we needed to move on to writing I checked in on a student reading A Very Large Expanse of Sea I could see she was near the end and asked her how it was going and if she liked it, the response was "It is good but could you stop talking to me because I am trying to read" ummm she then realized the rest of the room was staring at her and asked if I had announced it was time to write. We all laughed and I introduced the Scars writing activity to work on narratives from 180 Days by the phenomenal Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. The activity was a hit, students were laughing at my scar stories and quickly working on reflecting on their own. We were engaged, we were writing and we were laughing. It literally felt like a cloud had parted. It was one day but it was a great day. And here are the three things I have learned in 3 weeks

  1. Kids have a lot of stuff going on. It might be at school it might be at home, it might be in their heads and it might be in their heart. But we have to meet them where they are. Show them compassion and grace before anything else because they are still little humans developing into adults. We can't forget we were there one day.

  2. A caring teacher will never replace a caring parent but we are so important. Kids and parents remember the teachers that are all in. We need to be all in for at the very least the 7 or 8 hours we have them. It is hard and some days we are tired (as I type this it is 8:11 PM and aside from a 1.5 hour break between going home to shower after the gym this morning I have been at the school since 4:45 AM) but when we snap at a kid they remember it like a scar reminds them of an injury. It stays with them. The words we wield are powerful. Today a student wrote that meeting me when he was in Kindergarten was a Watermark moment because now 8 years later we get to talk about cool things and sometimes play Pokemon.

  3. The work we do is important but it needs time to rise. It is like baking a cake or bread or whatever analogy that you are not suppose to open the oven too early. We start with all these awesome ingredients and we mix them all together and we put it in the oven and then we wait. The baking process with my 9s has been 3 years for many. We grow together but I almost opened the oven too early. Too much too soon was day one. Day four was a seating plan threat and day 6 was a meeting with parents to figure out what to do next. More time was what we decided was needed, to figure things out and day 7 was today and it was better than ok.

It is hard to imagine that we are only 19 days into September. I need to pump the brakes a bit in a few areas and let it go in others. Teaching is all about learning and we are doing a lot of that in Room 157 this year.

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