One whole week (plus two days) done- and I am still here to tell the tale. Honestly, I love my job and all of my students. My classes are full of 6th grade sweethearts- some who behave beautifully, and some who don't. All just want attention (some will settle for ANY sort of attention) and someone to genuinely care about them. I only just started teaching the content, but in this past week and two days several ideas have been cemented in my brain. First and foremost, students really don't care what you know until they know that you care. Secondly, if I ever tell a student to 'listen harder' again, I am going to whack myself. How do you 'listen harder'? After I said that I just wanted to crawl in a hole and hide from the Teacher Mistake Monster that eats people who make students feel stupid when it really isn't their fault.
I now have empathy for teachers who get frustrated with their students, but in the end it's really not the students fault (well, not all the time ;-). The teacher is in charge and students misbehave when they are bored, do not understand, or have something emotional going on outside of the classroom. The key is to remember that bit of wisdom (the fact that I am responsible) after select students decide to laugh, turn around, wiggle like a worm having a seizure, giggle wildly, hum, whistle, pass notes, make faces, make fart noises, actually fart, and pretty much do anything a middle schooler can think of that is not what I ask. I love my job!
That last paragraph makes my job sound much worse than it is. (Well, the flatulence is as bad as it sounds/smells) My middle schoolers are who they are- ten and eleven year-olds forced to sit still and be silent for seven hours, with two minute passing periods to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and open their locker that they can barely get to with a crowd with a lock that they just learned how to use. Do you remember the stress of learning how to open a lock? I do now...Especially after spending twenty minutes saying things like, "And now you turn to the left to find your second number...left is this way, honey..."
Downsides to teaching-
Asthma attacks in my classroom. Enough said.
Students with anger issues, parent problems, horrible troubles at home- the list of hardships goes on for far too long and it always manifests at school. How can a child learn when they are thinking about the death of a parent or the possibility of getting jumped on the way home from school? There are so many times during the day when I think of my blessed childhood and how lucky I have been throughout my life. Life can be cruel sometimes.
Some of my roommates and other members of Teach for America are having a tough time of it- and when I say tough I mean that no teacher should have to go through what they are going through. Threats of violence, unruly students that make raciest comments or simply exude disrespect, unsafe neighborhoods...When I decided to become a member of Teach for America I went in with the full knowledge that our placements were mainly in schools that weren't on the top of any teacher's preference list. I also knew that stepping into a classroom without much teaching experience (as most TFA members do) is not the best idea in the world. It's just hard to see the suffering of people I admire and respect and not be able to do anything but give advice. Please think good thoughts for TFA teachers everywhere. It's not an easy job, but it is a worthy service.
Highlights of the week-
My school is AWESOME! The staff is great, I have 70 sixth graders that I adore (so far ;-) who I get to teach for 80 mins EACH day, and the school is in a good neighborhood. My experience has been absolutely wonderful and I go to bed each night wanting to go back to work the next day.
I had a tough day on Thursday (yes, this is a highlight) and I asked my fourth block to cheer me up after third block got me down (lots of talking and craziness). One student raised her hand and said, "You are an amazing teacher, Ms. Labrie!" One student told me a joke- "What's the biggest pencil ever? Pencil-vania!!" (I'm a sucker for corny jokes). Another made me a cute note and handed it to me with a sweet smile. The note holds a special place on my teacher board. My students rock.
One student makes constant references to movies (a child after my own heart). The thing that makes this a highlight is that EVERYTHING reminds him of a movie. EVERYTHING. Such as me saying my family owns a dog- The Incredible Journey. Asking students to tell me who their heroes are- every single comic book movie ever made. I don't think I have another student who raises their hand SO much, or has the most random connections...
When I asked a student to sound out the words he didn't know how to spell instead of asking me every two minutes for spelling, he said, "Oh Ms. Labrie, that's OK, I'll just use my dictionary," After which he whipped out his very own personal dictionary that he carries with him everywhere....
And last, but not least, the look on my students faces when we did my very own personal motions that go along with the 'Plot Roller coaster' (or plot chart for those of you who learned it a different way). They LOVED pretending to be on a silent roller coaster ride, especially making the silent scream at the climax of the story. He he...I must admit that sometimes I do things in my classroom just because it's fun to see twenty-some children copy me.
If any of you are getting rid of your computers for any reason (besides them being broken), please tell me. A friend in the peace corps is willing to pay for shipping so that her students in Burkina Faso have access to the computers.
Thinking good thoughts for you, yes you: love lots, Jessie