September 15, 2010

This is why it is not OK to call each other Nazis...

It is the perfect time to visit St. Louis right now (hint, hint). The humidity is gone, the rainy season hasn't started yet, the smell of BBQ still lingers in the air, the mosquitoes have gone into hibernation or whatever they do, and the leaves are turning ever so slowly, leaf by leaf, into their majestic shades of fall. If anyone reading this ever decides to make a visit out here to the middle earth of America, make sure you visit in September or May: these are the months of pleasant comfort and ease here in the Lu. Otherwise, it is a land of extremes. Extreme heat and sweating in a humid state of consciousness where no amount of water can cool you down or uber-extreme-freeze-your-nose-off cold. The mid-west is such a wacky weather wonder land.
The school year is in full swing, with four weeks in the bag and a fifth one on the way. We have started reading the novel Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, an excellent story that describes how the one country in Europe to save the great majority of their Jewish population during the Holocaust (Denmark) went about this grand resistance against the forces of evil under the banner of a swastika. While this topic has led to many interesting conversations about racism and just how much a million really is, it has also led to a select few students calling each other Nazis. While this may be disheartening, they are still young enough to be chastised and frightened into never doing that again. In other words, those students got a "Feel my WRATH" talking to.
If I have realized anything as a 6th grade teacher, I have realized their need for structure and constant direction. It's great to let my students be creative, drawing beautiful, squiggly pictures of what they see in their minds while reading, or amazing paragraphs about inventions to keep you dry if rain sprayed up from the ground instead of falling to it. However, if I let them go too much, they will go in directions I never even thought possible (for example, my Twitter board for random questions sees things like 'If I jumped out the window and used my sheet of paper as a parachute, would I survive the fall?' This is extremely funny because I work in a one-story building). If I let them know my expectations consistently (as in every five seconds), they behave and do their work and learn and show me I can have faith in the future. They just need to be reminded of what is appropriate, and once they understand that, oh the places we go...
I can literally see their minds growing out of a concrete, self centered stage, into an awareness of the world, their effect upon it and all the wonders in it. It is glorious. I am truly excited for this year, mostly because most of my kids have an innate desire to read, but also because of the concrete data I have collected. My students took their first test, mastering with well above 80% on all the standards for the first unit, their reading scores are extremely high, and I have three times as many Advanced/Proficient students on the fifth grade MAP in my classroom than I did last year. Things are looking up my friends. I think I can make leaps and bounds with this group of academic whizzes this year, and while I know most of it will be coming from the students, I feel really positive about myself too (though there is still far to go, I think I have an idea of how to get there). Even if I still have a gaping hole in my bathroom ceiling. See below.

Ah, the fun of renting. My own personal water feature- a waterfall right next to the shower. Just what I have always wanted. Someday, this will be fixed, and I would like to take this time to thank my entire immediate family for listening to me complain, moan, and groan over the phone as I dealt with yellow water dripping on my head and maintenance guy telling me "It's not like it will hurt you or anything" when I called to report the problem. But hey, at least I've got running water right? In fact, I've got many different types of running water...I'm very lucky to have the home that I have, even with the inconvenience of a black hole over my toilet. Gotta love those moments of clarity that only an upside down water fountain in your bathroom can bring.

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