Posts Tagged ‘first year’

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.


Year-end thanks

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about how different my life is now than a year ago.  While some of the positive changes may have happened on their own, there are an incredible number of people who have helped change my life for the better this year.

Paul helped me kick off 2011.  At a point when I desperately needed someone to see me as more than a teacher – yet also needed someone to care about that part of me – he did both.  We didn’t last long, but our time together helped me find my balance again.

When Paul and I broke up, Melanie understood that my Facebook request for new activity ideas meant I was sad and she invited me to trapeze with her.  I didn’t go that night, but the invitation changed the course of my year.

Through the spring, summer, and fall, my coworkers have been there for me, unfailingly supportive and always willing to talk through classroom difficulties.  In the end, I returned for a second year because I couldn’t imagine telling them I was leaving.  And I’ve been happy with that choice.

At the trapeze school, Mandy has almost single-handedly provided the sense of belonging, significance and fun that I kept looking for in Unitarian churches and other activities but never really found.  She knows my flying better than I do and always knows exactly when to push and when to pull back.  I know that when I fly with her I don’t have to self-advocate – she’s got my back.

And there’s the rest of the staff and students at trapeze.  From my very first class they’ve welcomed me, almost literally, with open arms.  They listen to stories, give support and advice, and are completely fun to be around.  Becoming part of that community has been one of the most enjoyable developments of my post-college life.

And finally, there are my students.  It’s been wonderful to see H. blossom; it makes all of last year worth it.  This year’s class is full of such wonderful, vulnerable kids, and I am regularly humbled by the trust and love they give me, even on the days I don’t think I deserve it.  I know I’m not doing it all right, but they think I’m getting a whole lot of it right, and that’s definitely helping me sleep better.

While many of these people may come and go in my life, my family and close friends have been there every day of this year – and of the last.  They’ve dealt with my lows (and I know there were a lot), but I hope they’ve been able to share in my highs, too.

In the end, I feel like a very lucky girl, and am thankful for the happy, interesting year that’s gone by.

Mixed blessings

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Last year’s student H and I had a very close relationship.  She came to the country knowing almost no English but was determined to control every aspect of her day through sheer force of will.  She demanded a great deal of my energy and focus, but she repaid it with enormous progress and affection.  I worried a lot about sending her on to second grade – not because she might struggle academically, but because as much as I love her, she’s an easy child to get fed up with.  I think she ended up with the most patient of the second grade teachers, but she’s independent enough now that she doesn’t need to have the same incredibly focused relationship with her teacher anymore.  In addition, the two students she most enjoyed moved over the summer, and I think that remarkable force of will of hers has made it hard to make new friends.  As a result, she’s feeling a little lonely this year.  She stops by my room each day after school to talk, and is usually in a decent mood, but last Monday she was very down.  “I have bad day.  I very sad, but I no can talk about it.  My dad waiting, I tell you tomorrow.”  I called out after her to write me a note that night to tell me about it.  This is what I got the next day:

On one hand, this letter breaks my heart.  I hate that she ever feels sad, and I don’t want her to be wishing for the past.  On the other hand, I know she’s a strong, resilient child and that this will be a temporary low.  And I read her letter, written in controlled handwriting, regular letter format, and (mostly) conventional spelling, and I can’t help but celebrate.  Sixteen months ago she didn’t know a single English letter.  Now look at what she’s able to do.  She is, truly, a remarkable child, and while I’m sad that she’s sad right now, I feel confident that she’s going to take the world by storm.

A day of firsts

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Waking up today I knew it would be a day of firsts: my first meeting to discuss a child’s IEP (individual education plan) was this morning and my first child study meeting (to discuss how to intervene with a child who’s struggling) was this afternoon.  What I didn’t know is that in between these meetings one of my students would provide an opportunity for another first: my first ride in an ambulance.

The student, AK, was last in line as we started to walk to music.  I was puzzled when I saw him run back into the classroom, but sent the class on, figuring he’d just forgotten something and would be right out.  He did come back out quickly, but he was crying and clearly panicky.  “I swallowed, I swallowed,” he kept repeating.  “You swallowed what,” I asked.  He finally gasped: “a quarter!”

“You swallowed a QUARTER?!”  I replied dumbly.

Luckily another teacher on my team heard me and said, “I’ve got your class, do what you need to do.”  So AK and I rushed down the hallway towards the clinic, with me asking him to keep talking while we walked so that I could make sure he could still breath.  About 3/4 of the way there he started throwing up, and another teacher immediately swooped in with a trash can to catch it.  We got to the clinic, explained what was wrong, and within about 10 seconds had the principal on the phone with 911, the assistant principal on the phone to the student’s mom, and a copy of his emergency care information ready for the EMTs.  The principal kept him distracted with long, crazy stories about other kids she’s known who swallowed coins and the clinic aide and I kept him cleaned up.  While I was at the hospital with him, one of the reading teachers picked my kids up from music, and another was ready to get them from lunch and dismiss them if I wasn’t back in time.

Despite some scary minutes of having the quarter stuck in his throat my student should be fine, and we left him at the ER in the capable hands of the doctors and his mother.

My takeaway from the day is an overwhelming appreciation for the other staff members at my school.  At every turn I had instantaneous, unquestioning help.  The only thing that mattered was taking care of my student, which included allowing me to be there to take care of him.  I know it might sound like the obvious or the right thing to do, and it is, but I’ve also worked in enough environments to know that this kind of matter of fact extension on behalf of another staff member or someone else’s kid isn’t always the norm.  I’m very grateful I ended up somewhere where it is.

Plugging the holes

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

With my kids about to move on to 2nd grade I’m busy figuring out what holes need to be filled before they go.  My primary goal in this is admittedly self-centered: I don’t want to get a bad reputation among the 2nd grade team.  My fear is that I’ll have done such a bad job in something that all my kids will be markedly deficient, and when the 2nd grade team meets next year they’ll say something like “Nicole can’t write to save her life, do you think she needs to be referred for Special Education evaluation?  Oh, wait, she had Miss R. last year.  None of her kids can write. [Teachers nod and/or sigh in agreement.]”

To forestall this possible outcome I’m basically throwing out the curriculum for the last 5 weeks of school and focusing exclusively on the things I think my class is worst at.  This includes handwriting, writing, editing, and (for many of them) explaining their math problem-solving beyond “I thinked it in my head.”  Today we spent the morning hitting editing hard, then spent the afternoon writing math story problems and explaining how we figured out the answers.

I was pleasantly shocked by the quality of their story problems once I reminded them how to write them.  I was less impressed with their editing skills, but we’ll keep working on it.  And while they don’t know it yet, next week I’m starting spelling tests (I still need a good bribe for strong performance – suggestions welcome), with a focus on the high-frequency words I know they can read easily but they they misspell ALL THE TIME.

I’m heartened that they are all at or very, very close to the 1st grade reading benchmark, and if they don’t screw up the end-of-year math assessment with careless errors I might just finish the year looking like a decidedly non-sucky first-year teacher.  So if I can just deal with the few remaining glaring holes in my teaching, my first year might not have been a disaster for my students.

They don’t tell you about this in grad school

May 17, 2011 2 comments

After 8 straight days of having to call the office to request a custodian with a plunger, plus several discussions about our class’s over-use of toilet paper, today I had to set aside my science lesson on plants and talk about…poop.  Our class had a somber conversation about new rules for flushing to make sure that our toilet doesn’t break, then I used the instructional strategy of having students list details across their fingers to have them repeat and remember the new rules.  They may not have taught us how to handle broken toilets in grad school, but it’s good to know the pedagogical strategies I learned work across topics!

Passing them along

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

My quietest, most enigmatic child suddenly transferred to another school on Monday after her family moved.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to contact her new teacher, or if it would even be appropriate for me to do so, but here’s what I’d say if I could.

Dear Emily’s new teacher,

I know you’ll only have her for six weeks and you probably weren’t expecting a new kid at this point in the year, but Emily’s pretty special if you figure out how to let her show it.  It took me awhile, but here’s what I’ve learned about her.

1. She seems really shy and you’ll probably never hear her in the whole group, but if you get her into a small group she can be irrepressible – and loud!
2.  She doesn’t say much if you ask her a question, but she has a lot to say on her own schedule.  Be prepared for long stories about her family that must be told while you’re cleaning up for lunch. Take the time to listen, even though the time is never right. It’s when she tries out all her English words.
3.  Slip her some extra snacks.  Her family doesn’t have a lot.
4. Let her pretend to be a princess and order you around.Or have her reread a book like a rock star.  You’ll see a whole new side of her.
5.  Don’t underestimate her. She’s quiet and seems so unsure, but she’s become a great reader, writer, and mathematician.

Most of all, take care of her. She starts with so little but she works so hard. She could be a star but she needs help to get there. I know you’ll enjoy her even if it’s just six weeks.


Miss R

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