Thursday, June 27, 2013

End of the School Year Goodbyes

Sometimes the end of the year means saying goodbye. Goodbye to students moving on or saying goodbye to an old school for a new one.  Over the seven years I've been teaching middle school, I've said goodbye in several ways for several different reasons.

During my first year teaching a self contained class of all rough boys and one tough girl, there was the angry kid who was sent to a district seventy five school. It was only the third month of school, but already I saw him and could only hope as I said goodbye that he would be okay in life.

From then on I began to say goodbye regularly-- from graduating students leaving the school, to students moving in the middle of the year and preferred colleagues moving on to bigger and better, or just new schools. 

The hardest goodbye of them all occurred during the last week of my sixth year teaching.  Saying goodbye to my then group of eighth graders who I had taught for two years in a small setting, while saying goodbye to the school where I began my teaching career and where I truly grew as an individual and a professional was hard.  Yet,it was bittersweet because it meant moving on from a school where I felt stagnant. It allowed movement. Bittersweet because my students were also moving up and moving on.  It was the perfect transition.

And of course there are the students you teach and when you reach the end of the school year, you're happy that they've moved on to be taught by somebody else.  One particular student showed up in that July dream I always have after the school year is over about school, and I literally woke up from that dream to reject that encounter. 

So how does a teacher say goodbye? To students, with a hug or a handshake. Maybe an encouraging note in a student's yearbook and if your school allows it and it's been a particularly great year, with party. To colleagues, a hug if they're the hugging type, by sharing contacts, and with a smile and bittersweet words.

Miss M

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

He Who Does Not Learn

I actually said to a student today: you mean to tell me, that you don't learn?

A few kids chuckled. I'm sorry but on June 18th, period 8 you will not tell me that your last teacher tried to teach you rhyming poetry and you just couldn't learn it.  In fact you can't learn it.  I didn't say all that, but I certainly thought it.

Instead I said, I will teach you how to rhyme using our provided rhyme word banks during extended day.

And I did. I had the student who "doesn't learn" on one side, and the student who couldn't write because both of his pointer fingers were injured on the other side. 

Together we sat.  He who does not learn, learned, and the other dictated while I scribed. There may be sixth days left, but I will not tolerate the nonsense.

Miss M

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Teacher Holds Her Tongue

Something I say a lot during the course of a school day is: "I am holding my tongue."  A teacher must always watch what she says.  Students may have selective understanding and truly keep themselves from getting a lesson, but something they all seem to catch and catch quickly is when a teacher makes an even slightly off-color remark. Middle schoolers are especially talented that way.  Therefore, I hold my tongue even in trying moments and tell the students as a I do so.  

Miss M

She Told Me "Godspeed."

Before my co-teacher left for the rewards trip she told me, "Godspeed."

I chuckle now to think of it, as I did earlier when I finally sat down to eat my steak and bean salad in the middle of my crazy-busy day.  While I wasn't having an awful day-- thankfully, at this point of the year I know my students and what "teaching" in mid-June requires-- I was tested and tried.  If I hadn't expected most elements of my day, I would have had a terrible day.  The students were overly-talkative, dramatic, slacking, some slightly rude, one straight belligerent, and a few threw things like paper!  I emphasive "threw" because few things are as disrespectful as talking while the teacher is talking or a classmate is sharing his work, and throwing is one of those things.  To me, throwing is disrespectful to the classroom environment and all in it. 

I don't know how many times I have to tell children that I really do see everything.  I just pick and choose what I acknowledge.  I digress.

So there I was staring at my lunch, wishing I had also packed a piece of brownie instead of or in addition to my apple, and thinking of "Godspeed."  If I hadn't prepared myself in all senses of the word, I would have been done for it.  I wore something I feel good in-- a bright, cheery outfit with lots of bangles and two fun rings-- and I wrote an engaging lesson complete with two full *RAFTs AND an extension just in case.  I said my affirmations in the school building, not just before leaving my apartment, and I put a smile on my face and vowed to keep it there unless...

As I mentioned, I was tried.  I did raise my voice, but then I bought it back down.  I took it easy while addressing what really mattered.  I waited for silence, or close enough to silence and I held the paper-throwers accountable.  I also pulled one of my self-contained moves and displaced a student.  I took "her" seat, the one she thought she would still sit in after I told her where she was supposed to sit.  She threatened to walk out, was coaxed back in by an adult in the hall, and there I was in "her" seat.  I then proceeded to pull the two students she was engaging in off-task behavior, on task.
In between it all, I taught an interesting lesson-- using knowledge of body language to analyze two Def Jam poetry slams-- and I realized that sixth grade is teaching middle school and kindergarten all in one.

Miss M

*note: RAFT is the paragraph formula we use, and another way to make sure students take their time with their writing.  In my case, it bought me time to settle them down and gave those settled something to do.  Again,
"teaching" in mid-June.

Teacherly in Mid-June

Here is an outfit I wore recently, one of my more teacherly outfits.  With the warm weather, children mentally on summer vacation, I have been wearing my summer dresses (with cardigans and shrugs) and plenty of weekend-type outfits to work!

Jackie cardigan and navy blouse from J.Crew, pencil skirt by Missimo at Target, my new favorite Seychelles heels, and my new favorite bag (Madison Lindsey Satchel) from Coach.

locs to the side is my current look!

my turquoise green and gold studs from Express add a pop of color.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Meet Students at the Door!

I left my class today, after letting my co-teacher know of course, to find eight missing students.  It was eighth period, and after having taught the class earlier in the day, I knew those students were either in trouble in their last class or straggling in the hall.  Either way, seven years of teaching has taught me that nothing good comes of a mass of late students entering at once, without the teacher filtering them in.  I cannot stress the importance of meeting challenging students, or simply needy students, at the door instead of allowing them to enter on their own.  Energy is real.

I found four of those students in the guidance office, one was being picked up early and the rest trickled in.  With ten days left, I am not interested in entertaining an even slightly-rowdy class.  Therefore, I am especially preemptive.  Meet them at the door, lights dimmed, greet with calm tone and keep them engaged.  And when a bunch are missing, go find them if you have the luxury.  One student has the power to set off a class, and more than one late student has the ability keep the class off-task for an entire period.

Miss M

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sixth Graders Are Strange!

One year of teaching sixth grade has taught me so much!  Sixth graders are just strange.  On Friday, a student crawled under his desk after going up to the SMARTboard for his turn during our Spelling Bee game challenge, and cried.  This was during a friendly, supportive activity, where students were partnered and could call on help.  Today, another student stumble-walked across the classroom wearing one chunky, Jordan-type sneaker and one Converse shoe with a very flat sole.  My co-teacher told her to walk properly and she hobbled.

I don't mind silliness at all, but lately I find myself wondering: how will my sixth graders fare in seventh grade?  Are they ready?  Will the tantrums, expectations of hand-holding, extra tears cease magically in September?  I hope so.  Prior to teaching sixth grade for the first time, I've never seen so much crying in school over little to nothing.  I also have never seen middle schoolers work so much and learn as much as my sixth graders did under the new Common Core Learning Standards.

More reflections to come as I wrap up this year and begin my seven summer vacation since becoming a teacher.

Miss M

Counting Down

I have officially begun my countdown until the last day of school.  There are eleven more days until summer vacation.  I like to think of it as: here in New York, we go to school until July.  Seriously.  Wednesday, June 26 is our last day of school.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Shades of Yellow

Spirit day number one: where school colors, purple and gold.  Here's my take on it.  Perfect excuse to wear all yellow, and my purple lipstick of course.

yellow blouse from Forever 21, mustard yellow J.Crew pencil skirt, yellow Seychelles pumps, Express pearl earrings, M.A.C. Heroine lipstick

all golden!
loving my J.Crew gold bangle set

all yellow