Stuff Students Say

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 21 2011

My mom is the best.

We were only in school for 3 days this week, and because my mom’s school is in the middle of their 2-week fall break, she came up to visit and help out in my classroom.  I don’t know what else to say other than it has been AWESOME. Having another person in the room all day with me, who can divert the major distractions and even help me catch the kids causing smaller issues or just being off task, is such a huge help.  To make things even better, my mom has been teaching for more than 30 years, mostly in low-income, struggling schools.  She’s seen it all- though even she has been shocked by some of things that go on at my school.

Some of the most important things my mom has helped me with this week:   I’m a pretty well-organized person, almost to the point of mild OCD about certain things.  However, in my teacher life there are approximately 50 million papers and random things that I should have dealt with weeks ago, but just never figured it out or got around to it.  She’s been spending every extra minute in my classroom helping to check these annoying things off my to-do list, whether it’s labeling new books for my class library or diving into my ridiculous grading backlog.

I’m also learning a lot from her example.   As a first-year teacher with no experience in education, obviously I’m not going to be too confident in my abilities. But to make matters worse, the abysmal behavior of my class so far has really taken its toll on the little confidence I did have after Institute.  I try to start each day with the mantra that “Today will be better”…but by math time, when I’ve already had to send a few students out of my classroom for misbehavior, A. is cutting his binder into tiny pieces instead of paying attention, J. and I. are refusing to do any work and throwing their math books on the ground and C. is having major drama with half of the other students in the class, I’ve lost my ability to stay super positive.  My mom’s presence has been super helpful in that nothing fazes her.  If a lesson is completely bombing due to student insubordination, she’s not afraid to scrap it for the moment and dive into a completely different activity that will regain their attention.  For me, totally changing plans in the moment to better suit student needs is still kind of terrifying, but I’m starting to see how it’s possible.  She doesn’t tolerate any insubordination or misbehavior, but she also doesn’t start to lose her patience in mid-afternoon, no matter how many horrifying incidents have taken place.  (And we had a decent amount this week-  2 girls in a slapping fight, crude note-passing, a student cursing at me in front of the class, etc.)

My mom also helped me bring a little more fun into my classroom.  There are now a few new games in my repertoire, including eraser tag, my students’ current obsession.  Watching kids who are usually way too cool for anything fast walk around the room trying to balance an eraser on their heads is priceless.  They’ve also now heard several stories about me from when I was younger, which fascinates them to no end.  And instead of an essay this week, each student wrote a letter to a student in my mom’s class, describing their school and what they are learning.  They were SO invested in this, despite the fact that they usually hate any type of writing and complain about it endlessly.

I’ve been told that I could stand to bring a little more positive thinking into my life, so here’s a few more highlights from this week:

-We started the day on Wednesday making dioramas of Sumerian city-states.  I gave the kids various supplies and list of features that their city-state must include. They worked together (with relatively little complaining) to design the layout, and I ran around with a hot glue gun, gluing down their creations. S., my little girl who literally never speaks a word in school, figured out a great way to fold paper into tiny houses, which all the kids were raving about.  Also, I actually heard kids arguing (semi-respectfully!) about where they needed to place canals so that the farm crops would have access to water. Amazing.

-I’ve been promising my class we could have spelling bees this year, so we finally had our first one on Friday over all our spelling words so far. Kids were studying DURING lunch. I was was worried about what to do with the kids who got knocked out early, and my mom suggested handing out a spelling word search puzzle. Oh my gosh, you’d think I gave those kids the most fascinating assignment of their lives, they were so determined to find all the words. Also, I. won the spelling bee and her grand prize was a sling backpack with an NU logo.  When I presented the prize, M.’s eyes went wide and he yelled, “That’s SO cool!”

With moments like this, sometimes this whole teaching thing isn’t so bad.

2 Responses

  1. I am new to the Teach For Us network so I am going back and reading past posts from the Twin Cities (I will be there Aug 2012 in an elementary classroom!) I have to say it has been amazing reading your posts. I love reading all the little anecdotes from your school days. I think it is great how you have begun to incorporate games into your school day! A really fun one that I learned from a veteran teacher is Basketball Spelling. Get a plain white small trash can and write spelling words on it (random so you can continue to use it over and over) and buy those cheap little basketballs that you can fit in your palm. Then organize the class into 2 “teams” they will compete against each other to spell the spelling word correctly. The team with the most points wins a small token (candy, pencil, etc) If a student misbehaves they have to sit out the whole game..hopefully it makes them want to behave next time. I did this with a class of 2nd graders and they LOVED it. I am not positive it would work with 6th grade, but it sounds like it might! :-)

  2. Oops I forgot to mention the “basketball” part of the game! If the student spells the word correctly they get to shoot a is the trick, they only get 1 point for their team for spelling the word right, if they get the basket they get 3 points. :-)

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I used to be a journalist. Now I just quote students.

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