Pausing to Reflect.

I am fully aware that teaching has its good days and its not as good days and some days that are just flat out terrible. I also know that as a teacher, one needs to be reflective and thoughtful whilst lesson planning and getting ready for activities so the needs of all the children are met. I like to think of myself as patient and extremely reflective (hello, I’ve been blogging since like eighth grade), but today I feel as though I’m at a completely new level of reflectiveness.

Today was crazy.

I think the whole tone for my day was set after there one of my students had a MASSIVE breakdown after reading. The time came to transition from reading to writing during our literacy block, and this girl would not stop reading. We had this problem yesterday, and both times I told her that she could finish her chapter/page and put the book in her desk. After continually getting the book out of her desk to read it, I told her if I couldn’t trust her to keep it in her desk during other lessons, then I would have to take it and put it in her backpack so it wouldn’t distract her. She complied again, but minutes later had the book out. I told her I needed to take the book and friends, this child had a FIT. She’s a student who you can reason with, and I told her how much I appreciated her love of reading and that all her reading would help her write great stories (she wants to be an author when she grows up), and reminded her that reading helps us become better writers and that writing helps us become better readers. I finally got the book in my hands and she literally played tug-of-war with me and this book.

I mean, I couldn’t just let her keep the book and keep being disrespectful and reading — if I did, my power and control of the classroom would amount to nothing.

After taking the book, I told her she could either write in her writing journal or write me a behavior reflection. She chose “origami” (didn’t know I gave that option…OH WAIT), so I told her she could write a behavior reflection for me. She crumpled the paper up as I walked back to the hallway to finish doing another reading assessment.

I couldn’t get through my assessment because she was causing a scene and distracting others in the room, and I thank GOD that someone from the office turned onto our hallway. Our glorious data manager took the student out of the room and spoke with her down the hallway, and some of the things I heard this eight-year-old say almost made me punch the cinderblock wall.

“Don’t treat me like one of those underprivileged African-American students!”

While I was giving my reading assessment I almost dropped my laptop. What CHILD says that? What person says that in general? What child says such inappropriate and hurtful things about people?

The student returned to my class after having a chat with the data manager, and she seemed fine up until the afternoon after lunch and recess and such. She complained about being tired and refused to do our social studies work. The fire drill didn’t help her, either. Her folders fell off her desk and her water bottle broke, and all hell broke loose. This outburst was a little more violent than this morning’s — kicking the door, screaming, inconsolable. She was yelling about how much she hates the school and how she wants to go home, etc.

I’ve never worked with a student like this before. I have never interacted with a child in the way I did with this student today. It definitely left me with a strange feeling.

I also had two boys get into a fight at recess, and I have a perpetual cry-er who cries DAILY to try to get her way. I’m happy to say I win all of those battles.

Regardless, how am I supposed to carry on through my day teaching when I have a student like this? I’m glad our data manager was in the hallway, or else I would have called the office for support — but that’s just the thing. I don’t have any support in my room during the day unless it’s pre-scheduled, and it usually isn’t for the longest period of time.

I truly took TAs for granted when I student taught in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools the last two years. I knew they were fabulous and helpful, but I didn’t know HOW extremely fabulous and helpful until I was the one doing the bulletin boards by myself and stuffing take home folders regularly. I can’t leave my class for a moment unless someone is in there, and it’s so hard to do that this year with support coming in for twenty minutes in the mornings and maybe an hour later in the day.

Even though I feel incredibly supported by other teachers and my administration (as well as my stellar friends and family, to whom I owe so much), I still feel as though I’m really struggling to be comfortable with the fact that there isn’t physical support in my room constantly.

Teaching is SO hard. To my friends who aren’t teachers, please know that this job is so taxing, so life-consuming.

How am I supposed to differentiate with my kids right now? I’m doing whole group instruction all the time and I already see the kids who need additional assistance. Am I just supposed to let them slide right now? How do I keep teaching when I have a student crying (literally, crying tears) because she doesn’t “feel like doing math today” and continues to just cry for attention? How the heck am I supposed to go to the freaking bathroom?

The hardest thing for me these last two weeks has easily been knowing that I haven’t been meeting the needs of every single student in my room. It truly breaks my heart knowing that I can’t sit down with small groups of them and work through place value when I know they’re getting lost during our whole group instruction time.

I am so saddened that I can’t be in 22 places at once.

It has also been really hard dealing with this little talking problem we seem to have. I’ve tried numerous methods to keep them quiet, but today it was as though it was impossible. I have a noise level meter with a clip to remind them of the appropriate voice level for a given activity. I put pom poms in our pom pom jar when we can work silently for a set time. I’m a positive behavior reinforcer to the core. We made classroom expectations together for various times of our day — today our expectation list was for “What To Do When the Teacher Talks.” It’s like they come up with all the right answers but don’t want to follow through with them. I remind them of these expectations regularly. In all seriousness teacher friends out there, what should I do?

I know it’s the beginning of the year and we’re still getting into the swing of things, and I know my kids just came off of a long weekend away from school. Despite this, I still want to maintain control of my room.

My biggest fear is that I will lose control — if I can’t control the talking or the behaviors that keep reoccurring, then I’m going to lose my authority and power in the classroom. I’m so scared that the kids will see me as someone who they can control, and I don’t want that. This is the reason I am trying desperately to not let anything slide with these kids.

After school today I felt very upset. Not like a tear-filled upset, but a frustrated upset. Like a “how can I fix this” upset. Normally, my emotions dictate so many of my thoughts, but I have felt extremely clear-minded when it comes to my job, which is to teach children. I didn’t feel like crying this afternoon because my kids were crazy and I don’t know what else to try — rather, I felt so upset that we didn’t have a day of good learning happen today. I was upset that I didn’t handle things as effectively and efficiently as I would have initially liked. I felt so frustrated because I felt like I had failed them today.

My mind has been reeling since 4pm.

I want to try everything I know to help these kids. I want to give them the best education possible. I won’t stop trying to figure out how I can alleviate our class problems, and honestly, I won’t stop being hard on them for misbehavior. I want these kids to know I care about them, and yes, I have high expectations for them, but that’s only because I love them and I want them to succeed in anything they do. I know these kids are just eight- and nine-years-old, but I think they’re capable of grasping something like that.

I keep asking myself how I can make tomorrow a little bit better, because I have this driving desire to make it better not for myself, but for them.

I knew this job would be challenging, and I willingly accept those challenges with open arms. Even though I’m frustrated and upset, I know this is a stepping stone to a greater understanding of teaching and children, and I long for that. Nothing will stop me from giving my best so that they can be at their best.

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