Here we are. May 27, 2010. I'm finishing up my first year as a teacher.
Today there was reason for me to stop and contemplate this year. I'll get into that reason later... but first, the celebrations! Some very wise professors taught me early on in my teaching career that I must begin any effective teaching with successes, either with myself or my students. They constantly reminded me to celebrate what was done well... then use that as a springboard to improve what was lacking. Here are some things I'm celebrating today:
-I successfully made it through my first negative parent interaction. (With the help of a very supportive Principal and a Team Leader that prayed for me as I was sobbing after the initial conversation. Praise God for both of them.)
-I navigated all the paper work and the red tape and the TST's, RTI's, DIBEL's, TAKS, AMI, ARI, SSI, ABC's and 123's. I may not have always done it correctly the first time, but somehow I got everything in that I needed to get in... I think?
-I communicated love to students through joy and discipline. I think that my students would say that they feel loved... I hope?
-I taught students to use Solution Squares to solve problems that arise with friends. Regardless of whether they use them correctly at this point, they know them and hopefully as they mature they will grow in their understanding of what it means to be a "Peacemaker."
-Students were successful in my classroom. I can confidently say that every single one of my students have learned how to be scientists in the world around them.
My growth areas as a teacher are endless... Time management, classroom structure, parent-teacher communication, instructional clarity, differentiation, small group instruction.... you name it, I probably need to grow in that area. But here's where I'm struggling today...
-Probably THE single most important thing to me as a teacher is to create a learning community that is respectful, safe and caring in every aspect. I began the year with high hopes and plans for what I would do to create such an environment.
(Sidenote: If you know me then you know that I'm a big dreamer. I choose to look first at the big picture. I paint broad brush strokes over my life and aim high. However, I fail to see the steps that it takes to make this dream a reality. I don't necessarily choose NOT to see the details... I just can't. Itdoesn't come as naturally to me.)
I hate to admit this, but very few of the high hopes and plans I had for creating my dream learning community actually came to fruition. I struggled to figure out where to fit in all the big and wonderful things I wanted to do inside of TEKS and departmentalization. There was a moment late in September that I just cried, because I was not the teacher I wanted to be. At this painful reality, I stopped and reassessed. I began to fit in projects and read alouds and literature units that helped serve my dream classroom community. Nothing close to what I was cooking up as a not-yet teacher last summer, but it gave me glimmers of hope that my dream was possible. So I continued to fight for that community all year. I'm sure I didn't do EVERYTHING that I could have... but that's why I get to do it again next year :)
All this to say, today I was faced with the ugly truth my classroom is still not a cohesive respectful community. Here's the sitch: There's a very sweet, smart, kind, strange girl in my class. Strange is all my kids see. There's germs and cooties and things that will surely scar this sweet girl's precious heart. Yes, she's loud and maybe a little obnoxious. Yes, she's clumsy and awkward. Yes, she thinks everyone's out to get her, but haven't they been since Kindergarten now? Who can blame her? But, with 4 days to go, I'm still struggling to help her feel accepted and safe in my classroom. I'm struggling to let her know that she's worth being loved by her peers. I'm struggling to let her know that she is a valuable part of our community. So, all my talking, book reading, book discussing, respect contract signing, compliment circle having, modeling has not worked. It hurts my heart and makes me feel kind of helpless to teach them anything of value if they cannot learn this. I'm worn out from talking with her about losing her temper over things that I'm SURE have been building up and building up. I'm out of ideas and out of time.
All I can do is pray for my students. Because really, anything of value that I have is wrapped up in Jesus anyway.
So there's my struggle, there's where I want to grow. Maybe something miraculous will happen over the summer to me and to my soon-to-be 4th graders.