June 22, 2009

Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia- say that tongue twister five times fast!
I've got author's tone, theme, sound devices, character motivations and every other reading skill you can imagine on the brain right now. I dream about author's purpose. And no, these are not restful dreams. They usually involve some crazy, frizzy-haired author storming into my room screaming that, "NO! I did not write that story to entertain! How dare you teach that filthy idea!" all while my students sing 'Eye of the Tiger' in tandem. Maybe I should explain...
The last two weeks have some of the most intense days of my life. Here's a quick run down of the schedule
5:30 (lately been pushing 5:45) wake up, eat breakfast, pick up my lunch (yes, I have a lunchbox) and run to the big yellow bus before
6:30 At which time my bus promptly leaves (it has left people behind before).
7:00 Arrive at school after a warm drive through Buckhead- the land of never ending mansions that are 10 feet away from each other. Listen to my CMA Liz (Corps Member Advisor- TFA is in LOVE with acronyms) tell us how to improve certain trends she has been seeing.
7:40 Time to set up the classroom! I am working in a four person collaboration group- they are all good people and I enjoy their input, but sometimes it's hard to agree on procedures and the like. Anyway...
8:30 Students begin to arrive and keep trickling in until 8:45, 8:50, 9 o'clock...
I have 11 wonderful students who are so invigorating and exasperating at the same time. And no, they are not in the minority. I am.
8:45 Begin instruction in spite of late buses. This is a study hall period- lasts for an hour, we can teach just about anything right now.
9:45- I TEACH READING! (every other day that is) It's amazing how much I need to improve my instruction and planning even though I have a degree in education and experience in the classroom. I think that my student teaching experience was great in the fact that I 'found' who I was in the classroom, but this experience has actually tested the idea that I need to be able to teach to each student, not just a class. It is SOOOO hard to teach a student how to learn. You sit back and wonder, 'Why don't they get it? I get it! Why don't they get it?' and then you realize, oh, I didn't tell them how to get it, I just told them 'it.' Big help that will be to a student who reads at the third grade level.
Which brings me to the conundrum of the day- How did an eighth grader get to the EIGHTH grade without being able to read? Next question- How is four weeks, four hours a day, going to help said student on a state exam? And here's the kicker- If that student does pass the exam (and not one of my students was more than 20 points away from passing), how will they EVER survive in high school?!?! I mean, I may be a good teacher, but I'm not a miracle worker. I can't teach a student how to read in four weeks. But I can help them pass the test...
11:20 Run out of the classroom to get to my CS session (Curriculum Specialist) on time (which I have never done yet). Try not to fall asleep.
12:30 Lunch
12:50 Next session or 'work time' which always ends up being another session. Never stop training! These sessions cover everything from contacting parents to assessment to literacy to diversity. This continues until
4:10 When we gather to shout out the goodness we've seen throughout the day (big confidence and ego boost- woohoo!), then we get on the buses back to Georgia Tech, the city within the city. 5:00 Arrive, de-stress, maybe work out, watch a little Buffy...
6:00 Dinner
6:30 Either sessions, lesson planning time, observation review, or more lesson planning time. This continues into the wee hours of the night (depending on what's due the next day). I've been trying to get to bed by 10. Ok, 10:30. Which has not happened. Once.
Then it starts again, usually about five hours later....

I know that this is a really long and boring post, but the amount of work that goes into each day is enormous, and I don't have enough sleep to weave it into a story- I need that creativity for my kids ;-) I don't know if I would have been able to do this without an ED background like so many of the people here, I have pushed myself physically and mentally further than I ever have before, and honestly, the first week I was here in Atlanta I felt like I was going to strangle the next person who said, "Close the achievement gap!" But then, I met my students and I understood in a way that no presenter could ever explain that these students deserve so much more than the cards they were dealt. Take student #1 for example- he actually hugged me on the first day of class because I told him we were going to help him read faster. He reads at the 5th grade level. Or student #2, a sassy girl who tries so hard every class and it's starting to pay off. She reads at the 3rd grade level. Or student #3, who looks up at me and says, "I got a hundred on that test, didn't I Ms. Labrie?" every time he turns a test in. Even the little troublemakers are beautiful (and they only make trouble to be popular or because they don't understand) and I love them all. Even though I've only been with them for the past two weeks, I desperately want these kids to succeed. Whatever that word means...
Being able to read, to sit still, to pay attention for longer than five minutes- these are things that I have ALWAYS taken for granted- be thankful for your ability to read this post- my students wouldn't be able to. Thanks for sticking with me- I promise the next one will be more interesting.
Preview of what's to come- Stories from the classroom...Atlanta, Georgia- a land of humidity and thunderstorms...The King Center...and the strange presence of beer, everywhere....


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  2. Wow that is an INTENSE schedule! Keep up beautiful Ms. LaBrie! You are touching the lives of these students! Working with students always challenges our preconceptions :) Enjoyed the post and am glad you are managing to stay awake for everything!