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.

Miss Haley: A Big Chicken

I chickened out all day today. I was going to ask my classroom teacher if what I did yesterday was the right thing or not. I didn’t write it down in my notebook so it was really easy to bail on asking it. I am worried that she will say I was wrong or worse, that she was frustrated with me for not handling the situation differently. I know there must have been something I could have done better and I really like asking questions so that I can be better today than I was yesterday but I also really want to be right…

When Patience Runs Out

This morning at about 9:30, my patience ran out. Now, as a teacher, having your patience run out that early in the day is a huge problem. My classroom teacher sent me to the back table to work with one of our students who is exceptionally behind. He, after doing several correctly, decided to shut down completely and not work. I am absolutely too stubborn to let a child be more stubborn than I am. I also have a ridiculously small amount of patience, which in combination with that stubbornness can result in episodes like the one today. 

So here we are at the back table. We sat from about 9:30 that morning until just before lunch at 11. I basically spent all morning repeating two phrases, “you have two choices, so this now or do it at recess.” And, “doing this is not an option. We are at school and at school we do work. Acting like you are crying will not get you out of doing your work.” And holy crows, all I was asking was for him to try it. I even explained to him that if he wasn’t perfect at it, it didn’t matter because this was the first time he had practiced it!

Absolutely every bit of the already limited amount of patience I have was gone because of this. I even asked the classroom aide (what would I do without her!) to switch me reading groups so that I could win this little battle. 

I won. Believe me I have more willpower and a much higher tolerance for uncomfortable situations than any six year old. Eventually he decided to do the activity. I praised him and then told him that he would come in for recess and do the rest of it. I don’t back down and you don’t waste two hours of my life without consequences. 

Now here’s where it gets dicey. I feel a little bad that I wasted all morning being stubborn. Sometimes my blind ambition gets the better of me and I become so determined to come out on top that I forget some other things might be important. I can justify spending all morning doing what I did by saying if he learns that being stubborn and not doing his work will result in punishment then it would as worth it. This is not the first time he has done this to the three teachers in our room. He is going to have to figure out that, in school, you have to do work even if you don’t want to and pouting won’t get you out of it because it isn’t cute and all it does it make things harder for you. 

I can also list several reasons I should not have let my stubbornness get the best of me like that. First, I wasted an entire morning that could have been spent with other students who are behind but willing to learn. Second, I was frustrated the rest of the day and even the students I would not have been angry with could tell I was on the edge of loosing it and stayed away from me. Finally, I can almost guarantee that he will pull this stunt again. 

Was it really worth it? Did I make a point by doing this and not backing down? I try to never go back on my decisions when it comes to discipline because if you let it go once making up for that and getting them to repeat appropriate behaviors is almost impossible. Did I make my point clear or did I waste time becaus I got overly determined? 

I’m going to ask my classroom teacher tomorrow and I have a feeling she is going to tell me (probably in kinder words) to get my act together and not get so darn feisty over things that don’t matter. She will probably tell me I wasted my time and that I need to remember I am the adult and cannot act like a brat who is not getting her way. We have enough students that do that already. She shouldn’t have to deal with me doing it. Still I cannot shake the fact that if I gave in it would only reinforce that bad behavior. I’ve got a lot to learn and I hope my heightened stubbornness won’t get me into any more trouble. I guess, though, I probably deserve any trouble coming to me… 

Trouble with Snack Crackers

 

Today was a strange day. I am not sure how to feel about it because most of the kids were excellent! There was just one instance that has me reeling…

One of my students got incredibly angry over the fact that we didn’t eat the teacher’s snack or the peanut butter crackers the birthday girl’s grandmother brought in. We just didn’t have time to drink a juice and eat apple sauce, swiss cake rolls, and peanut butter crackers. Two of the four was plenty! The birthday girl didn’t even mention the crackers. What drove me the most crazy was that they student who was angry should have had no idea there were peanut butter crackers in there because the bags were closed and neither I nor the birthday girl mentioned it. It drives me nuts when kids do things like that. I say at least five times a day, “Is that yours?… Then should you be touching it?” Because I cannot handle it when kids mess with things that do not belong to them. I know they are kids and kids do that but it is the end of kindergarten and we should have learned that by this point.  That is how you end up with a kid in the nurse for stapling his finger or taking things out of the room that do not belong to them.

The worst part is that he was so angry about it! He was yelling at me because I wouldn’t pass them out. First that he shouldn’t have known they were there and second that he felt he had a right to yell at me over crackers makes me quite concerned for his future! I cannot get it out of my mind. I have been yelled at by kids before about even worse things. I have had kids say that I was treating them like animals because I sent them to their rooms to play while I was trying to fix them dinner. That was by far the worst experience I have ever had when it came to kids. This whole yelling-over-crackers thing just brought all of issues I have with entitlement up.

Everyone feels entitled to things and frankly most of don’t even deserve the things we have already! We work as little as possible to get as much as we can. We expect other people to just hand us things because we want them. The worst part is that we get angry when someone says no. No one earned peanut butter crackers in the classroom today. The terrible thing I keep thinking about is that this student probably went home and told his family that I only gave the class one snack instead of three and they probably reinforced that that was unfair. Why else would he have acted like that? Kids are, at 6 years old, entirely a product of their environment. When entitlement and atrocious behavior is reinforced why should they should stop doing it or think they deserve whatever they want?

That is what happened with the two kids who told me I was treating them like animals (something no 4 and 6 year old would say unless they heard it from someone else…). They screamed at me for 45 minutes about how much they hated me and how terrible I was until their mother walked in. She blamed me. She told me I should have just made them a peanut butter sandwich instead of an actual dinner then this would not have happened. When I gave my two weeks notice that I was quitting after a similar thing happened a few days later, she told the kids I was leaving because I didn’t like them. This was three years ago and I still feel sick over the whole thing. I know I made the right choice but I absolutely hate that she made it my fault in the eyes of her kids. They never had to take responsibility for their actions.

Until today, I had trouble understanding when teachers talked about students they had that went to jail and how they saw it coming in kindergarten or first grade but I get it now. I hate that I get it now. It is wild to think that screaming at me over not getting crackers that no one in the class got will probably lead this person to do the same to someone else like a police officer and get into real trouble.

I really need talk with my classroom teacher about this! I am all shaken up and panicky inside over it. I have been yelled at by much more powerful and important people yet this particular incident has really bothered me. I should have been a good day. The other students behaved really well…

Conference and Progress: Two Wonderful Words

Today was another one of those days where I was thrown into the deep end of the pool and had to sink or swim. My teacher texted me at 4:40 this morning telling me she could not make it to school. The good news is that my stomach didn’t drop like rock as it has in similar, past situations. I know I can do this now and after the conference this week, I knew what I needed to work on. I went into today confident that I could manage or, at the very least, live through the day without any major disasters.

Upon arriving at school. I checked on the animals in our ever-growing mini zoo. I then looked over the plans for the day so that I could adjust for the things my teacher had taken home with her the night before that were still at her house. I made a list of activities that could fill the leftover time at the end of the day. They were things that we have fallen behind on and would be good to catch up on. I was ready. Then I was thrown for a loop.

Apparently, it was one student’s birthday today… I had no idea. Also her family brought in treats that neither the teacher nor I had been made aware of prior to this morning. I already had a treat for my students but I guessed they could have both.

The morning went fairly well. I did send one student to the office for a time out. I feel kind of bad for sending him because I hate resorting to that but I have to do what have to do sometimes. He refused to stop making faces at another student. I have been working on positively praising my students instead of just reprimanding them. The first thing I did was praise the other student for not making faces back and I explained how happy that made me. Then I turned to the other student.

He is so stubborn. Unfortunately for him, I am way more stubborn. He absolutely refused to turn around. I took his shoulders and gently moved him to face the front. He turned right back around when I went back to the front. I asked the aide if she would take him to the timeout room. He refused to move. She grabbed his hand and took him out. I just don’t know what to do when moving his clip doesn’t work. I guess I need to ask my teacher what I should do!

Anyway, that was taken care of by the police officer and the other students had a fairly good day. One student went home sick and another student cried all afternoon because he felt sick but the nurse did not say he had a temperature and she gave him pepto. There was nothing else she could do. He was really fine and I think he just wanted to go home because the other kid I sent home was his friend. I don’t know what I could have done better. I will have to ask about that too!

We didn’t get through everything planned. That is something my teacher suggested I work on; not stressing when I don’t get everything done. We talked about that at our conference as well. I am so used to having to be spot on when it comes to time because when I did college practicums we had to exactly fill that time we were given and not leave anything out from our plans. When I told my teacher what we didn’t get to, she was really nice about it and explained that it would be very easy to do one more day of frogs on Monday. I am grateful she is so fantastic and sweet!

We had the girl’s birthday treat. I laid out to the students that if we got through everything we could have the snack and if we didn’t the classroom teacher’s snack would have to wait. We did not get through everything. They were up running around while they were supposed to be coloring. Part of it was my fault because I had nothing for them to do while the sub and I helped the other students put their frog craft together. We did not even finish the frog craft! I knew though, that we had to get to the birthday treats so we did that instead of finishing the activity.

One of the things I think I will struggle with once I have my own classroom is what students should do when they finish activities before other students. My professors alway talk about how having things for students to do when they are finished is important and helps reduce undesirable behaviors. Our classroom has no system for what students should do when they finish. My teacher has little problem with the students because she has already established her expectations and has made it clear to the students that she sees everything they are doing and expects them to not goof around. I haven’t made it there yet. I have learned my lesson time and time again when I second guess her methods and I am sure I will put my foot in my mouth over this one too. We will see.

After I graduate, I am going to stick around the school and help out. Our aide has a different schedule and things are kind of hectic at the end of the year anyway. At out conference, my teacher asked if I was going to stay around until the end of the year just to make sure she did not plan anything she needed me for. My teacher suggested I should visit other classrooms during that time and learn about those procedures, rules, schedule, and so on. I have often wondered about the other teachers’ procedure and such because I have seen a little of it when I sat in other rooms during inside recess.

Today was a bizarre day. I really need to talk this through with my classroom teacher but I do not want to bother her after her stressful day. I have the sick feeling I got at the beginning of last week when I had to send red notes home for the first time. At least I made some progress after out conference!

Hiding in the Teacher’s Lunchroom

It finally happened to me. Well not exactly to me but about me… The past week I have sent home a lot of notes for inappropriate behavior at school. All last week I panicked over the idea of a parent confronting me about their child’s behavior. I worried that they would be angry with me for “getting their child in trouble” instead of realizing that the student’s behavior was what got them into trouble. I was up at night praying that I wouldn’t have a parent in my classroom angry with me in the morning. I worried for a week about parents wondering why I had any right to punish their child because I am not the paid teacher. Friday’s phone call from a parent must have been a test run. And today, there was the real thing…

I was in the middle of dealing with another student’s behavior when the aide called down the hall to me. I was standing in the hall with a student who had purposely left his behavior note in the classroom and then was blatantly lying about how he already had one. From a little ways down the hall I heard the teacher’s aide calling my name and I held up my hand to let her know I was busy. I finished with the student and went to see what she needed.

By the look on her face, I could tell something interesting was going on. She told me that a parent had come in to talk to me. My stomach hit the floor. I honestly thought I was going to loose my lunch on the floor in the hall. I may have been a little dramatic with my repeating of the fact that I was going to throw up but honestly; I probably could have in that moment. I knew exactly who she was talking about. That parent had been standing outside the room when I chased down the other student. It was a parent I had met before and heard several interesting stories about over my time in the room.

This was not the parent you want coming in to talk to you.

I stood there and said I was going throw up a few more times. Then the principal came around the corner and told us he was coming so the aide suggested we go into the teacher’s lunch room. So we basically just hid in there until he was gone. Not probably my most responsible adult decision ever but at least I avoided what I assumed would be a lot of yelling; yelling directly at me. I left the lunch room and went to find my classroom teacher to check in with her about it before tutoring but she was no where to be found. I went through tutoring somewhat terrified that she got yelled at because of me. When tutoring was over, I remembered that she had a conference with a parent. Thankfully, she came in after the conference and told me that the parent just wanted to make sure I was not picking on his child in particular. My teacher explained to the the parent that there were several students who were trying to see what they could get away with and he was not alone in that regard.

I am so very glad that he did not yell at her. I would have felt way worse. Now I just have to deal with the feeling that I already have a parent who thinks I am the kind of person who would pick on a student. It really bothers me as well that the student was in the room when he described that I might simply not like the student. I constantly work on making the students take responsibility for their actions and the times I made this student move his clip were times when he hit another student and admitted to doing it. I am grateful that my classroom teacher was able to get the student to admit in front of the parent that he was doing the things that I saw him do or he admitted to doing already. Kids are easy to handle because they often realize what they are doing is wrong and even if they do not own up to it the feel a little guilty. Parents are completely different.

I am still definitely afraid of parents. I am still a little afraid of being too hard on the kids. Truly though, I am too stubborn to fail at this. Today was a better day. I moved more clips today than almost any other day I have been there but things are getting a little more settled down and I think the kids are starting to get that I mean what I say. Tomorrow my classroom teacher will be back in the room full time. The past few days have been rough and I have definitely felt like I may not be able to do this but I am too darn stubborn to let 27 six year olds win. I will not loose even if I have to hide from parents in the lunchroom a few more times before I figure it out.

It’s Rough Being in Kindergarten…

Today my teacher came back… It was both good and bad. The positive part being that I was able to lighten the stone in the bottom of my stomach that formed about Tuesday of last week by telling my teacher everything that went on. The negative part was that I had to tell my teacher how terribly things went. I thought I was going to get sick all night last night and all through my drive this morning because I knew I had to tell her everything that happened. Tomorrow my teacher and I are doing our benchmark conference that was supposed to happen before spring break but got put off. I am nervous because it is nearly the last one and, after last week, I feel like I am not doing well. My advisor observed me today and she wrote the same comments that she has written every time she has observed me. She pointed out that I need to get the attention of all of the students before I talk or give directions but if I made sure every student was listening I would be calling names for the rest of the day because once I take my attention off of one student to get the attention of another student the student I was talking to first starts talking again! I feel like I am back playing chicken round up at summer camp and leaving the coup door open! I hate that on paper I haven’t really improved. More than anything I feel disappointed that I have learned so much and seen how well certain things work but cannot seem to replicate it.

I nearly lost it after school today when I was asking my teacher what I should do. I was two seconds from tears but I managed to hold it together. I am not 100% sure I will be able to hold it in tomorrow. It makes me feel sick that things are not going better. I know my classroom teacher gets it but it doesn’t make me feel any less like I can’t do it. I want so much to live up to my own expectations and the expectations I think others should have of me. Everyone is too easy on me and how will I ever get better if I don’t push myself and if others do not push me to better every day.

Everyone continues to tell me not to worry. My brain kind of gets it but my stomach is still keeping me up at night over it. I just cannot get it together. It is embarrassing that I can’t keep six year olds quiet long enough to give them two sentences of directions. What’s worse is now my teacher is at the school testing incoming kindergarteners and can simply pop in at any moment to check up on the students. The terrible thing is they are always out of control and every time she walks in the students get quiet and sit still. I know there is no quick way to get things under control the way she has them but I still feel like I should have figured it out by now. I have four weeks of student teaching left and then I am on my own. How on earth am I going to be able to do this on my own?

The teacher aide in my classroom keeps telling me things were not as bad as they have been when there has been a sub for that long and it helps a little to think that I am slightly better at this than someone who does not know our classroom procedures, routines, and discipline system at all. Being slightly better than someone who does not know how our classroom works is okay but really is not great. I just keep thinking that soon I will be on my own and I can hardly make it for a week by myself. The aide told me that I will keep learning and that making mistakes is how you learn but I cannot figure out what mistakes I am making! If I could pinpoint something that was wrong, I could focus on that and work on it. My advisor suggests that it is my inability to get the students’ attention before I teach but goodness I cannot get them to stop talking! Some of them are not even talking to each other, they are just making noise!

I cannot figure out what to do when I run out of consequences. When the student is already off the clip chart, I do not know what do or say. Obviously, moving their clip has not deterred their behavior. I wrote five red notes home today! Some of those students are ones I have already written notes home for. My classroom teacher reminds me constantly that even when I am firm and get students in trouble they will still like me. I am not very concerned that they like me; all I want is for them to not talk when they need to hear directions! Maybe that is the problem… Maybe I should be concerned about if they like me…

I have said it before and I will say it again, my classroom teacher has whatever that ‘thing’ is that separates great teachers from the just plain good ones. More and more I am realizing that she has that quality, especially now that I attempting to do this without her. I still have trouble thinking that she was ever not perfect like she is now. She makes it seem easy. I hope that eventually I will figure out that “thing” and be that fantastic at the one thing I care about being good at more than anything else.