Striving for Better

For the past few weeks I have been unhappy with myself as a teacher. I’ve been chastising students for doing things that nine year olds should do. I’ve been yelling at kids (not raising my voice but yelling in tone). I’ve been controlling things. I’ve been a teacher I dislike. And I have been unable to change it.

I’ve known this for a few weeks. It’s not a surprise. Every day I go in with good intentions. Every day I fail. I do not want to end the year like this. We’ve got about a month left together. I want it to be our best month all year. Right now I’m afraid it will be the worst.

This morning continued in that fashion. It’s not that I didn’t have some great interactions with kids. It’s that the big picture, the overall way I’m responding to them, is not positive.

But then we got to writing. We’ve been reading Adventures in Cartooning. Today we took the ideas about how authors create cartoons/comics/graphic novels and made a list (panels, thought balloons, speech balloons, sound effects). We talked with a partner about ideas we might have for writing in this way. They talked about writing about their family and friends (like Cece Bell and Raina Telgemeier do). They talked about writing about talking animals being captured or folks going to outer space (like Ben Hatke does). They went off and wrote and wrote and wrote. They asked if they could take their writing home to continue working on it and if they could have more pages.

I have no idea why they get clipboards and then work at a table.

After recess today we spent the rest of our afternoon on math (we take the state test next week). I broke the afternoon into smaller chunks, spending a few minutes all together looking at an idea and then sending them off to do some independent or partner work around that idea. Each time I sent them off I sat at one table and allowed anyone who wanted or felt they needed help to join me. We’d work for 20 minutes or so and then return to the carpet for a new idea. It was the best time we’ve had together in weeks.

I offered them choices in writing that excited them. I gave them time to talk through their ideas and time to work on them. I walked around and asked them questions and shared what I was noticing them doing.

I had a vision for the work we’d do with math. I worked one on one with lots of different kids. I watched them struggle and then get it (at least sometimes). I was completely focused and present with them and thinking about what they were doing and understanding and how to help them take that and build on it.

I was, for a few hours, the teacher I want to be.

Tomorrow is a short day. They go home after lunch. I’m thinking through my vision and plan for our few hours together. Then I’ve got a three day weekend to think about how to keep this going.

2 replies on “Striving for Better”

  1. Tara says:

    I told my boss this week that we have reached the point in the year where everyone wants something from me…and I have nothing left to give. An elementary principal mentioned to me today that teachers don’t like kids very much right now.

    In other words, it’s not just you who is struggling to be the educator they would like at the moment.

    It doesn’t mean you should quit trying, of course, but I do think that we also have to give ourselves some grace. We are human. We are tired. We have a lot of heavy lifting to do in our work to hold kids up. It’s going to be okay.

    • jenorr says:

      First of all, thank you Tara. You have said this so well.

      Secondly, grace has recently become one of my favorite words. I’m not doing it too well, but it’s there in my head. Showing myself grace and showing my students grace (probably my family, too, if I’m being totally honest) is my goal. There is a lot of heavy lifting. It is exhausting. And you’re right, it will be okay. We do this every year.

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