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Pretty much

September 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I saw one of my former first graders, now in 5th grade(!) this morning. She came over and wrapped her arms around me in a side hug. “So,” I said, looking down at her, “when I talked to you in June you predicted you’d spend the summer on the computer and text messaging. Is that what you ended up doing?”

“Pretty much,” she said.

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Crazy 8s

September 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Over the course of my last year of mentoring, another of my former students slowly wormed her way into our sessions. She started by lobbying – hard – for one, just one, meeting in December. I talked with her teacher and with my original student and finally agreed. Every week after that she’d see me in the lobby and ask “can I come with you today?” until I finally agreed to a second session, then a third…and before I knew it she was joining us every other week. It worked out better than I expected. She’s gregarious and highly social, but she’s never seemed to mind much how “off” my other student is. She lets him be him while still (mostly) politely standing her ground if he’s truly out of bounds socially.

Last week, my first week back this school year, she started on the lobbying again as soon as she saw me. I said that since her teacher had no idea I was even there, we’d have to wait until this week, at least, so I could see if it was okay.

This week, having gotten permission from both her teacher and my other student, I was looking forward to telling her that she could join us. Spying me in the lobby she made a beeline for me: “Can I come with you today?” Then, without even waiting for my response, she continued, “But you said you’d talk to my teacher! You said–”

I held up my hand to cut her off. “Whoa! Want to let me talk? I was about to say that I talked to your teacher and you can come with us today.”

She had the good grace to smile sheepishly.

We spent a lot of the time together playing Crazy 8s with the $1 deck I got at Target. She was awesome at it – beat me multiple times, using actual strategy. She kept protesting that I wasn’t supposed to look at the other student’s cards though, and I had to keep shushing her because there’s no way he could play the game without the support I can give him from peeking. I like that having her with us means that he’s willing to try the game – when he played just with me last year he threw the cards down in frustration and said the game was stupid, but if she and I are playing, he wants to give it a try.

So I’ll be taking her every other week this year. I give her credit – she’s relentless, sure, but it gets her what she wants and needs, and it’s been a positive thing for all of us in the end.

Categories: Relationships, Teaching Tags: , ,

Real motivation

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Had my first day back to school mentoring my former student. He was disappointed when the morning announcement didn’t say his class was one that had earned “free seating” in the cafeteria. I said, “so the seats are assigned right now until each class shows they can make good choices?”

He responded, “No, I think they just want to make us miserable.”

Bulletproof logic

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

The nine-year-old I work with explained to me today why he knows Santa Claus is real:

“I believe in Santa Claus. My mom and dad don’t believe in Santa Claus though. My mom says that when I go to sleep and wake up and there are presents, she leaves the presents. But that’s not possible! How can a mom and dad get presents in the middle of the night? They can’t go to the stores in the middle of the night. The stores are even closed! It doesn’t make sense. So I know Santa must leave the presents.”

Seasons of change

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty quiet online this year, largely because there were so many changes in my life, and so many big emotions about those changes, that I didn’t really even know where to begin.  But with the changing of the year, it feels like a good time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months.

I spent the first half of my year with an amazing, challenging, intensely emotional group of students who made a lasting mark on my heart.  Over our time together, I grew both more comfortable as a teacher and at the same time more unsure of my ability to ever be the teacher I wanted to be, or to gain the emotional distance necessary to make year after year of teaching sustainable.  By June I never wanted to say goodbye to my students and couldn’t imagine spending another day with them – or starting all over again with a new group the following year.

All of those conflicting emotions – plus some expert advocacy by my mother – led to a very different second half of the year.  In May I interviewed with my father’s boss for a position at the federal contractor he’s worked for since 2002.  Two weeks after school ended, I started as a Senior Business Analyst at the company – and it’s been great.  My day to day interactions are with the two VPs, the COO, and my father, and the entire leadership team has been shockingly open to my (many, many) ideas, suggestions, and initiatives.  I’ve been able to define my scope of responsibilities as we go, taking on projects I find exciting and that make a difference to the company.  In early fall, I led a recruitment process that added two new people to our team, making me a supervisor after just four months on the job.

It’s pretty different from teaching.

The new job brought a lot of other new things, including a new car, new apartment, new work wardrobe, new furniture, new commute.  I love my little red Prius, with my first-ever vanity plates, and its crazy-good gas mileage makes my marathon commute a little easier to deal with.  (Literally, it’s a marathon – 26.2 miles door to door.)  After spending all of August with my very patient mom and dad, I moved into a gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in September and spent most of September and October furnishing and stocking it.  (It turns out that after 5+ years of downsizing apartments, I had no tables, no dishes, no glasses…)

And running through the entire year, of course, was trapeze.  It’s grown from an important hobby that provided me with a sense of community to a defining part of who I am and a huge part of my social life.  I spent March through October intensely focused on building my trampoline skills (until my coach ran off to join the circus), and since September my flying has moved forward in leaps and bounds.  In the last few months I’ve taken multiple tricks and skills out of safety lines, which means I’m taking more and more responsibility for what I do in the air.  And it’s exhilarating. I’ve always been a confident person, but as I’ve progressed in trapeze, I’ve gained a completely different sense of confidence, one that’s rooted both in a better knowledge of my body and what I can do with it, but also in constantly, and successfully, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.  When I’m feeling uncertain at work or in a new social situation, there’s something very powerful about remembering, hey, I can do a back 1.25 tuck, drop safely from 23 feet in the air, or grab a return bar and go all the way back to the board.  If I can do those things, surely the day-to-day challenges of life are manageable.

All in all, it’s been a very good year, and there’s a lot more to look forward to in the year to come.

I guess it okay, I guess

March 30, 2012 2 comments

Today was our last day of school before Spring Break.  My most active boy was very, very active today.  Literally bounced off the walls (and doors), and told me several times that I “so mean a teacher.”  About 5 minutes before dismissal all that activity. Stopped.

Completely subdued, he came over to me, worrying his bottom lip. “What’s the matter?” I asked him.

“I-I-I no want to go Spring Break.  I don’t know what do.”

“Who’s going to be with you when you’re at home?”

“I don’t know…I guess a babysitter?”

From what I know of his family, that truly is a guess.  He and his sister might have a babysitter, or they might be dropped off at different neighbors or family members each day, or honestly, they might even be on their own for stretches of time.

“Do you want to bring some books home?  Some math games?”  [Head shake no]

“How about one of our jump ropes?”

[Slow nod] “I guess yes.”

He and I spent the last few minutes of the day walking around the classroom, opening cupboards, drawers, and cabinets, collecting anything of interest and stuffing it into his backpack.  When his bus was called he said, “I guess it okay, I guess,” then zipped up his bag, said “I going to miss you,” and ran off.

Square peg, round hole

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Our district is moving to standards based grading on report grades, which means that instead of giving one big grade for Math, one for Reading, one for Science, etc., we’ll report how students have done on each of the state’s standards of learning.  I think it’ll take a bit more documentation, but in the end it makes a lot of sense – if we studied time and fractions in one quarter and your child bombed one but rocked the other, does it really help you as a parent to see that performance averaged out to “on grade level”?

So, I’m in support of the change. But. My team decided to get ready for the change by starting to track our students’ achievement using checklists and rubrics measuring their level of mastery.  It’s been a valuable experience, but now I have about 45-50 data points on each child that still need to be boiled down to a single, old-style grade.  And I’m not sure how to do it.  In this last grading period we taught units on time, money, fractions, and measurement.  Some kids did well on all of them, some did well on a few of them, and happily, no one did poorly on all of them.  Because so many kids did well across the board, I’m worried I’ll create a Lake Woebegone effect, with (almost) all of the kids being above average.

But then if a child did really, really, really poorly on two of the units, but really well on the other two, should they get the needs improvement grade?  Or should that average out to show them on grade level?

My likely solution: put off math grading for several more hours by working on science and social studies, then make whatever choice feels right in the moment, knowing I have the data to back up whatever I decide to anyone who’s interested in understanding it.

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