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.

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That is Not a Good Idea

Last week my classroom teacher borrowed a bunch of Mo Willems books from the teacher down the hall. We stood/ sat at her desk and read them all silently until I came to That is Not a Good Idea. If you haven’t read this you should. It is absolutely one of my new favorites. If you haven’t read the book this is the spoiler alert! Stop reading this post now! Go watch a read aloud on youtube before you read this. It is not a good idea for you to continue.

If you have read this book, then you know about the surprise ending. When I read it to myself last week, I almost cried I was laughing so hard. So I read it to my students today. I read it with a lot of emotion (thanks to my days of high school theatre) and my students were really into it. They were leaning forward and taking deep breaths to try and stay calm while I read. The anxiety was clear on their faces. They were so worried about the silly character who they thought was doing things that were not a good idea. I had one girl and one boy I thought might faint they were breathing so hard!

When I got to the surprise ending, I didn’t show the students the picture. I asked them, based on the words, what they thought happened. Every single one was convinced that it ended one way. I then asked them if they wanted to see the picture. They were so excited they could hardly stand it. I made a few worried faces and glanced from the page to them and finally turned the book so they could see the picture.

There was a brief but noticeable silence. The students faces were all blank as they looked at the picture revealing the surprise ending. I honestly thought they would try to argue with me that the story could not have ended that way. I had to explain to them what happened because so many sat in disbelief.

I have always wanted to be a teacher because of moments like that one. I especially want to teach younger students because disequilibrium is so easy to see on their faces. I can teach spelling and addition all day but things that change the way students look at something are what really matter. From the impressively profound, like when students realize they can make a difference in the world, to the slightly less life-altering, like processing a surprise ending in a story; that is one of the reasons I love teaching. I love seeing that moment when new information or experiences clash with old expectations and students have to make a decision on whether or not they will believe what they just heard or experienced. If you have never seen this process cross a young person’s face, imagine a child sitting sideways on a chair and leaning back only to find that the back rest is on their side and in a split second realize they are going to fall. That is the face I saw today when I revealed the surprise ending to the students.

The read aloud ended with me explaining that the chicks were eating the fox in their soup. From the back of the rug, as I said this, one student simply says, “Eww…” After the surprise ending all this student could manage to assimilate or accommodate was that the duck was eating fox soup… I really love an author with a slightly twisted sense of humor!

Yogurt

The bell rang like it does any old, regular Thursday. The students wandered in aimlessly, carrying their book bags from table to table until they remember they are supposed to be unpacking them. I was standing near the door. My classroom teacher was standing a bit away. I was talking to a student when my teacher looks over at me. She is wearing a face a recognize from the many other times this situation has occurred. It is a confused looked with a hint of concern and I knew right away that if I turned to my right there would be a student bent over the trash can. I look. Sure enough there is one. As I look over, my classroom teacher says, “is he really…” She is interrupted by the sound that liquid makes when it hits plastic. All I said was, “yep…” And I walked over to the student. He was sick a few more times and then I grabbed the trash can and marched him to the nurse. He made quite the mess in the trash can and there was nowhere to grab it that didn’t land a small part of my hand in what just left his stomach. Thank heavens, throw up doesn’t really bother me!

So the two of us walk to the nurse’s office. I set the trash can down near the doorway and he hops up on the cot. The nurse asked him a couple questions and I walked over to her sink to scrub my hands. As I was washing, the student says to the nurse, “guess what I had for breakfast today!”

I answered simply, “yogurt.”

It’s A Monday, What Did You Expect?

Today was one of those days that started off horrendous. I set my alarm 10 minutes later because I thought the extra sleep would be good. Boy was I wrong! I ran 10 minutes late all morning. Then I got yelled at. I carried all my supplies out to the car and my bagel fell in the driveway. On the way to school, the cars in front of me decided to stop for no reason. I had to slam on the brakes so hard I think I bruised my collar bone. Stopping that fast caused the bucket of water and flowers I was taking to school to fly from beside the passenger seat to the front on the passenger foot area and spill about a half gallon of water on my floor mats. Super. It was a wet bag, eat a bagel off the ground kind of morning.

Once I got school, things really improved. I brought my Venus Flytrap, Elvira, to school and the students were super interested in her. I fed her some bloodworms and the kids were really pretty interested. Showing Elvira off is fun because I do not know anyone else who has a Venus Flytrap living in their kitchen. My teacher said she was very surprised by the plant because in her head Venus Flytraps were like the one from Little Shop of Horrors (a movie I have never seen but have recently looked up at her suggestions). It’s pretty fun to have strange plants that no one else would think of owning. The kids asked questions about Elvira and I love when kids ask questions about things I know about and can share with them. Answering questions is my favorite part of teaching. When students are so interested in something that they want to know more than what they heard, it makes it worth the struggle of getting them to listen to other things. That is what education is all about, learning how to learn so that you can do it your whole life and learning to be intelligent, participative, functional, and productive members of the community they live in. The best way to learn is to do something yourself, the second best way is to ask questions about it.

Speaking of asking questions to learn something, it was one of those days were my teacher and I worked really well together also. The kids are much more used to one of us picking up where the other left off now that I have been there for a while. The are also used to me stopping what I am doing to ask my teacher how she would do something or what I should do differently so that the students understand what is going on. I actually love it when I am teaching and she adds comments to what I am saying because it doesn’t make me feel dumb like I would if she told me I should have added this or clarified that. Instead, she just adds it in and I can make mental note of what she said and at what point she said it. I was leading the students through an activity where they made parts of a flower. I wasn’t sure exactly how she wanted it done so I just started winging it. I am not the best at winging it. I like structure and set lists of what comes first, second, third… It is good for me to be thrown in like that though because I will have to do activities spur of the moment like that sometimes.

My teacher clearly has whatever that thing is that makes a great teacher better than just plain good. She has this way of correcting you without making you feel stupid or totally wrong. I think that it is really important for students to have a teacher who can do that because then they won’t be afraid to think for themselves. They can think about things and be wrong and learn from that instead of just being shut down. I have said over and over how lucky I have been to be in her room and I’ll say it again for for good measure, I am so very lucky to be in her room. And I got all this on a Monday? She must be pretty good if I can learn that much on a Monday!

 

Miss Haley and the Frog

This may sound like the beginning of your average princess-kisses-the-frog, frog-turns-into-a-prince, they-live-happily-ever-after kind of story. I promise you it is not your average fairy tale and I have never in my life put my face anywhere near a frog… voluntarily. This the not the story of a princess but rather a very curious student teacher who finds herself with a front seat full of live animals she would rather not handle once they are grown…

Once upon a time, there was a student teacher named Miss Haley. Miss Haley was the kind of lady who loved exploring the world and learning new things. She often bit off more than she could chew when it came to these learning adventures. She had once bought seeds to grow a Venus Flytrap and that lead her on an expensive journey through the life and times of carnivorous plants. Unfortunately, those seeds did not grow but she did end up with a live flytrap that she now has to touch tiny worms in order to feed but that is a story for another time. Back to our current story.

Miss Haley’s class recently began studying the life cycle of frogs. Frogs are not her favorite animal. In fact, Miss Haley doesn’t really like any animals that can touch her on their own free will. She likes fish and going to the zoo because it is a great way to study something and learn about it without having what she is looking at make any sudden movements and touch her. Miss Haley dislikes frogs because no matter which direction they are facing they can always jump at you and touch you. But Miss Haley is a curious person and curious people often find themselves in exactly the situation they would rather not be in.

Her curiosity and the curiosity of her students prompted her to make the decision to volunteer to remove frog eggs from her father’s pond and bring them into the classroom. She was all ready, with a scoop and a little clear bucket, to fish out some eggs and bring them to school for the remaining few days the students would be studying the life cycle of frogs. When she arrived at her father’s pond, the eggs were gone! “Where could they have gone?” Thought Miss Haley. So she called to her father; who rushed outside to see what was the matter. Miss Haley explained that the eggs were missing. Her father looked into the pond.

He told her, “The eggs are gone because they have hatched! Look closely at that rock. You can see a tadpole.”

So, Miss Haley laid on her belly on the edge of their deck and leaned toward the water until her nose almost touched the surface (Miss Haley should have been wearing her contacts that day). When she spotted the tadpole a new idea popped into her head, “I will take tadpoles into my classroom instead of eggs. The students will think that is quite interesting.”

So Miss Haley’s father scooped out some tadpoles and Miss Haley gathered some rocks for them to swim with. She then leaned over the edge of the pond again to dig through the weeds to see if she could find some not-yet-hatched tadpoles to bring in with the hatched ones. She found a small clump of eggs and placed them into the tank with the swimming ones. As she continued to swirl the weeds around, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. She looked over…

IMG_3075

A massive, slick, slimy, greenish-black, beady-eyed bull frog had popped its head above the surface not far from where she lay. She nearly choked herself on the wire around the pond there to keep unwanted predators out when she sat up quickly trying to get away from it. It did not move a muscle but Miss Haley’s heart was pounding faster than ever before. I suppose curious people who put their faces that close to ponds with live animals in them would have a near-heart-attack experience every once-in-a-while.

She called to her father who brought the big net. He caught the big frog with the big net in one quick scoop. The frog flopped and hopped in the net but could not seem to escape.

IMG_3090Miss Haley knew she could not take in the large frog for her students to see, so she decided to take several videos of the frog to show the students. The frog eventually escaped during the taping of one of the videos.

Now, Miss Haley had her pail full of tadpoles and a few frog eggs to take into school with her. The drive over was perilous and a bit wet. The tadpoles were bit shaken up as was Miss Haley, nervous she would be cleaning dead swimmers out of her floor mats later that day. Everyone made it school in nearly the condition they had been in before the journey. Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, I suppose.

When she arrived at school she placed the tank in front of her classroom teacher. She told her all about the adventure she had been on and explained her excitement of being able to share the tiny things with the class.

Now, Miss Haley had fully intended to keep the tadpoles at school until Friday afternoon when she would take them back to the pond. Her classroom teacher, however, had other ideas. Long story short, the tadpoles have become a fixture in the classroom and another part of the mini-zoo that is room 14.

There was no kissing of frogs in this tale nor was it make-belief. It is, what I am sure will be, the beginning of a interesting journey I will tell the story of for the rest of my life… or at least until another adventure comes along!

Microwave Spaghetti and a Goose Egg

Microwave spaghetti and a goose egg might sound like title of recipe from an off-brand, poorly-devised cookbook that would turn your stomach if someone served it to you but for me it was a recipe for success this afternoon in terms of making connections with my students. Yesterday, my teacher and I had a conference to determine if I was progressing in my teaching abilities. When I am teaching all day, I told her, I feel like I am so focused on getting through everything that I don’t stop to actually talk with the students. I feel like I should know more about them and I feel like they don’t want to listen to me because I don’t frequently notice when they are doing the right thing. She gave a me a few suggestions and I thought about them a through the evening last night.

Today she set the ball right to me. Some of the students in the class were rewarded today and they chose to eat lunch in the classroom. When I asked her what needed to be done during lunch, she said there was nothing to do and that she was going to sit at one table with the kids. I sat down at the other table right next to one of the kids I have been having to talk with about his behavior a lot over the past two weeks. His mother was one who called me last Friday.

I started to mix together my microwave spaghetti and sauce and he was immediately impressed. He kept asking me how I cooked it and what it tasted like. He could not believe I had made spaghetti in the microwave! He and I laughed at the silly videos my teacher was playing for the students. It was really nice to actually talk with him about something good.

Once we went out to recess, I was a little nervous that he would get into trouble again and I would I undo all the progress I had made by being nice to him. He didn’t get into trouble but he did get hurt. I felt terrible because he walked over to me holding his head. I asked what was wrong and he could barely answer because he was trying not to cry. From what I gathered, he fell and hit his head on the merry-go-round. I took him over to my classroom teacher so she could take him to the nurse because I do not have keys to get inside. I was able to comfort him a little on the way over to the teacher.

The rest of the day he behaved fairly well. I was quite impressed. It may have been a headache from his giant purple goose egg but I would like to think that his behavior was better because of our conversation over microwave spaghetti.

A Pocket Full of Dandelions 

Today my classroom teacher was in the room all day. It was nice to have her back because the kids calmed down considerably with her there. We had our 3rd of four benchmark conferences and I am fairly sure I will be passing student teaching, which is a good feeling to have. We went over some of my portfolio stuff and I feel pretty good about that too.

I have recess duty this week and it has been nice to get outside for a little bit during the day. I think outside recess duty is one of my favorite responsibilities because I get to be outside in the sun and I get to spend time with my students. I often feel like I do not spend enough time getting to know them and talking to them. Recess duty allows me to talk with the kids who want to talk to me and it is nice to be hugged so much too!

Today at recess I had to deal with a student hitting another student. I made him sit out the rest of recess. He tried to run away from me but I eventually got to him and made him sit out. I felt a little silly chasing him around the playground so I eventually stopped and when I saw him again I went over and made him sit. My teacher suggested a slightly different approach when I asked her what I should have done. She gave some other good suggestions during the conference that I intend to put into practice over the next few weeks.

Even though making this student sit out was a major part of the day, it was overshadowed by the absolute kindness of a few of my students. At recess, four students picked my dandelions. They brought them up individually with the biggest smiles on their faces. Two of the students were ones that do things like this often but two of them were ones I did not expect this kind of behavior from. They were all so happy just to how me these flowers and each time they brought more I pulled all of the flowers out of my pockets to show them how many I had.

Little moments like that, where everyone’s day is made by the simplest of things, are one of the reasons I love working with kids so much. It was nice to be reminded of that with a pocket full of dandelions.