Okay, this will be short tonight. In a nutshell…. I am done! Stick a fork in me. I have reached the end of the year, where I have little motivation for what needs to be done. It has been a long year, with a lot of bumps in the road. However, it is not just me.
I enjoy the days with the children. Really I do. Today, my class was wonderful. I LOVE reading and that is one of the areas that I want my students to excel at – a love of reading! I love to give them many opportunities to read books of their choice. The only way to become a better reader is to read, read, read! I have many books that I have obtained over the years. They are all in our reading area. I also talk to the kids about what books they like and try to get them each year through scholastic points, amazon deals, ebay, etc. I want them to love reading. In order to do that we have to give kids a choice in their reading, and give them actual time to just read! READ FOR ENJOYMENT! Yes, there has to be accountability, but they need to read books on their own level for their own enjoyment. They do not have to always have a worksheet in front of them. Well, the last few days my class has enjoyed read to self time. Seriously, they are antsy and ready for summer. When things are going crazy, I will say let’s read. They love it. They get their independent reading books, find a spot in our room (on nice days we go outside) and we just read. I model it as well. My class knows I am a reader. When we do this, you can feel them calming down. It is wonderful!
After talking to many others that I work with, I am glad that it is not just me. We have had this discussion throughout the last month of school. It seems like this year, both the students and the staff are done. We have reached capacity Why is that??
I have done some thinking about that. Here is what I am thinking………Warning! It is late and I have reached capacity so my sarcasm will be coming out.
1. First of all, read this statement a few times… I DO AGREE WITH THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS! I am being serious!!! The standards are wonderful and they are great. There has been lots of criticism around the words “Common Core” lately that make me cringe. People, please read up on the research and actually know what you are talking about! I totally agree with the standards, and I do set high standards for myself and my students. The students can reach them (and YES, I teach special education students as well. They CAN reach them!). The problem I have is how the Common Core was rolled out. It seems that we put the cart before the horse. One big problem I have is that they do not seem to differentiate. They seem to think that children are “robots” and everyone is on the same page. This is NOT true. Everyone is different and has many different ways of learning. That is why I went into teaching. I want to work with children and their families. It is very possible for ALL CHILDREN to learn. But we have to work hard at making sure that everyone’s needs are being met. Some children are visual learners, others kinesthetic, others auditory, etc. Think about yourself as an adult. I know that I am a visual learner. I draw maps and graphic organizers and pictures all of the time when trying to plan where I am going. I have a hard time just listening to someone read something. I need to look at something to keep me focused. We need to remember that everyone is different and has different ways of being successful. We have to use a variety of teaching methods to ensure that all of our students succeed.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY NEW THINGS! ADAPT AND ADOPT! TRUST YOURSELF WITH YOUR THINKING! This has been a transitional year for me. I changed grade levels. I do like adventures and I can go with the flow. What was nice about being new was I was facing a new year, a new grade level, and a new curriculum. I went in with a smile. I also tried new things. I have had a chance to reflect on what I did, and I do see changes in how I will teach next year. I think that is the most important part – that we have to reflect on what we did, and talk about what worked, what didn’t work, what changes need to be made, etc. I truly believe that WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO ADOPT AND ADAPT THE MODULES! THIS IS GOOD TEACHING PRACTICE! KNOW YOUR STUDENTS! This is where I have been doing LOTS (did I say lots, I mean lots, lots, lots, lots, mega lots!!!) of thinking and reflecting. The modules have some great ideas. However, they are not to be followed as a be all – end all method. For those of you who know me – I HATE SCRIPTED LESSONS! HATE THEM! I am the one that will question why?? This year I used some of the modules, and I also went off a beaten path and created my own. It was a lot harder to create my own, but I do feel that my students benefited from them. What is important is that you are meeting the standards and teaching the standards, not so much that you are following the modules to a T. That is the important part. I had the opportunity to meet with my State Education Department at a training institution earlier. I will admit that I went with a negative attitude the first day. The second day I turned it around and really focused. I then thought about what was said and decided that yup, I am going to try something new. I even ordered some of the books that they recommended. One great thing about attending conferences is you talk to other teachers and you share and network. Like I said, I am a reader. I also like to read research and will order books (thank you used books on amazon.com) that others talk about while attending conferences, reading teaching blogs, etc. I will share some of the books I have read lately and some that I am finishing up later. They really have me thinking about changes I will be making next year, as well as using that research to help me “fight for” why I am doing things the way I am. I have changed since the beginning of the year many times. I have ended the year following a module, yet adapting it to my classrooms needs.. Notice I said..adapting it to my classrooms needs. What works for me may not work for you or even another teacher in your own building. But, you have to respect each other and trust that you are indeed meeting your students needs on their own level. Everyone is unique!
3. BE YOURSELF. BE HONEST! Do not be afraid to be different. I have struggled with this being myself lately. But, as I said, I have reached the end of the year. Tonight, I just finished typing up detailed plans. Yes, that is something I have had to struggle with. I know in my head where I am going and what I am doing with the kids. However, to have to sit down and really type it out (think college days lesson planning) I struggle. Do I like the fact that I have to submit plans to “big wigs – told ya it is late and my sarcasm is coming out)- NO! I am glad when it is over, but I struggle. I know some in my school that just cut and paste from our state website. Literally cut and paste. But then they submitted them and never followed through. They put no thought into it. It was just..I need to submit so I will give them what they want. Like I said, I went off and developed my own modules at times this year. However, I worked my butt off finding books, thinking about the standards I was hitting, how I was going to get the students engaged, assessing them, etc. It was work people. I am not “tooting my own horn here”. But, I put a lot of thought into them. When I had to submit my reflections, I put thought into them as well and I was honest. If it didn’t work I said it. If they struggled, I said it. If I was happy, I said it. I can be very blunt, and I was. But I call it honesty! If you are not honest, and you don’t reflect on what you are doing honestly, how can you be a better teacher? How can you be a better person? As a teacher, we never stop learning as well. I do believe that I could go to bed at night a much better person because I was honest. Did it burn me up when some people were just cutting and pasting and then not doing anything. I mean it was quite obvious and you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. You bet it did!! But, I decided to “Let it go” and focus on what I had to do. Call it selfish, I call it survival. Sometimes we have to pump ourselves up and really hope that what we are doing is the right thing, even if it is not what everyone else is doing. Dare to be different!
4. HAVE “ME” TIME. I am begin serious here. I know some teachers where teaching is their life. You try having a conversation with them and all they talk about is teaching. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy teaching, but.. IT IS NOT MY LIFE. I have many other interests outside of school. I like to run, bike, read, spend time volunteering, book clubs, being involved in my church, going to musicals and plays, etc. I call my couch my “tropical island”. I tell people that I am having “No Alarm Clock Saturday”. I sleep in, I get up when I get up, I grab a book, and I head out on the deck or on my tropical island and I go away to wherever my book takes me. Or I go for a walk to some of my favorite spots. I pack a snack in my backpack, a journal, a water bottle, a book, a sketch book, etc. I go away and I clear my mind from “work” and totally refocus on me. I don’t call it selfish. I again call it survival. If we did not have me time, we would be burnt out way sooner. We need outlets in life. I used to feel guilty taking days off from work. This year, NOPE! We really do need what I call “Mental Health Days”. I just took one, and I plan on taking another. I am entitled to them, and I will now take them. They allow me to come back better prepared and more in the mode! They truly help me become a better teacher.
I am going to leave it here. The reason, I am tired. I need to have a lot more energy to survive the last few weeks. When I am tired, I do not give it my all. I become a cranky pants. No one is happy, and I am not happy. I want to be happy. I have truly enjoyed this class. They are wonderful! I have had to tell myself many, many, many, many times this year that it is NOT the children’s fault. It truly is not! Many of our students come from broken homes, poverty, abuse, lack of food and proper shelter. You can not fully function and learn until your basic needs are met. For some of my students they come to school to be fed, to be safe, and to be loved. Until those needs are met, they are going to struggle to learn. I encourage everyone to get to know their students. Once you get to know them, then you can truly help them. However, if you don’t get to know them on an individual level, you truly can’t help them reach their potential. Too many times I hear teachers blaming the students. NO! I TOTALLY DISAGREE. Think about their home lives and what they go home to every day. For some it is not pretty. We are only with them so many hours. They look to their parents and their environment. This is why WE NEED TO BE OPEN AND HONEST WITH PARENTS AND STUDENTS! WE ALSO NEED TO MODEL AND SHOW THEM LOVE. BUILD ON THEIR INTERESTS!
I am sure that I will be reflecting and talking about this more. As for now, it is time to go to bed so I am ready for tomorrow.. a brand new day!