Why yes, that is an extra F you see there. Thank God it’s FINALLY Friday.
This was a long week, my friends. Testing pressure is on and I didn’t meet my testing window, which closed today (though I still have to finish my tests). I’m testing as much as I possibly can, literally every moment there is another adult in my room, and I’m only about a fifth of the way done with all the tests. I’m mCLASSing (the verb I created to encompass the idea of doing reading tests with the mCLASS/DIBELS program) 60 kids, and that’s a lot of kids! Since the reading teacher has to test the kids, I’m stuck out of my classroom sitting in a plastic chair for five hours a day listening to kids read and asking them comprehension questions. Not the most authentic (or exciting) reading experience.
Aside from drowning in testing, I’ve had this pressing feeling as of late that people are pulling me in about a million different directions. This has been so difficult. I’m usually very good with prioritizing things I need to do considering the fact that I am a natural list-maker, but all of these things seem important and people are putting various weights on these various activities. I want so badly to do these really great, rigorous text discussions with my kids about intense topics like race and culture, but, like I stated earlier, I’m still testing. I’m being observed on Tuesday and I will be in my class for that hour or so, but I want to be in my class the whole day.
But I’m still testing.
I think it’s a good thing to see where my kids are with their reading — I mean, that’s the basis for my small group instruction for the whole year. Despite this, I hate that I’m not in the classroom teaching. I became a teacher to teach, not to endlessly test in a hallway. I miss my kids and I miss watching them learn. Period.
Aside from this past week’s testing bonanza, Friday was just the icing on the cake. The day was completely shot and I literally did no teaching (which, guess what? I HATED). I had a two hour meeting at the beginning of the day about balanced literacy, in which my TA stayed with my kids and followed the plans I left for her. I came back from the meeting and started to test and finished one test in its entirety. [Insert my head against a wall here] Then, the kids went to lunch and recess and came back ready to tour the school to look at various country displays around the grade levels. This whole month we’ve celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, and our culminating events were Friday — during school hours, students had the opportunity to take their “passports” around to other “countries” and learn about said country (note: I was super stoked when third grade was assigned Spain since I studied abroad there, which you can read about on this blog!). This, in theory, is a lovely idea. This, in reality, was a complete mess.
My team didn’t realize the kids needed to present something on Friday until later Monday afternoon after a meeting. We scrambled to get things together, but we thought we had made it work. Our time slot, 1:00-2:00, was open for classes to come visit us and also for our class to visit others. I split the kids in half so that there weren’t as many kids in the classroom at the time and I wrote out a whole schedule for my TA for when she takes the kids touring. The first half hour was fairly successful, and I was impressed with my kids’ presentation. Flamenco music played in the background, pictures from my study abroad adventures in Sevilla flashed on a powerpoint behind them, and I was surprised they remembered so much about the photos from when I showed them to the kids that morning before starting class. I was pleased with the outcome thus far, and was so grateful to a teacher friend for crowd-controlling my class so I could try to do more tests. The problems came when the kids had to switch.
My disgruntled TA brought her group back to the classroom and complained that none of the classes they went to were open to tour. This surprised me since I had literally made the schedule during lunch and got it straight off of the document of times classrooms were open. We had a big rush of students coming to visit Spain in the last half hour or so, and my good friend in first grade told me a teacher called down to the lower grades saying Spain wouldn’t be ready to present until 1:45. At this point I also realized that the third classroom on our hall wasn’t opened to present information and hadn’t been open the whole hour. There were children everywhere, in my classroom, in the hallway, in the classroom next door, in the hallway around the corner completing comprehension sheets for their reading tests — sensory OVERLOAD.
Needless to say, Friday was just a big mess for me. I felt stressed and as though I was constantly running. I felt like that all week, honestly. It was rainy and messy and there were headaches.
After all of that chaos, I brought my kids to the carpet and introduced them to our new classroom Twitter. As we were tweeting things we’ve learned, one boy remarked, “Wow, we’ve learned a LOT!”
This made me smile.
After that brief introduction, we all sat in a circle on the carpet for a little team time. This is something a girl who I worked with last year did, and I loved the idea and decided to try it! Sitting in the circle on the perimeter of the carpet (this is how I talk every day, y’all — sorry ’bout it), I explained to them that everyone would go around and say whether they wanted to give a compliment, receive a compliment, or pass. Pretty simple directions.
The actions and words that followed were something magical.
Students were choosing to give compliments rather than receiving them. When a student wanted to receive a compliment, those kids had some of the sweetest things to say:
“I really like the way you did mirroring in music class today — it looked really good!”
“I thought it was cool the way you were able to get up on the monkey bars at recess!”
“I like that every day I come to class, you’re always kind to people.”
“Thanks for being a nice friend.”
Are you crying yet? Because I almost was.
These kids constantly impress me. They are bright and resourceful and deep-down caring. My heart is so full when I get to experience moments like this with them. It’s so incredible watching them become more mature and aware human beings with kind hearts.
The kids left that afternoon and returned a couple hours later for our Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration. Let me tell you, this celebration was AMAZING.
The support from families at this function was unbelievable. The weather wasn’t great and there were moments of pure misting, which is annoying, but those families came, stayed, and applauded their children.
It was awesome seeing Hispanic heritage represented that night, and what was more awesome was seeing my kids take pride in their learning and performing!
Third graders dancing flamenco
Third graders dancing “La Bamba” — they came up with the choreography!
One mom came up to me and was asking how her daughters were doing and just was letting me know that her kids were both really enjoying reading class this year. “S hasn’t ever been much of a reader, but I think you’re class has really changed that — you’ve really inspired her to read!”
Cue my heart bursting with joy.
This mother was just beaming with appreciation when I told her how thrilled and honored I was to hear such heartwarming words. As a teacher, I always strive to inspire my kids to want to be better readers, better writers, and better people — I just never really heard anyone ever mention the impact I actually was having on the lives of these children.
Note to teachers: YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN SO MANY LIVES. Seriously, you are, whether you realize it or not. You aren’t told this enough, which is unfortunate, but know that someone will tell you one day; someone will tell you that you’re inspiring their child and explain to you how much their child is loving and learning in your classroom, and when they tell you these things you will feel warm all over and you’ll get butterflies in your stomach (it kind of feels like you’re on an airplane when it’s taking off or when you’re at the peak of a loop on a roller coaster). Keep on teaching and fighting the good fight, my friends — even when you’re tired and your week has been a wreck, know that you’re still changing the lives of children. They still love you, so you should cut yourself some slack on those rough days when you don’t feel like your best is enough.
Friday was crazy and last week felt a lot like a seven-week-slump, but I love knowing that Monday will come and everything is new again. I have new plans and a new outlook on the week. I also have those gem moments from every other week this year to keep me going and reminding me that what I do is important. So thankful for those moments and hoping to make more this week!
Epilogue: I need to write more. My apologies for not being as vigilant as usual with this — I promise I haven’t forgotten my love of writing to you all.