Tag Archives: classroom

First week of school and my unexpected surprise…

Hello all! I’m excited to be back on here to update you on my adventures as a second year teacher. School in my district started this week, which to be honest seems way earlier than when I was in school. Summers don’t have quite the same connotation to teachers and students as they once did. With that said, I did have a great summer regardless. I finished up my master’s program (CADRE) in June. I went on a 2,800 mile road trip with my hubby and 3 sons… it was awesome! All-in-all, my summer was pretty full and rewarding.

Anyway, back to the topic of school. I met all of my new 8th graders and was able to easily determine on the first day those who will be quite the handful, lol. It’s always those attention seeking kiddos who are the most trying. By Friday, I had already assigned them one homework assignment, given them a survey, and had small group activities to work out our “Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible” classroom rules. They think I am a little tough, which means I’m doing my job 🙂

So, about that unexpected surprise… yesterday I didn’t quite feel right. I was kinda sad and felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I noticed that I’d look at a student and would mention that so-and-so looks like so-and-so from last year, or talks like that person, or acts like that person, or has the same name. By the end of the day I was worn out and depressed, but I didn’t know why… then it hit me. I was mourning the loss of my students from last year. They were gone and I wasn’t going to see them again unless they visited me. This revelation caused me to start crying like I lost a loved one. It was horrible and not something that I’ve ever heard another teacher talk about. In fact, I’m crying right now writing about it. What’s even worse is that I was practically shoving them out of the door on the last day last year… now I want them back. I think that what this shows me is that I truly care for my students and that we built some really strong relationships with each other. I hope that this will be the case for me this year as well, and maybe instead of pushing them out the door on the last day, I will savor those last minutes with a new sense of knowing that I may never see them again but that we made a difference in each other’s lives.

Well, I need to get back to working on my class syllabus and preparing for open house. I will post again soon.

— Stephanie

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Closing out a wonderful year!

YAY! I made it! … well, almost. We don’t get out for a little over a week, but it’ll be a breeze. This year has been amazing, educational, insightful (both about myself and my profession), and really hard; however, I wouldn’t give up my first year teaching for anything. I believe I have been blessed to have such a wonderful group of kids this year. I have been fortunate to have a great cohort of teachers to help me through my Master’s program. I have definitely been lucky to have had the stamina and strength to handle all of the challenges and pressures that come along with teaching 13 and 14 year olds.

Today my fingers itched to start taking down my bulletin boards and posters, to pack my boxes of teacher paraphernalia, and to begin the process of planning for next year, but, I didn’t start. It will be hard for me to say good-bye to this bunch of kids, but it will hurt them to see me putting the year behind me before they are gone.

Tears will be shed, but they will be tears of joy and excitement. Hugs will be shared, but they will be hugs of congratulation. High-fives will fly and knuckle-pounds will explode, all because we made it… students and teachers alike. Good-byes will be said, and for some it may be for good… but for me and my fellow teachers, we will hope for a future glimpse of the student we taught, just for a second, when they were developing into their adulthood.

I am so proud of what I’ve done over this last year, and I’m proud of who I’ve become; but, most of all, I’m proud of the lives who have touched mine, just for a second, when I was developing into my profession. It has been the exuberance… and trust… and trials… that these kids — my kids — have spread over my first year of teaching that will forever resonate in my heart.

I wish, just as most teachers wish, that I will not be forgotten. I will never forget my first year as a teacher.

— Stephanie

P.S. I guess I get to add a new tagline to my blog in a few weeks 🙂 I will no longer be a first year teacher!

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Suicidal Tendencies…

It really hurts and confuses me when kids believe that suicide is the best answer to their problems. Since I teach at a middle school, suicide becomes an increasing problem in these young people’s lives. My 8th graders are going through a very tough time in their lives; they are going through the bodily and emotional changes that everyone goes through at this age. I remember clearly how difficult that was for me, especially since I moved from one state to another in the middle of my 7th grade year. But why does suicide sound like the answer?

When I was 16, I was going through a really tough time, and I remember telling my mom that I wished I had the courage to kill myself. She looked at me very seriously and said, “Suicide causes so much harm to the people who love you and it is the most selfish thing you could ever do.” When I think back to that moment, I remember the shame and fear that I felt, because I knew that I couldn’t go through with it, but I also knew I said it because 1. I wanted to hurt my mom, and 2. I was asking for help by shifting the attention, albeit negative, to me. I was hurting emotionally and I didn’t know why. I had next to zero self-esteem and I perceived the world as my enemy, one that didn’t like or love me. I was convinced that I was going to feel that way forever. After that, I always think about how selfish suicide is and how it is a permanent solution to the person who takes their own life, but it is a life long scar to those left behind.

Here is an article about teen suicide statistics and risk factors. There are also links about related issues and suicide prevention. This is a growing epidemic that is quickly becoming the #1 cause of teen deaths. Bullying, in its many forms, is on the rise, which I’m sure is causing teen suicides to also increase.

You may be asking yourself why I’m writing about this. Why now? Well… I know of a girl who has tried upwards of 3 times to take her own life. She is only 14. Her family is extremely supportive and has been actively seeking the appropriate help… however, it just hurts to know that if she keeps trying, she will eventually be successful.

I have no dilusions that I will experience the loss of a student while teaching… especially since I teach in an urban district, but I hope and pray that if that happens to one of my own students I can look back and know that I tried to do everything I could for all of my students. Maybe that is also dilusional…

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Emergency in the Classroom…

You know how at the beginning of the school year you are given each of your students’ IEPs, 504s, medical information, etc.? You remember how you read through all of it and wondered how on earth you would ever remember everything? And you prayed that those few students who do have serious medical conditions will never have an episode in your class, because you may forget what you were supposed to do and how to handle the situation? Well, it happened to me… a medical crisis in my classroom.

The 26th of January was when it happened. It was 1st hour and we were preparing for the state writing assessment. I had an IEP meeting right before school and was rushing around trying to make sure I had my handouts ready and my practice prompt on the board before school started.

After the bell rang, I was standing in the front of the room explaining the optional graphic organizers and the prompt. As I was looking around the room I noticed one boy who looked like he was falling asleep. I said, “let’s keep our heads off the desks please. This is English class, not sleeping class.” He raised his head back up and looked like he was trying to stay awake. Soon after, his head began to slowly go back down. I thought to myself that it wouldn’t be a big deal in a few seconds because they would be getting up to get their handouts and then actively writing their essays.

So, I told the kids that if they would like to make use of the graphic organizers they could come up and grab the one they preferred. What happened next was a bit of a blur, but the boy did get up to get an organizer. I was standing near his desk talking to another student when I saw him fall and knock over two desks. I instinctively grabbed his arm and tried to pull him back up. We set the desks back up and I made him sit in his desk. I saw that he was trying to get his belongings off the floor but was having difficulties. He kept repeating over and over that this sometimes happens when he gets really tired. Now, the instant that he fell, those notifications I read at the beginning of the year flashed in my mind. I remembered that he had a seizure disorder. However, I also remembered that he and his parents requested that we do nothing when he has one because they usually only last a few seconds and then pass. Looking back over the year, I remember seeing him kind of go to another world and look forward with glassy eyes, but I knew this was different.

After I got the kid back in his desk, he started to try to write his essay. His handwriting was very erratic. I immediately went to the room next door and called the office for help. The nurse wasn’t at school yet, but one of the secretaries came down. I asked him to stand up and walk out to the hall with me, but once he stood up he said he couldn’t walk alone. I had another boy help him into the hall, but on the way he was walking like he was drunk. He was bumping into desks and tripping over his own feet. I was scared he was going to hurt himself, which almost became reality. As soon as he got to the hall, he stumbled and fell to the floor. We had him stay there and one of the counselors brought him a wheelchair and took him to the nurse’s office.

I went back to my class and tried to restore order. I found out that the boy’s parents came to get him and take him home. Apparently his seizures have been occurring more frequently lately. I sure do with I had known that! Amazingly, the boy came back to school later that day and appeared to be completely fine.

I can say for certain that I had one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life, and that I need to find out everything I can about all of my students’ medical issues and what I should do if there is an emergency. I really don’t understand why this is not part of our teacher preparation. So, I have linked a document that discusses seizures and what to do when an emergency does happen. I hope that my experience has convinced anyone reading this that we should all be as informed as possible regarding our student’s health problems.

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Field Trip…

I’m about to head off on my first full day field trip as a teacher. We are going to the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. I remember going there when I was a middle schooler; It was one of my fondest memories from middle school.

I have a bunch of kids from my rowdy 5th hour class in my group. I’m pretty nervous about that, but I think that it will be fun regardless. I just hope I can keep up!! I’m so tired right now that I considered laying on my classroom beanbag chairs to “relax” for a bit, but I think that will just make me want to sleep more.

This field trip will hopefully be a nice break from the chaos and stress I’ve been trying to cope with for the last couple weeks. I had to turn in grades last night, which was the most stressful undertaking in my life. I’d rather give birth again than have to post grades. But, ’tis the job and I need to get a better grading system to help make posting grades less stressful.

Well, wish me luck! We are leaving in 30 minutes. I can’t wait to get a nice caramel apple to bring home with me… I love Autumn! 🙂

— Steph

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Gettin’ my groove on…

HA! I love this title, and it’s so true! I’m not having the best day today, but I am having a really great time teaching. I have ironed out as much of my “centers” as I can. We started them today, and the kids love having a “menu” to choose their own activities from. I split the kids into two groups, one for vocabulary and one for 6+1 Traits. They will work from their assigned menu for the week and then next week they will switch. It seems to be going well so far. I will post the menus that I used later  because they are on my school computer.

I have also had a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of my students more. I volunteered to supervise the home football games for the high school that my school feeds into. The first game was awesome! I didn’t realize that so many of my own students were going to be there, but there were a lot who attended. Several of my students realized that we had a spelling test the next day and that they needed to study still. They asked me if I would practice with them… at the game!!! WOW!!! So we spent the second half of the game spelling words, putting them into sentences, and defining them. It was really funny, because one of my kids, “M,” was running up the bleachers. I told “M” to slow down or he would trip and fall, which he promptly did. He was laughing so hard that he was crying… and so was everyone else! It was so funny, but was even better was what he said after. He said, “Mrs. M, I wrangled with the bleachers!” And guess what… yep, “wrangle” was one of our spelling words! It was the most amazing and funny teaching moment ever! So, I have supervised every home game since, and just last week, several of my students asked me if I’d come watch them play football. I can’t wait! The rapport with a huge number of my students, and students who I don’t teach, has really grown. I can’t recommend getting involved in the school community more!

Anyways… this was very therapeutic. I wasn’t having a great day, but after retelling this wonderful experience I am feeling much better. 🙂 Now it’s time to eat, spend some time with my family, sleep, then repeat (and then some!).

— Stephanie

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Lets get ready to RUMBLE!!!

There are at least two different reactions to how teachers react to parents who are abusive to teachers. I’m sure there are more, but the two that I have observed recently are: the attitude that we are there for the kids, no matter what the parents say or do or the attitude that these parents make us want to quit our jobs… “It’s just not worth it.”

Well, I fall under the first category. I had a parent who was unhappy with my teaching and how I taught responsibility in my classroom. My initial reaction was, “What did I do wrong?”, “Why does this person hate me… he doesn’t even know me.” But after my initial self-centered, but totally  natural response, I thought about my teaching and my love for the students. I know that I am not doing anything wrong, and I was hired at my school because I was the most qualified person for the job. After my reflection, I became more focused on making sure I am the best teacher I can be… and you know what? The kids are my focus… not the parents (especially those who try to assassinate my character with no provocation).

As for the other group of teachers, those who are affected by the opinions and behaviors of parents, I am sad that the parents can have such a huge impact on your disposition. In fact, one teacher (25 years experience) told me that teaching was not worth the “crap” that parents dish out to teachers, and then proceeded to tell me that I shouldn’t put up with it and I should tell this parent how wrong he was.

My personal opinion? I don’t have to put up with anything, but there are so many ways to handle these situations that will stifle the situation. Teachers have to be masters of conflict resolution. I think I have the disposition to handle these situations and not let them affect me in the long-term. And… I don’t have to tell anyone, except a trusted few, how I really feel. I did learn that I should not have shared my thoughts and the situation with more than a select few. I have a cohort of CADRE teachers who I can vent to, without infusing my department and team with my feelings of hurt and anger.

Any thoughts? I know I’m new and still seeing the silver lining, but maybe I’m wrong… maybe teachers do take on this attitude after many years of teaching? I hope not…

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