Trial By Fire: Round 2

This morning started out like any regular morning. I came in, got supplies ready, and started working on the morning message. My classroom teacher stepped out so I answered the phone when it rang. It was the teacher from across the hall. She had gotten sick and had called in only minutes before. She had no plans written out for a sub. I assured her I would get something ready for her. At this point, my students were already all in the room and my teacher had gone over to the other room to get things ready. The office called and told me I would be subbing. I sent one of my students down to tell my classroom teacher that we needed to switch. She walked out and said she already knew because she was the one who called and told them I could sub. I am so ecstatic that she would do that for me. Apparently, she actually thinks I can do this. If she wasn’t afraid to stick her neck out for me, she must think I am doing a pretty good job. 

Anyway, I went over and had no plans, don’t know all of the students’ names, and have no idea what most of the things on her overview schedule mean. My classroom teacher came over and gave me supplies for what I did yesterday  with my class. I managed to get through the day with no planning problems which is really nice considering I like to plan way far in advance. Now that plans were made, I had to actually get the students to listen and do what I asked. Things were a little rough with one student in particular at first. I had delt with him during tutoring but that was only an hour. I now had to do it all day. The first hour was rough but I stayed on his case. The rest of the day was great. Barely any interruptions from him. I told him I was leaving a good note for the teacher and let him read it and stick it on the the other note I had written about a not so great student… Oh, that not so great student…

It wasn’t until the afternoon that this one lost control. He was playing at the drinking fountain and I told him it was time to leave and that he had plenty of time to get a drink so he could not have one now. We made it two feet from the classroom door before he sat down and sobbed. I told him if he got some work done he could have a drink but not until he did some work. He sat and sobbed. I stood in the doorway in full panic! What do you do with a student who refuses to move? I knew I couldn’t leave him in the hall bedside if I turned my back he would run off or the principal would walk by and see him crying in the hall. Standing across the hall was another teacher and I knew I had to move him while she was there to witness. I put my hands flat on his back and scooted him into the classroom. The other teacher grabbed the door and shut it behind me. He sat on the floor and cried but at least he was in the room. I left him crying so that I could get the other students going on their work. This was not the end of the drama with this one. 

He managed to sit and I helped him get started on his work. He got three done and I said, “thank you for doing some work. Would you like to get a drink now?” Rookie mistake… He went out in the hall and a moment later I felt like something wasn’t right.  I walked out in the hall… He was no where to be seen. There is a drinking fountain right next to the door and he wasn’t there. I sent the classroom aide from my classroom, who was helping me in the room I was subbing in( and thank God for her. I do not know what I would do without her!) to find him. He had gone to the bathroom without asking. And like every bad infomercial selling anything, that’s not all! Later, he was running in the room and crashed into another student. He sobbed again. At this point I couldn’t handle it and I looked at his face there were no marks or bumps and I just let him sob on the floor until he got up and banged it on something else. The aide took him to the nurse. 

I really enjoyed this opportunity because I got to see how the other teacher does things in a very firsthand way. There were many things I loved about how she did things in her room. I also got to know another group of kids. I had been in the room for recess before but spending all day in the room was interesting. They are different from my class but no less complex. 

I missed my class a whole lot today. I didn’t have much time to think about what they might be doing but when they saw me in the hall and called out for hugs my heart melted. Then on the way out to recess, quite a few of them stopped in the room to say hello. It was really nice to think that they missed me and cared enough to come see me. I had recess duty so I saw quite a few more while I was out there. 

The very best part of the day was when my classroom teacher popped in while I was cleaning up at the end of the day and said, “Well, you’re still alive!” She had a really big smile on her face. I almost cried because how can you not want to cry when one of the most fantastic teachers you have ever met looks proud of you? It was also nice to have her there to talk with at the end of the day. It was my first day of paid teaching where if I failed no one was there to step in and fix it. I think I can do this and if I can’t, well I know I have someone I call and ask for help! 

“I’m Always Going to Be Here.”

This week I asked my classroom teacher, “Why did you decide to be a teacher? What makes you stay after all the awful things that have happened?” Like always she gave me an answer that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. She explained why she went into teaching and then addressed that part about staying after all of the terrible things that have happened to her in the classroom. She said she stays because the kids need her. With all of the instability in their lives they need something consistent. She said, “I am always going to be here.” 

It wasn’t an answer that surprised me really because I think she shows that every day but it was an answer that so simply put the things I have been feeling. I always wanted to work in a school like the one I went to but I have changed my mind and since then I have had trouble putting into words why I changed my mind.  I couldn’t quite figure out what it meant to feel the way I do but when she said those few simple words, I absolutely got it. It makes perfect sense. I am definitely the kind of person who needs to hear someone else say what I am thinking to truly know what I mean and she hit the nail on the head. 

I am certain that what makes her stand out from other teachers is that simple philosophy; the idea that in a chaotic world these kids have one thing they can rely on. One stable, intelligent adult who cares about them. Now I see that she works every day to be that person for these kids. I tell myself all the time that if one student ate a meal they otherwise would not have eaten or felt safe when they otherwise would not have then it was worth it for me to be there. It is hard to believe that sometimes. That she truly knows that and embodies that every day must be what makes her better than a good teacher. 

I wonder how she does it. Sometimes her world is upside down. How do you be the stable person in students’ lives when you feel unstable? Everything is changing for me and nothing in my life is remaining the same, so how do I accomplish stability in the in the classroom? 

And I Graduated…

Yesterday I finished my undergraduate degree in elementary education. I walked across the arts terrace and got my empty folder from the Dean of Teacher’s College and then went and had dinner with my family and a friend. I don’t really know what the future holds for me. I haven’t got a job lined up or even any idea of where I might want to work. I still have things to do before I am a licensed teacher. 

I feel a little like the mixed up chameleon (a book we read in school this week). I have so many parts that are going in different directions that I don’t really know what to do anymore. Thank goodness I have my class to go back to for the rest of the school year. That and my classroom teacher told me I could email her any time I had a question. That makes me feel a little better. A little more like there is something stable in my life. 

It is time to start packing and getting ready to move on. Things are going to change but I think it will be for the better. I guess we will wait and see… 

Miss Haley is Graduating College

Tomorrow I graduate from college. I am not leaving my class until the end of their school year so I did not expect any kind of celebrating to go on. I really honestly did not expect anything so when my classroom teacher asked me copy a huge stack of papers for next week in the middle of the afternoon by saying, “I am going to ask Miss Haley to leave now. Oh here copy the papers in the tray,” it took me a moment to process what was happening. I actually stated at her for what felt like forever before it clicked. I carried the stack out to the copier and ran copies. About halfway through, the copier jammed. I knew I couldn’t go back to my teacher and the others would be busy so I just stood at the copier until someone walked by. She helped me fix it a little and then the office lady fixed it the rest of the way. I made more copies and it jammed again! As I was processesing how I would explain this to the office lady as she walked back past, my classroom teacher called me back in the room. Flustered by my inability to fix the copier and the thought that not all of the copies had been made, I rushed back into the room arms full of paper. I didn’t process that the lights were off and there cookies and juice on the table until I was halfway across the classroom and blurted out, “I broke the copier!” Cheering broke out. I stopped looked around and saw the cookies, juice, noise makers, and smartboard with congratulations written on it and signed by all of the students. They cheered for quite a while before my teacher stopped the noise to ask them to tel me why they were celebrating. One of the students answered, “Miss Haley is graduating college!” They ate their cookies and hugged me over and over. I nearly cried when one student, who is particularly difficult and who I had ‘gotten into trouble’ earlier, asked for a hug. I knew I loved these kids but I forget how much they mean to me and how much they care. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the semester! (And I may or may not have cried twice on the way home…) 

Smiling, Because Nothing is Better Than This 

The other day I saw some friends from my classes I haven’t seen for a while. While I was chatting with one, she mentioned how student teaching kind of makes us into another version of our classroom teacher. I laughed and we exchanged stories of students who were now accidentally calling the teacher by our name instead of the other way around. It got me thinking about how lucky I have been to be in my teacher’s room and how if I ever get to be half as fantastic as she is I will be a great teacher. 

Friday was a rough day and naturally I haven’t stopped replaying the events over and over in my mind. Mostly, I replay the conversation my classroom teacher and I had about rough days and students who are tough to love. She told me some real horror stories of life in the classroom. I won’t repeat them here. They are not my stories to tell. You have to believe me that being a teacher is not just playing all day. This is not an easy job and even when you love it, it is incredibly difficult. My respect for my classroom teacher’s ability and dedication grows with every day. 

I cannot help but think it is more than coincidence that the two conversations I have mentioned happened in such close proximity to each other. Maybe I won’t be so terrible after all. Maybe just knowing that other people don’t always know what to do will help me see that I can actually do this. Having been taught by someone so incredible; I know what a great teacher looks like, how it feels to be taught by her, and that even she doesn’t always know what to do either. I have something to strive for and even though I have a tough time believing that she ever struggles with anything, I know she means it when she says she does. 

There is a whole lot I have left to learn. I have five school days until I graduate and nineteen until the end of the school year. I know I can learn more in those nineteen days in her room than I have the last three and a half years of lecture. Seeing someone who does their best every day even when it hurts and even when it doesn’t feel like the best is truly an inspiring thing.  

I can smile today even when yesterday was terrible because I know that there is someone out there who smiles today even though their yesterday was worse by far than mine. I can be a great teacher because I have learned from the best. From twenty years of her mistakes and her successes, I have learned. I am starting off ahead of the game because of her. I may have days where I fall behind but the next day is a new day. I will smile because I am doing what I love and I have learned how better to do what I love from someone who’s love for teaching is obvious in everything she does. Tomorrow I go in with a smile because being there is so much better than being anywhere else. 

Crying in Front of the Teacher

Today was up and down and up and down… I did some pretty fun things today and managed the class completely on my own while my classroom teacher took some students to the computer lab for a test. I kept it mostly under control. I was standing at her desk helping students put fasteners on the craft we made and I looked up from the fastener to check on the students. I noticed they were all behaving (mostly) and that I was the only adult in the room. It was the first time ever I have been the only adult in the room with my students for more than a minute. It is much different than being one of three or even two teachers.

The down hit right before recess when I royally screwed up. There is a student that things are happening with that make it hard for me to figure out how to manage his behavior and I have been delegating the discipline of this student to my classroom teacher because I cannot handle it. She always seems to know exactly what to say and do to keep the fires from getting lit instead of running around like a crazy person trying to put fires out with a dixie cup like I do. I know I cannot expect to be perfect but I do expect myself to be perfect.

Then at recess things brightened up a little. I had a student come up to me and complain about how she fell down and was getting a bruise. She stood in front of me and whined. I asked her if she what bruises meant. She just stared at me. I said, “bruises mean you did something fun. It may not have worked out but in the meantime it was fun.” She laughed but kept whining. I showed her this giant bruise on my arm (after taking my coat off and then my sweater because I could not pull either sleeve up high enough to show the bruise). I told her how I got it, which is a pretty funny story. I was trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and instead of turning into the bathroom I turned the other way and smacked my arm on the stair rail. She thought it was the funniest thing ever and went off to tell all of the other students in the class.

My last mistake was at the end of the day. My teacher was out of the room testing. A student decided he was not going to participate and was loudly saying that school was stupid and he hated everything. I gave him two choices you can do a math game with the class or a worksheet I wrote up on the spot. He refused to do either. I had several students say they did not want to participate in the game because the other student was not. I told them since he was not participating in the game he was doing other work that he was not going to like. When I told this to my teacher, she said that was my mistake. Saying that he wouldn’t like it. The other students participated but the one did nothing. He and I are going to do the problems I wrote down for him on Monday instead.

I feel sick inside that I only have five days left before I am officially done with student teaching and still cannot  manage the class. I honestly want to throw up thinking about it. I nearly lost it in front of my teacher after school. I asked what I should do. I know she was trying to make me feel better and distract me from feeling so awful by telling stories of the awful things that have happened to her (none of which you can compare my issues with because she has had real fire-crackers). The closest I came to having tears run down my face was when I told her that I thought she always knew what to do. She asked me why I thought that. I answered honestly, “because it always works for you.” She always seems like she knows exactly what to say and when she says it things happen. I told her that I have a hard time finding a happy-medium because giving up any ground makes me unhappy. I just feel like I should be better at this by now. Things shouldn’t fall apart on my watch. The second she speaks they are quiet and ready to listen.

I have written about how hearing those horror stories of student teachers coming in and wrecking all sense of order in the classroom and how afraid I am of doing just that. I think I might be. I think I might have done something to mess things up and I cannot figure out what it is. Everyone tells me I am too hard on myself but apparently if I am not honest with myself no one will be.

So I nearly lost it in front of my teacher today. I know she could tell I was on the edge. She is so fantastic and observant I am sure she can practically read my mind. Only one tear managed to slip out in the 45 minute conversation we had so I guess it could have been a worse day. I could have full out sobbed. That would have been too embarrassing to recover from.