The holiday season is definitely upon us as educators (see last week's post). So many kids are stressed and anxious, and adults are too. Lots of sad events are happening locally, nationally, in indivudual families. Rather than let myself be dragged down by all the negativity and sadness (because that is all too easy sometimes), I have been trying to think about what makes me happy about teaching/administrating/middle school/ELL. Here are a few things that have happened that I've seen, heard, or experienced that have made me happy:
Happy holidays to all and here's to a peaceful 2017. Stay tuned for new blog posts after the holiday break!
This is what I tell myself as I tell my kids for the 47th time to go to bed. Teachers, parents: we must gather our forces and strength for the next week and a half! We can do this! A few deep breaths every hour, eat cookies, go on a run, do yoga, indiulge in shop therapy,have a good cry - do what works for you to help you through!
December brings all kinds of interesting behaviors to middle school students. The short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a stressful one, where our students' hormones, actions, and feelings are more rollercoaster-y than ever. Just last week at my school, we had 2 students who were on the run, all over our school, escaping every adult they saw. The week before that, 2 students were hysterical, crying in between all their classes, hovering outside of the cafeteria in tears, not for one second in the place they were supposed to be, over drama they had created themselves. Today a glass bottle came flying off of a table in the cafeteria, luckily missing everyone around it. Knucklehead behaviors are on the rise - bottle flipping, snowball throwing, hitting other kids on the backs of the neck.
On a more serious note, it is a truly difficult time for so many of our students. Food insecurity and homelessness are genuine issues in our small idyllic town. There are kids suffering through crises such as being removed from their homes by DCF, threats of self-harm are on the rise, and anxiety seems to be at an all-time high. The holidays bring about depression for many, and the short, dark days deprive us of much-needed sunlight.
However, there are happy moments, too.
One happy moment for me came last week in a letter from our superintendent in which he informed parents that no student will be assigned homework over the winter break. He basically cancelled homework! My kids are thrilled.
Going to teach my class is always a happy moment, too. I leave behind whatever is happening in the administrative part of my job, and lose myself in teaching and learning about the diversity of the African continent. The kids have neverending questions; while they lead us on tangents, we never stray too far from the topic at hand in our quest to find out more. As usual, they motivate me to do better, to find out more, and to be more creative and intentional in my teaching.
And, at the end of the day, I have the immense luck to come home to my warm home, my kids, my husband, my dogs and cat, a full fridge, and my parents who live around the corner. I make sure to hug my kids tight often, and try to be thankful for this good life.
Here is hoping you all make it to the holiday vacation with some energy left to enjoy time with your families and loved ones.
Sometimes, as a teacher you plan activities or lessons that go amazingly, and your students are engaged, excited, and learning.
Other times, you flop.
You might have 100 great classes, but it's that one flop that you can't let go of. What went wrong? you ask yourself. What can I do differently next time? you wonder. You feel like a failure as a teacher and wonder if you should change careers. Reflection is key for good teachers, though, and no teacher, seasoned as they may be, has perfect classes all the time.
This week I had a few flops. I had planned what I thought was going to be a fun and interesting field trip to a local college's art museum, and we would have a tour of the college and lunch there, for a full experience. We would see works of art from Africa as I launched the unit of study abou this continent. Of my students, only one has parents who went to college. The others know about college, but have no concept of what to do in order to get there. I hoped it would be a positive experience for them, regardless of the fact that we were visiting a women's college.
It was a beautiful day, and as we walked around the campus, all my students, except one complained. About everything. They were hungry, tired, bored. When were we going to eat? Why were we here anyway? The other adults with me - a student teacher and the ELL English teacher - and I tried to be patient. After a camous tourh, we headed to the student center to eat. I soon realized that would be their highlight from that day. They finally stopped complaining.
At the art museum, for a while it was as though we were leading a group of elementary students. They were all over the place. It was hard for them to stand still and listen to the curator, who was generous enough to fit us into a busy day. One student, who recently arrived from Central America, kept pushing around the cart of foldable stools.
Some of the students finally became excited and engaged when they each got to choose a work of art they loved and talk about why. When they finished doing that, it was time to get back on the school bus, so we barely had time to see the art work the curator had pulled for us. I felt defeated and exhausted.
In hindsight, it was the week after Thanksgiving, and most of the student body was out of sorts. However, I think other factors were at play here. My students had never, except for 2, been to an art museum. Also, this group of students is quite young, compared to other groups I've had. They are still learning studentship skills, coping skills, and organization. I also realized that maybe when students say they are "bored", it's a way for them to express their discomfort, and it's likely they were not at ease on the campus of an exclusive all-women's private college! I thought it was a total flop of a field trip.
The next day in class, I asked the students to reflect on the field trip. I was shocked to learn that, while they had loved the food, a few of them actually mentioned liking the museum. One of the reflection questions asked students to recommend ideas for future field trips, and a few of them said that we should go back to the college. I guess you never know! Not such a flop, after all.