It’s been how many months since I started doing this?!

I can’t believe I’m halfway done with my first year of teaching.

People warned me that this would happen. They told me how fast it would all go, how quickly everything would happen. Well, to those of you who gave me the heads up: YOU WERE TOTALLY RIGHT.

Truly, this year has flown by. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was pushing through to make it to Christmas break (…actually that kind of almost was yesterday since I was in school until December 21, which was apparently the longest any teacher I work with has ever had to wait until break). New Teacher Orientation came and went in August, and before I knew it I had a class full of kids.

I’ll be honest, it’s like I knew what I was doing but I hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on. Does that even make sense? I’m afraid that this part of the post will get lost in translation a little bit, but I assure you that it’s safe to move onward from here and I’ll hopefully make more sense.

At the beginning of the year, I started off with 20 students. Not bad, right?! Well, then I lost one to another local school — sad, but I didn’t complain about having 19. THEN I got slammed with 5 newbies, one after another. Five. All within a two to three week span. THEN I got another student from another class to alleviate some behavior problems, so I was at 25 for a good while. 25 eight-year-olds is a lot of eight-year-olds. Since then I’ve lost two more, so I’m at an even-keeled 23 (…my Jordan class as I’m dubbing them) and things are going beautifully. Gaining and losing students was something that was a lot harder than I’d imagined it being, but hopefully I won’t have to deal with any more of that for a while.

I’ve said this in previous posts, but 12 of my students are reading below third grade reading level. This is hard not only for the students who have a hard time reading, but also for me — how the heck do I get kids to read where they’re supposed to read?! I’ve started reading groups (I love my reading groups — such a special time to me and my small groups of kiddos!), I try to stay on top of individual conferences (keyword: TRY), and do my best to encourage copious amounts of reading and writing in and out of school. I just recently progress monitored those students with a quick little reading test (mostly just tests their fluency/accuracy/retell) and ten of them have made progress. TEN MADE PROGRESS (and for the two who haven’t made progress, I now am conjuring up a greater scheme to get them where they need to be after this break). Let me show you something:

Screen shot 2012-12-25 at 11.11.11 PM

This, my friends, is how we measure reading progress at Parkwood. That little blue square around August tells you where this particular student was with his reading fluency at the beginning of the year. The little white square is where he is now. The green target around December is where the student should be as a third grader for this time in the year.

Do you read this child’s graph with as much excitement as I do?

I have a student who came to me in August speaking very little English. It’s her first year in school in the United States (she’s from Mexico) and she started reading in English on a level C (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this education jargon, that just means she was reading on the same level as a kindergartner). When we return in January, I’ll be able to give her another test to figure out her reading level now, but her fluency, though it is still considered “below” grade level, has improved a significant amount since day one.

It can be hard for me to see progress when it isn’t as black and white as pass/fail, but I’m starting to know progress when I see it, even if it doesn’t look conventionally progressive.

The week before Christmas was quite lovely for my group. I had to put the firm teacher pants on, but it worked (needless to say I think I’ll be wearing those more often…) and they were rewarded for their behavior. Friday I whipped up some hot cocoa for them (with the assistance of some instrumental helpers!) and we watched The Polar Express and it was just such a peaceful day.

I’m not going to lie, I was surprised it was as peaceful and enjoyable as it was — I braced myself for the worst with crazy behavior in lieu of the break!

I haven’t given school much thought since Friday afternoon when the kids left, but it got to the point where I realized that I’m halfway done with my first year of my career. It’s mindblowing, really — I found a couple old videos of me teaching lessons from some of my classes at UNC, and I feel like I’m a completely different teacher. I feel like I know what I’m doing (NOTE: I AM NO EXPERT, NOR DO I CONSIDER MYSELF TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS PROFESSION) and have such a better handle on little things that get thrown my way. I feel like I really know my kids and I’m able to better cater to their educational needs.

I’m really blessed working with the people I work with and having the group of students that I have in my class this year (seriously, I’m calling them The Jordan Class for a reason). I’ve met such great people thus far on my educational career journey and I can’t wait to meet even more. Having a break just really reminded me of that, and for all of you reading this, I am so grateful for you.

Addendum: I am also grateful that Santa brought me fresh new pens, a stylish new cardigan, and a Keurig. If I’m not ready to get back to school with that arsenal of goodies, I don’t know when I will be!

 

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