I wonder what it’s like to be the head honcho…

I hit gym nirvana today– that magical moment of running bliss when life just makes sense, or at least doesn’t seem quite so hectic. Then this song came on (name that artist?):

Straight up, what did you want to learn about here?

If I was someone else, would this all fall apart?

Strange, where were you when we started this game?

I wish the real world would just stop hassling me…

It struck a chord today. Sometimes I wonder what my kids think the purpose of school is. They are honestly surprised every time I say we’re going to read. In English class. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be learning?

I talked to a very nice math teacher at my school today who gave me some good advice on controlling my crazy class. Which made me wonder, of course, would my students be better off with someone else? Someone who can keep everyone in line so they can learn more?

It also made me think about every time my students say something that annoys or frustrates me. I wonder- do they even consider what goes into “this game?” Sometimes I think teachers are the most underestimated people on the planet. Students- think you’re working hard? Try our job.

And of course, the last line needs no explaining. Real world? go away please. just let me sleep, work out, and read all day. Ok? cool.

Highs and Lows of the day:

Low- getting hit by a ball of paper, by a students who then did not understand why they would get in trouble when “I wasn’t aiming at you miss, I missed the kid I was trying to hit.”

High- getting an email from a student. They can send me messages on my class webpage, and many of them often do. It makes every frustration of my day go away when I get a message from one of my kids, especially because of the content of these messages. Most of them don’t even have homework questions, they just want to say hi, ask me how my day was, or tell me something cool that happened to them. It reminds me that I really do adore these little people. Today’s message: “hey ms salter!!(: well i really enjoy your class cuz you make it really fun with all of your activities especially on fridays(: i really cant wait to start talking to the kids from florida(:”

High school students are just plain weird. They’re a bundle of contradictions. But when it comes down to it, my students are really nice kids. and that means a lot.

Dooley

We have dog fever in the lakehouse. Well, two of us do. Sam and I met a lovely little dog named Dooley at the animal shelter and we got so hooked. So now our household has begun a great conversation… to dog or not to dog?

Oh dearest blog readers, anonymous viewers of every kind, What are your thoughts?

New look?

Still working on it. Can you tell I’m a little change-happy with this blog?

Feeling blah today. I need to see a doctor for some migraine meds. But, I have a fun lesson planned for tomorrow!

Lakehouse internet Redux

Once again, our internet is on the fritz. Access is intermittent. Mental stability is wavering.

Welcome to the New World

I realized tonight that, in all my whining and complaining about how hard teaching is, I haven’t uploaded pictures of my classroom! I really do love my room. It’s a big sunny place (well, a big florescently lit place, but you can’t exactly expect windows as a new teacher), and I love the way my students have helped me decorate. The room is based around our big goal: we want to become “architects of our own worlds.” I’ll write more on that later, but the basic idea is that if you (ie my students) do not learn the skills of reading, writing, and respect, you have no choice about what world you live in. When you master those skills, you get to start making decisions for yourself. More detail on this at a later date, but for now, it’s bedtime. Tomorrow, I’m teaching plot diagrams, using the fresh prince theme song, a pixar short, and a short story we read. I’m so pumped!!

For now, welcome to the new world: Room 186!!

The front of my room!

student desks!

my desk!

During their first week, my students created “goal houses” to think about what the foundations are of their future goals, and what they need to do to get there! As an added bonus, they’re super pretty and now decorate my room. This picture is from my phone so it loses some of the majesty, but here it is nonetheless:

so pretty!

Sleep approaches. Tomorrow: a debrief on the week, and pictures of tonight’s lakehouse cooking night!

The world is full of wonderful people…

… who offer an outpouring of support when I need it. From a friendly facebook message to a frank chat with roommates, to advice and reassurance from those who have been there and done that, every bit helps. Especially a kind word from my institute colab teacher, who is just amazing and is my teaching hero for everything wonderful she is capable of.

I’m taking things a step at a time, trying to get my head above water. I’ve scheduled time to sit and talk with another teacher in my department tomorrow, and my TFA program director next week. I think these conversations will help me ground myself and clear away some of these clouds. I’ve also decided that the best possible thing I can do for my mental health is to set up exciting landmarks in my life. This weekend is a long weekend, and we’re going camping on the beach. Looking forward to that is keeping me positive.

I had been avoiding thinking about going back to St. Louis, mostly because I felt that would somehow be escapist and not productive. However, I think a quick visit to the people I love and the place I feel safe and happy would be good for me. I can get my feet back under me, relax, and remind myself that there is life outside of teaching. So I’ve decided to stomach the expense of a plane ticket (not that it’s a large expense, but I don’t get paid until the end of September, so at this point a breakfast taco is a large expense) and go to St. Louis on my October long weekend.

The thought occurred to me today, during facebooking back and forth with my amazing friend Joel. He’s one of those people I miss with an overwhelming intensity, just a wonderful person I am so privileged to know (though if he asks, don’t tell him so :p ). We were joking about him visiting me, and I started to think, offhandedly, why don’t I just visit him? and for that matter, all of my amazing St. Louis friends?

Then the school year schedule came out, and I noticed Columbus day. Oh Columbus, I have never been so happy for the undue reverence we allow you. Have long weekend, will travel?

The airfare is within my budget, timewise and moneywise. And lo and behold, I facebook my friend Uri to see if I would have a place to stay, and find out rather quickly that I do. So it looks like this trip will become my October landmark.

This is not to say I’ll be measuring the days just to get through them. But it’s awfully nice to be looking forward to going somewhere you love with so much of your heart. J’adore St. Louis.

P.S. Hot damn! That weekend is Soulard Oktoberfest weekend!! Which means polka, beer, bratwurst, leiderhosen, and of course… LOVEYKINS!!

Doubts and Fears

If there is one thing Teach For America does not prepare you adequately for, it is the self-doubt. My first week teaching here in Texas was not bad– my kids learned a few things, I got to know them, and I feel like I’m starting to get the routine down. However, if there is one thing I learned this week, it’s this: I am NOT a good teacher.

That’s not to say I won’t become one, or that this is a fault mine in particular. But, coming out of TFA institute, most of us have tasted success. We’ve learned, we’ve been supported. However, there is an incredible instinct among TFA people to never, never admit that things are hard. Talk to a bunch of TFA teachers  and you would think that the job is all sunshine and rainbows. The achievement gap is real, and scary, but we’re the warriors who are going to take it down. We have the tools. We have the drive. How could we fail?

However, I think it’s important to say this from time to time: I am a bad teacher right now. Truth is, I cannot start the year as a good teacher. I probably won’t become a good teacher this month. maybe not this year.  The learning curve is steep. The actual practice of teaching is more difficult than they could ever prepare you for. And there is always something more, something better I could be doing for my students. The more you do, the harder it gets: want your kids to journal every day? get ready to read 83 journals. Quizzes? grading. Want to use better stories than the ones in the book? Hours searching for them. It’s overwhelming.

Sam and I had a good discussion about our doubts in the car today. As two of the few people coming in to teach for America looking to potentially start a long term career in teaching, we both find ourselves shaken. Although I know, in the logical part of my mind, that I can’t possibly be an incredible teacher the first week, this nagging thought began to grow in my cerebral cortex during my first week with my students. “Maybe this is not for you,”it said. “you’re already failing. You’re just not good at this.”  I’m still in charge of my own brain enough to ignore the voice. But it’s there.

My other doubt springs from Texas itself. I really do like it here– there’s so much to explore, and the beach is right nearby– what could be better? But in St. Louis, the leaves will begin to change soon. The air will crackle with the smell of autumn, my favorite part of the year. Autumn is full of possibilities, full of life. I’m beginning to pine for it. I’ve definitely been considering moving to the east coast in a few years, and in times of doubt, I worry that I picked the wrong home.

Still, one thing I do know is that I’ve found amazing friends here. Talking all of this over with Sam and knowing that I’m not alone in my fears and doubts made it much easier. My friends at work are so supportive, sending me smiles and notes and anything they can to help me out in my first year. And sitting at the kitchen table eating a home-cooked meal every night with my roommates, I feel at home. These are the things I need to remember.

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