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.

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.

More Red Notes

Today was my third day of being the teacher. We had a different sub today who was a teacher for something like 30 years before becoming a sub. It was helpful to have a sub who’s management style was more like my teacher than the previous one, not that he was bad it was just different because he is not a teacher. Today was slightly better than yesterday. I am not sure if it was because of the different sub or sending home that note yesterday or maybe because right off the bat this morning I started moving clips. Anyway…

Last night, I sent my college supervisor an email detailing the problems I was having and my reservations about involving the principal. I received the signed note back from the student I sent it home with yesterday. I then had a phone conversation with my college supervisor about the student and how I should handle the problems. She firmly suggested that I find out the procedures for taking a student to the principal’s office. During my student’s specials, I went in search of the principal. I found her giving a tour of the school to some people and obviously could not discuss things with her then. I went to the teacher next door and explained what was going on and asked what I should do. She helped out and gave some referral papers in case I needed them.

Things were a little more under control until specials. The student I had problems with yesterday was on yellow half-way through the day instead of red. When I picked the students up from the library, the librarian walked out in the hall to talk with me. I knew from the look on her face the there was trouble. I quickly glanced at my class and saw that the student was missing. The librarian asked me what was going with my students. I explained to her that I thought that they were acting up because they were pushing to try and see what they could get away with because my classroom teacher is gone. She handed me three notes home and explained that the student was in the office because she could not get him under control. I replied that I was fairly close to doing the same thing. She said when she told him he was going to the principal’s office he said that was fine and he wanted to sit in the time out room. When he was informed that he would not be going to the time out room but was going to talk with the principal he tried everything to not have to do it. I guess my decision not to take him to the time out room yesterday was the right choice.

I took the students back to the classroom and had the other two students move their clips for getting into trouble in the library. The students all sat on the rug for calendar and instead of starting calendar right away, I let them have it! I started by asking them if they had behaved in library. They all said no. Then I said,

“We have been having a lot of trouble behaving this week. Some of us are fighting with our friends, talking when we are not supposed to… Some of us are doing a fantastic job. Some are listening and following directions (I made eye contact with several of those students so they knew I was talking to them). But a lot of us are not having a good week (and here I made eye contact with several other students so they knew I was talking to them). That stops now. Just because the classroom teacher is not here does not mean you do not have to listen and follow the rules. The classroom teacher is going to come back next week and I would love to tell her we had a great week and she missed a lot of fun stuff but right now I can’t because our behavior is not good. We have this afternoon and two more days to make it better. If we don’t, I will tell her and she is going to be very disappointed. (At this point several students were on the verge of tears who were not even the students who were getting onto trouble.) The rest of today and this week we are going to listen to directions (and a student decided this would be good time to talk over me and address the class about something that happened in library, so called her name and continued) not talk when a teacher is talking; that includes the sub, the aide, the special teachers, and me. When we are telling you something you are listening not talking. We are going to have a better afternoon and day tomorrow. Do you understand me?”

Several students nodded and quietly said yes. I said, “good,” and began with calendar. After a few minutes of calendar, the office called and asked if they could send the student back to the classroom. I said yes and asked to sub if she could go to the office and make sure he made it back to the classroom. They walked in a few minutes later. The rest of the day was okay until I decided to send another red note home with him. His clip was still on yellow so he protested but I explained that if you have to go to the principal’s office you will have a note sent home. He was incredibly unhappy and stuffed it into his book bag. The classroom teacher has told me before that if a student goes to the office they are off the chart. (This was about a month ago when another student was having problems with hitting other students.)

I had another student who was off the chart and I wrote a note home to his parents too. It is not terribly unusual for him to have notes home because his issues go deeper than simply misbehaving.

I am having doubts about whether or not I can really do this every day. I am nowhere near in control of my students. I just want my classroom teacher to get back so that she can tell me where I am going wrong!

Red Note

Today I sent home my very first ever behavior note to a parent. This particular student has trouble, sometimes, controlling his behavior and today was he not anywhere near controlling himself. Yesterday was rough but there were few times when his misbehavior was concrete enough that I could punish him for it. Today was worse. 

He sometimes gets on a kick of claiming he hates school and everything is dumb. I have seen my classroom teacher handle this frequently. She is great at classroom management and can pretty much get anyone back on track but even she succeeds in curbing this behavior about 2/3 of the time. I knew I was in for it and it was only an hour and a half into the day. 

The morning passed and I had him move his clip one time, for refusing to do work. At recess, he sat and drew calmly. After special, the switch was flipped and I couldn’t get it off. Talking with his neighbors, yelling at his neighbors, talking out of turn, sitting on the table, laughing hysterically for a length of time that was much longer than necessary, getting other students to laugh and act out. 

Simply, the nightmare scenario of the student teacher left (almost) alone with her students. We read a Froggy book and in the story Froggy’s cake explodes. That was the final push. Over the edge he went. I finished the book and he just could not get it under control. I had all of the students stand up and hop around, stand on one foot, clap. Then we sat and stretched and took some deep breaths, in the hope that he and the other student he was gearing up would be able to regain some control. The other students, aside from those two, were able to relax and get ready to go back to work. I sent the student to the hall to try and calm down, mainly because I hoped the other student would get himself back under control and there would one less person’s behavior I would have to deal with. That student was able to regain control after another minute of stretching. 

I got all of the students in the room started on the next activity and went to to the hall to see if my student who was misbehaving had managed to calm down. He was rolling on the floor laughing still. I explained that he needed to take some deep breaths and sit still so that he could calm down. I left him there for another minute. In that minute the Principal walked by. I just happened to look up as she walked two students past the door. I said a little prayer that she wouldn’t talk with him because I firmly believed he would calm down without an audience to perform for. After a minute went by, I went back to the hall and without asking if her felt better, told him it was time to go back in and do work. 

He must have gotten an idea from seeing the Principal walk by because he said to me, “I think I need to go to -the principal’s- office to calm down.” Well, let me tell you something. The Principal’s office has a time-out room that he has gone to sit in before. I think I am safe to assume that he did not want to do his work and thought if he went there he could get out of it. I said no, praying to God I would not have to go back on that firm statement and send him down there simply because I was out of ideas. 

He must have gotten the picture because the rest of day was rough but no where near as bad as it had been. Now we come to the end of the day. Because yesterday was rough and today was terrible, I knew to really bring it home and let him know I am serious, I had to send home a red note. The red notes get sent home when students move their clip more than once. It doesn’t happen like that every day or for every student but today it happened for this one. I have never written a “bad” note home and I have a bit of stomach ache over it. I suppose, I did what I had to do but I am anxious to get the note back or not. The parents have to sign the note and I am terrified that they will not be happy that someone who is not the paid teacher sent a “bad” note home. I am also terrified because he threatened to throw it away and I told him if he did I would make a phone call to his family. I meant what I said and I said what I meant by man am I terrified of having to make that phone call. 

Tomorrow will be an interesting day and I am fairly sure that I will be moving many many clips because I absolutely do not want my classroom teacher coming back to a mess like today. Anyways, I am going to get back to trying to sleep and not being able to because my stress level is through the roof! I cannot imagine that this kid is more worried about the not home than I am! 

That Went Well… Not! 

My teacher has been telling me over the past couple of days that if there is anything I want to do to just, “push me out of the way,” or to “tell me shut up and let you do it.” Sure… Let me just tell this successful adult and incredible teacher to shut up. How on earth do you respond to something like that? Well, here’s how I did.

After spending the weekend in a state of dread and panic over what she could have meant or that she thinks I am terrible at being a teacher, I flat out told her how I did not really know how to respond to her saying that. Actually, I spent all weekend rehearsing what I might say but when I got the opportunity to do it I simply opened my mouth and prayed that whatever words came out made a coherent sentence. What came out was a frantic, “I am having trouble telling you to step aside and let me do things because I know how I am and I am worried that I will overstep.” I added that I knew I did not know what I am doing and clearly she did. I explained that when I take charge I really take charge. That might mean actually pushing people out of the way to get what I want accomplished done. I explained how I have consciously taken a step back from how I usually am because I have been worried about being to upfront and forceful. I realized before my first day that I had to not be so pushy, loud-mouthed, annoying, and demanding. 

Her response was that she was so used to being the one in charge that she forgets I am capable of doing some of the things she does. The conversation went on and I get where she is coming from. It doesn’t make feel better. I am absolutely panicked right now because I had to make a decision about what to take over tomorrow. I did it over text message about 30 minutes ago and my heart is still racing a bit and I am a little queasy. 

I have no problem making decisions when the blame falls on me when they don’t work out. It is a whole other ball game when the blame might fall on someone else. And if the students don’t do well because of something I did, I am not the one who has to deal with it. Getting someone else in trouble is whole lot more responsibility than getting myself into trouble. I have plenty of experience with my loud mouth getting me in trouble and have eaten my share of crow over the years but to possibly effect someone else like that is making me a little sick. 

Now I have to go in tomorrow and deal with the consequences of making a decision about what to take over. As a constant imagine-er of worst case senarios, I see tomorrow morning as an ugly failure where things stop in their tracks because I made the wrong choice. How on earth should this be handled? Because, apparently, I do not have the life skills to do this gracefully or with any tact at all.