Thursday, May 28, 2009

10 Lessons for New Teachers

I only have 9 more teaching days left.  I'm not sure how I'll feel after these 29 little ones go off to middle school.  It's so crazy that I've spent 172 days with them, a total of about 1200 hours with them since August.  Last year, I was fine on the last day.  I packed up my classroom and said goodbye to them - no tears.  But as I drove home, Say by John Mayer came on the radio, and I started crying and just could not stop.  

"Every little past frustration, take all of your so called problems, better put 'em in quotations."  

The last day of school is a day of letting go, and the realization sinks in for me that I no longer have influence on those little ones anymore.  They are gone, and all I can do is hope I said something right, or cared enough, or helped them understand something well enough. 

Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to harbor those thoughts and feelings when I am actually in the classroom... where it matters most.  Contrary to popular opinion, and the many movies portraying "inner city schools," thought-provoking, emotionally gripping music does not play in the background as I teach in my room.  Usually, it's the sound of a pencil sharpener falling on the ground ensuring that shavings are in every possible part of the desk area, the whine of, "But I didn't do nothin!" or "Ms. Christie, Ms. Christie, Ms. Christie, Ms. Christie, Ms. Christie, Ms. Christie..."  Somehow, I need to find a way to remember to overlook "the small stuff," and to see the bigger picture when I am in the classroom with the kids.  God, please help me with this.

As much as the end of the year is bittersweet, I do love being able to contemplate all that went wrong and right after the year has ended.  Starting over is lovely.  August brings new students, new trials, and new lessons.  It also brings new ideas.  That's my favorite - being able to change the things that just didn't work or that I didn't have the energy to change the previous year.  

Both years, I have learned much from the 2 very different classes I had.  I blogged about some funny stories from my first year of teaching.  Now, here are some lessons I've learned in my second year: 

1.  Never say, or even think to yourself, "It can't get worse."  It always can.  It can also get better.

2.  Sometimes rules simply have to have a negative in them.  It's crazy how specific they become too:  "Please do not follow me around the room while repeating my name over and over and over and over...." or "Please do not crowd so close to my desk that you get tangled in my computer cord and cause it to fall."

3.  When you stay calm and don't yell, it makes it a better day for everyone.

4.  Pray.  For strength, for patience (although it's tough when you get to exercise patience), for the students.  I haven't done that enough.

5.  Just because you think something is super cool doesn't mean they will.  Although, on the other hand, it is all in the presentation.  Sometimes you can convince them to think something's cool just by being excited about it.  

6.  If you don't actually want to know the truth, don't ask a kid.  They will tell you, and it's brutal.  Trust me.  Don't go fishing for compliments either.  

7.  Disney Channel makes eating lunch exciting (and more peaceful).  

8.  If at ALL possible, don't get a substitute during the first month of school.  Last year, I missed the first two weeks of school (chicken pox) and this year, I missed the second week of school (Central Asia).  It's really, really hard to bounce back from.  And I'm not one for using more than one "really" in a sentence, unless I really, really mean it.

9.  Telling the kids that you don't feel good to get their sympathy so they will behave does not work.  In many cases, it backfires, and they see your weakness as an invitation to misbehave because you won't have the energy to stop them.  Firsthand experience here.  

10.  The second you choose to finally go against every fiber of your being and throw something away, you will need it the next day, or possibly a few hours later, after the trash has been removed.  This is true of life in general, but it is magnified in schools.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

4 more weeks...

Maybe this is why I'm so stressed out:

the bookshelf in my classroom where students "neatly stack" their books

and yes... this is a boot.  on the bookshelf.  

4 more weeks.