Being a Woman in STEM

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: International Women’s Day. I love celebrating my womanhood and speaking out to advocate for my rights as a woman. It’s a great feeling to be surrounded by incredible women regularly, and it’s even better lifting up a collective voice that screams “girl power” with every breath.

On this day in particular, I think about what it means to be a woman in STEM.

No, I’m not an engineer or an astrophysicist or a marine biologist (to my fourth grade self’s dismay I’m sure), but what I am is a science teacher to middle schoolers in the greater Raleigh area.

Wake County Public Schools is the 14th largest school district in the country, serving nearly 160,000 students. 76,862 of those students are female and I get the chance to work with a portion of those students daily.

I revel in the fact that I get the opportunity every day to make magical moments of science happen for students, especially female students, every day. These moments can be as simple as looking under microscopes are stomata to as complex as using a CAD system to design a spacecraft to colonize a planet.

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Giving young girls the chance to see themselves in a STEM-filled future is such an amazing gift. I love teaching about women who have influenced the scientific community and giving girls hands-on experiences to engage in science content (also, #girlsdoingscience is only my favorite hashtag of all time — just check my lab Instagram account). I get so excited watching these students grow into confident, strong young ladies who are willing to get up and independently lead a class science review and completely OWN it.

I have girls who want to be everything from astronauts to cosmetologists to veterinarians and beyond, who never fully realized they could achieve those dreams until hitting a sixth grade science lab.

When I taught elementary school, it was maybe even more imperative that I displayed what a woman in STEM looked like.

IMG_1097IMG_1224In third grade, I had students performing soil tests on our school grounds’ soil to figure out where the best place for a school garden would be (then they presented websites they made to a panel of PTA, Garden Club, and administrative representatives to state their cause – they even stayed within a budget!). These students also designed spacecraft by taking measurements in their notebooks and noting what elements of flight were present in their craft. We analyzed weather patterns and matched those to potential rocket launch dates. We read books and articles and wrote essays about science topics, growing content vocabulary daily.

Sparking a love for STEM starts in elementary school, but ultimately this isn’t just about the beginning; rather, it’s about the sustainability.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up less than 30% of the science and engineering workforce (and women make up a total of half of the college educated workforce in the country!). Sure, girls might “outperform boys” on standardized math and science assessments, but this isn’t about a test score.

This is about a radical shift in highlighting the natural talents of women and honoring their words and ideas. A shift in treating women like equals and paying them as such. A shift in making STEM interests more accessible to girls of all ages and races and socioeconomic statuses.

We must be a proud community of women in STEM. We must show our girls that it’s okay to be a boss because that doesn’t make us bossy. We must demonstrate leadership, compassion, and grace in all aspects of our lives. We must continue to thirst for knowledge and be models of impassioned learning.

If not us, then who? Who will teach our girls that it’s okay to ask questions and challenge the notions of boys in class? Who will empower our girls to speak up and advocate for themselves and others? Who will ensure that women will end up making more than 30% of our science and engineering workforce?

I love being a science teacher as it is a total joy for me getting girls excited about STEM. The only thing better than teaching girls to embrace science is the waiting to see what they’ll do with their excitement, for their future is limitless.

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Growing Pains & Transition.

I completed teaching my first quarter of sixth grade science on Friday, September 25.

Honestly, the transition itself wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be. The first day of school I was more nervous than anything in my entire LIFE and at this point I am clueless as to why I was terrified in the first place — maybe because they’re bigger than me? Regardless, I’m realizing that sixth graders are basically big third graders with more emotions, and you know what? I love it.

The biggest and most difficult transition for me was, hands-down, the copious amounts of grading. I think in part I was overcompensating since I had zero concept of how many grades I should have for the quarter, and that ran me into a pretty deep hole by the end of the nine weeks. All I was doing in my free time was grading (well, grading and watching The Wire sometimes…) and it was driving me to tears some nights.

I’ve worked in a classroom without a TA before, but what’s different is that now I have nearly 100 students as opposed to my 26 that I kept all day in Durham. 100 students, no TA to help grade, and a desperate need for copious amounts of coffee to manage the morning after few hours of sleep the night before (because of this, I should probably invest in stock with Bean Traders down the road from my apartment).

I’m already planning my amendment of this for quarter two, and it’s pretty simple: don’t grade as many assignments. I’m also going to start using some quick quizzes with Google Forms (all hail Google) and use an app called Flubaroo to grade them for me — then, all my data is already in a nice spreadsheet that can be turned into graphs! And there’s color-coding! And YAY!

Another thing that was hard, and it was more of just a growing pain, was that I felt myself teaching differently. I still used technology and we still talked about vocabulary, but it was in a very different way than I am used to. I realized that I didn’t really read with my kids as much as I would have liked, and I didn’t focus on vocabulary as much as usual. I didn’t do TPR with them and my “word wall” was really lacking because of the wall space I have in my classroom.

#lablife

#lablife

I’m not accustomed to teaching in a classroom that…isn’t really a classroom. The wall space is limited and inconvenient for students to access with cabinets and sinks standing in their way to the wall; shelves take up nearly the entire length of one of my walls which leaves little room to hang student work or academic aid.

World, I need y’all to know that I geeked out SO HARD when I found out I was teaching in a lab, but this is foreign territory for a former third grade teacher. In my last classroom, my walls were donned with exceptional environmental print (100% biased since I made everything that went up on my walls) and vocabulary with pictorial and TPR support was abundant. I read books and articles with my students about the science topics we were learning and we had discussions about those things.

I realize that middle school teaching probably should be a little different than what I did in elementary school, but I also see so much value in holding onto some of my elementary principles for my middle school classroom.

Next quarter, I’m going to do a word wall with words/pictures paper clipped to the blinds of the windows where my students have the best access. I was initially apprehensive to do TRP with middle schoolers because I wasn’t sure if they would buy into the concept of hand motions for words, but I’m going to do it and get really hype about it, since the hype factor is a big thing for some of the kids who think they’re “too cool for school” (who even came up with that phrase? School is the coolest!). I will be even more intentional about vocabulary.

I’ve also been on a serious hunt for some middle school science books, fiction or nonfiction, to help teach our next unit concept. Since we’re studying Earth, I thought it could be neat to read through parts of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and kind of “mythbust” the science in the story. I see books as a way to rope students into science who might not be instantly turned on by it, especially if it’s a topic that might not interest them right off the bat.

It’s kind of strange not doing small group instruction in my former blended learning model from last year…though I’m working on that concept with a fellow teacher on my team for a little teaching experiment with our kids in November.

Planning didn’t feel too overwhelming, but then again I was teaching concepts I was already pretty familiar with. Our first unit, which lasted the entire first quarter, was about plants and ecosystems; these topics are also taught in third grade, so I was able to just scale up some activities for my middle school babies (can I still call them babies if they’re all a foot taller than me?). Our next unit about the lithosphere and Earth structure might be a little more of a challenge since that wasn’t a third grade science topic I’ve been used to teaching, but regardless I’m looking forward to brushing up on my geology skills (insert the assistance of my geology-major brother here)!

I spent a decent amount of time last quarter grading learning about this new school and how middle school works on a large scale level, but I think I kind of get it now. I’ll continue to learn this upcoming quarter, but I’m excited to implement a little more of what I know is best for kids from my elementary experience. I’m thankful for teammates who are open to cross-curricular collaboration and students who are willing to take any academic plunge with me. These kids seriously stepped up their game toward the end of our first unit with their big project and I was wildly impressed with them.

I’m so grateful for these growing pains. When I first started thinking about the things that didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, I got kind of frustrated; as I continued to think about those things, I saw a window of opportunity to learn more about a practice which I knew so much about at a different grade level. This experience is challenging me in a way I’ve longed for, and I can tell that by the end of the year I will have grown immensely, and THAT is always a plus.

What’s been something you’ve been growing with lately? For my traditional calendar friends, I know y’all are only halfway through first quarter — anything you’d like to implement before the nine weeks are over!?

To Not Settling.

Here we have an ode to not settling for average.

A moment where a student made the conscious decision that a 77 wasn’t good enough. A moment where he was frustrated and wanted to leave his paper on the table, face down. A moment where I’ve never been more elated to see an upset demeanor on a child’s face.

This is a kid who would fall through the cracks. He lives in a bad part of town, flanked by strip clubs and gang initiations. His parents aren’t in the picture, and he likes to start trouble with other kids in class. He talks at inappropriate times and flirts with girls like that’s the real reason he’s in school (but isn’t that what we all thought our middle school purpose was anyway?). His exterior says that he doesn’t care about learning or getting an education, but once you crack that shell, he’s all gooey educational brilliance inside.

I passed back the scientific method quizzes today and he got a 77. I didn’t really expect to see any kind of reaction out of him; I mean, it’s a C. It’s average. The status quo. I wasn’t sure how he’d react, so I guess I just thought he wouldn’t.

As soon as I turned my back, I heard a fist slam on a table.

He was mumbling to himself, looking annoyed. I went over to him and said, “It’s a 77 — that’s close to a B!”

He wasn’t appeased.

“You know, a 77 isn’t THAT bad — it’s average!”

Who the heck am I trying to fool here? If I got a 77 on anything, I would have definitely been feeling the same way, begging my teacher to have mercy and let me do test corrections to bring up my score. Here I was, trying to make this kid feel better about his average grade, when I should have been firmer and pushed him harder about what it was he missed. A moment of weakness on my part and he triumphantly brought me back to my center: doing what’s best for kids, and I know what’s best for kids is holding them to high, clear expectations.

His defeated attitude about his quiz score was sad to see, but it also got me really excited.

“You want to retake this quiz, don’t you?”

He nodded and looked away from me, trying to maintain his “cool” status while still attempting to show me that he was interested in academic achievement.

A-ha! I knew he cared!

We talked about when he could come to my room to start studying and showing mastery, and we both were feeling hopeful and better about the current situation.

I should note that this kid, when given the chance to use laptops in my class during homeroom time, was the only one of my students who used them during that half hour block to locate a current event article that was due this past Friday.

I am a firm believer in tough love, not so much in grades and numerical percentages.

After today’s meltdown over an average grade, my heart leaps knowing that this kid wants something better for himself. Yeah, it’s a scientific method quiz grade, but you know what? It has to start somewhere.

We have to push our kids to a higher standard and let them know that yes, average is okay, but you are capable of so much more. Can you imagine what that can do for a child in your class?

Like I said, this is an ode to not settling for average — not settling for average quiz grades, not settling for average work ethic, not settling for average expectations.

Here’s to a great week of learning and watching this kid grow not only as a student, but as a scientist and hardworking human being, too.

One time, I went to teacher space camp…

AND IT WAS AWESOME.

Finally, my post about my time in Houston at NASA Johnson Space Center has been published with EdNC. I encourage you to check it out on their site, since they have so many other wonderful articles that you might enjoy. Below is my initial draft without any edits, so apologies for it being a little longer!

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Be still my heart, y'all.

Be still my heart, y’all.

In May, I read a Congratulations! on my iPhone screen as my Gmail notifications began to bing, my kids all immediately asked me what was going on.

“I’m going…to…well, basically TEACHER SPACE CAMP!”

Needless to say, my kids shared in my moment of intense bliss, screaming and jumping up and down with me.

See, my kids love space in all its vast, immeasurable glory. We spent about nine weeks earlier in the year working on a rigorous space and flight unit that I wrote last summer during my Kenan Fellows internship, and my class has been highly invested in the space game ever since (I mean, we designed rockets that we ended up 3D printing and then presented them to a panel of experts — how could we all not be invested?!). When we all found out that I was heading to Houston at the end of June, it was completely normal for us to be this excited.

My kiddos working really hard on their rocket designs - engagement game: strong.

My kiddos working really hard on their rocket designs – engagement game: strong.

Flash forward about a month and a half from that blissful moment: school’s out for the summer, I curriculum planned for three days, hit the pool once with my best friend, went to Monuts Donuts, led professional development at NCCAT for Kenan Fellows, watched my oldest friend get married, and BOOM, it’s time for me to fly to Houston.

Honestly, I felt like a five-year-old going off to sleep away camp for the first time when my dad dropped me off at the airport at 7:30am on a Sunday. He helped me get my bag out of the truck, gave me a hug, and told me to have fun; then, he waved his hearty wave and drove off into the traffic of the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I stood there, alone, with my tye-dye backpack hanging off my 5’ frame, wearing my glow-in-the-dark constellations shirt. It was finally time to go to sleep away camp for teachers who are really nerdy about space.

When I landed in Texas, we hit the ground running. Everything was highly informative, but I did have a few favorite activities.

LEGIT. It's cool everyone, I have CLEARANCE FOR PLACES THE GENERAL PUBLIC CAN'T GO.

LEGIT.
It’s cool everyone, I have CLEARANCE FOR PLACES THE GENERAL PUBLIC CAN’T GO.

Hearing the expertise of retired engineer Norm Chaffee.
This man started working for NASA in 1962 (…1962!) and recounted his time as a rocket engine engineer. He spoke fondly of the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions; it was like watching a History Channel special play out five feet away from me. He trekked with us over to Rocket Park at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, carefully detailing each stage of the rocket to us. It’s incredible talking to a person with experience like this man, who has seen so much change happen in this industry.

Norm Chafee, retired NASA engineer, walking our group through all the stages of the Saturn V rocket at Rocket Park at Johnson Space Center.

Norm Chafee, retired NASA engineer, walking our group through all the stages of the Saturn V rocket at Rocket Park at Johnson Space Center.

Participating in a Mission Control simulation.
Our group was split so half of us were in a Mission Control room and the other half were in a spacecraft. Everyone had a job in both the control room and on the spacecraft, and we communicated according to our list of instructions, just like they do in actual Mission Control. We dealt with problems along the way, like gas leaks on the vehicle. It was exhilarating to take part in an activity like this where you really put yourself in the place of the people working at NASA, both on the ground and in the air.

Team Biology: FOR THE WIN.

Team Biology: FOR THE WIN.

In the REAL MISSION CONTROL. Obviously really excited.

In the REAL MISSION CONTROL. Obviously really excited.

Experiencing fieldwork with experts.
My favorite thing about the entire week’s experience was going out to the NASA labs. We went to the robotics lab, the food science lab, and the neutral buoyancy lab (pictured respectively, below). I had the opportunity to hear from the people working in these labs firsthand and got to watch some of these brilliant engineers do their work. I saw Robonaut up close and personal, heard from one of the main engineers of the Orion spacecraft, and watched a Mars rover get test driven around the parking lot. I learned how the food scientists cook and package food for the astronauts. I witnessed the life-sized mockup of the International Space Station (ISS) submerged in 40 feet of water to help train astronauts for their extravehicular activities (EVAs). Even when I wasn’t walking around a lab dragging my jaw on the floor behind me, experts came to us in our conference rooms. We heard from a NASA spacesuit engineer, ISS science officers, and astronauts, both active and retired.

brb going to DEEP SPACE on the Orion spacecraft. #springbreak2k17

brb going to DEEP SPACE on the Orion spacecraft. #springbreak2k17

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The Food Science Lab — where those yummy Earth treats get dehydrated and vacuum sealed to go to space!

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The Neutral Buoyancy Lab — this is where astronauts train for their extra-vehicular activities (EVAs).

This experience was the truest, most authentic academic professional development I’ve experienced. It wasn’t sprinkled with classroom management and pedagogy, but was strictly science-based. I was given resources to actually apply the science knowledge I gained, and I can’t wait to share that with my students this fall.

An activity about landforms on planets in our solar system (with a sketchnotes appearance in there, too).

An activity about landforms on planets in our solar system (with a sketchnotes appearance in there, too).

Kids, get ready to look at a lot of NASA satellite photos of the Outer Banks and study the future of space exploration — it’s going to be a wild ride!

TEAM APOLLO 11 <3

TEAM APOLLO 11 ❤

Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.

We’re back from break and we have nine straight weeks of school.

Nine. Straight. Weeks.

If this doesn’t make me glad about having my whole week of spring break, I don’t know what will. My break was so greatly needed that I ran into another educator friend from out of town and all he could say was I looked “recharged.” Holla. Praise.

No workdays, no breaks, no delayed openings — just nine straight weeks of powering through the rest of curriculum, taking EOGs, and celebrating another year of school completed.

(Yep, batteries needed recharging to handle all that.)

Last week was the first week back and it was a great week. I was absolutely thrilled to start a new biliteracy unit I’d been working on, integrating states of matter and poetry (because who knew THAT could go together). I spent all of last week doing science demonstrations and hands-on activities with my classes, and the kids LOVED IT.

Go figure, kids love science and actually engaging in what you teach them!

One of our opening activities before starting any of the demonstrations was simply brainstorming everything we knew about solids, liquids, and gases (this is review science content from second grade, which was helpful). Here’s what my brilliant babies came up with:

Our States of Matter science content board, complete with word wall words, a color coded chart, and a sentence starter!

Our States of Matter science content board, complete with word wall words, a color coded chart, and a sentence starter!

 

Here's a close-up of the chart -- each color represents a different one of my classes.

Here’s a close-up of the chart — each color represents a different one of my classes.

 

How awesome, am I right?! Love keeping those kids accountable for their learning, and they love showing what they know! It was especially great since I saw some of my second language learners having great success with this when they drew pictures of what they knew to be solid, liquid, or gas.

The demonstrations we did were so fun (and educational, of course). I felt so alive teaching these kids science and entertaining their millions of questions — I’m such a sucker for their questions, and I honestly love when we get off on tangents because I truly believe that’s where some of the most authentic learning happens! A kid asked me what state of matter fire was last week — what a great question! And kids started asking about lightning, too, so of course we talked about PLASMA for a hot minute in class, and how rewarding it was to see their eyes light up learning something they wonder about in class. Moments like these remind me that teaching students and their learning should never be constrained to the strands of a standard, but rather be completely open and vast and full of curiosity.

I mean, how fun does this look!? Melting a Hershey's kiss in your hand & learning that your body is a source of HEAT?! Yes, there were many poop jokes in class that day. Worth it.

I mean, how fun does this look!? Melting a Hershey’s kiss in your hand & learning that your body is a source of HEAT?!
Yes, there were many poop jokes in class that day. Worth it.

Learning the difference in applying heat to a solid -- the closed hand makes the kiss melt while the open hand doesn't see as much melting. So many questions about why and how, so little time! Led to great class discussion :)

Learning the difference in applying heat to a solid — the closed hand makes the kiss melt while the open hand doesn’t see as much melting. So many questions about why and how, so little time! Led to great class discussion 🙂

We closed the week last week with a Bill Nye the Science Guy video about the states of matter and my kids loved it so much they BEGGED me to send the video to them on their school Gmail accounts. Naturally, I obliged.

Eight weeks left and this week has provided its ups and downs and it’s only Tuesday.

Yesterday we did an interactive read aloud about states of matter using the book “What Is the World Made Of?” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. The kids enjoyed the book and it was a nice way to start bringing together our knowledge of the states of matter. Today, I tried my hand at an LEA to wrap up the science portion of the biliteracy unit. The first class grabbed our shared experience activity and RAN with it, and I couldn’t have been more excited to see this happen. We synthesized information (because yes, you can use these words/phrases with eight-year-olds), I wrote what the students said word-for-word, and they corrected their own errors. One student even asked me if I had had my coffee this morning since she was concerned about the spelling and grammar mistakes I was making. Bless.

The first class also was really excited about revising the collective writing piece. They got to work right away and were so focused — it was absolutely beautiful!

The second class struggled a little more, and I sometimes wonder if their sheer level of intelligence gets in their way sometimes. This particular group of students is, by data standards, the highest performing group I see every day. Once they got the hang of the LEA, they caught on with coming up with sentences to bring their knowledge together after the turn-and-talk to help them recall their learning. When I gave them the assignment to work on revising the writing piece, some of the kids complained that the task was hard.

GOD FORBID STUDENTS MUST USE THEIR BRAINS SOMETIMES. (GASP!)

I smiled upon hearing this and simply said, “Good!”

…does that make me the worst? I explained to them that sometimes it’s good for things to be hard so that they can stretch their brains and grow in their learning, just like they do when they become taller. Once they knew I wasn’t planning on backing down with the assignment, they got to work and started enjoying fixing the writing on their own terms. It’s so cool watching kids take ownership of their learning — “Miss Stewart, there aren’t any PARAGRAPHS here, what are we going to do?!” — “Well, that’s a great observation, you brilliant student, you! Why do we even HAVE paragraphs in writing?!” — “To organize information!” — “EXACTLY. Now, make that happen with what we came up with on the board!”

Boom. Educated.

My last group is my smallest class and, by data standards, the lowest-performing group I see. The time is after lunch and recess, and it’s a bit of a shortened period since the students dismiss at various times at the end of class.

It’s funny, because so many people think that the smallest class should hypothetically be the easiest to manage and teach since there are fewer students. Honestly, I hoped that earlier this year. Too quickly I found out that it doesn’t matter how many students are in my class, when the needs are as high as they are in this class, the job will always be a little more difficult.

Trying my hand at the LEA with this group proved much more challenging. I was observed by the literacy coach during this time, which I was beyond okay with considering my first two classes went so well. I started the LEA activity and felt like things started unraveling before me by the time we were just a few sentences into the writing piece. Students were losing focus, students weren’t giving their best work on the carpet, and some students just seemed completely lost, even with guidance. This was incredibly frustrating and disheartening for me, especially since I had someone I respect watching me teach.

Upon reflecting and discussing with the literacy coach, she told me there was good in the lesson. Of course I’m always going to be my toughest critic, but it was not easy for me to find good in that 30 minutes. I found there were three good things about the lesson:

  1. There was high student participation — I heard from some students who rarely volunteer their ideas, and that was really incredible to see how excited they were to share what they knew about solids, liquids, and gases.
  2. My students were actually USING the vocabulary we spent so much time learning and talking about and experiencing, and they were using it properly. Seriously the coolest thing hearing a third grader say, “To change a state of matter, you need to apply or take away heat.” I guess all of the TPR worked — yay, success!
  3. The students all picked up on the errors I presented in the writing piece. I intentionally misspelled some words or forgot commas, and in this last group was the only student to comment that I forgot to indent my first paragraph. Brilliant!

Now, I also learned three very important things from this lesson:

  1. The LEA activity seemed to be a little long for this group of kids. Some were getting fidgety and some were just generally losing focus. If I want to reach these kids, I need to make the activity pack a punch and have it be short and sweet and to the point.
  2. Maybe I should try to use picture support more with this group during the LEA. This particular class has 11/17 students who are second language learners, so the pictorial support might be something to make our learning transitions smoother.
  3. Contemplating whether or not a partner work component during the LEA would be effective. We started the activity with a turn and talk to rev up their minds about states of matter, but maybe this group needs more than that to be successful.

I was really kicking myself this afternoon about this lesson, but after stepping back and really looking at the way things went, I think there are positive take-aways from it. Grateful for those who help me step back and realize that.

The rest of this week we’ll work on poetry, which I love. I can’t wait to have these kiddos get their hands on some poetry tomorrow! They’re exploring the genre tomorrow and working in groups to brainstorm how poems are different than other genres they read, and later this week they’ll get some experience reading poems with different rhyme patterns. I also have to mention that I’m super excited to teach some new TPR. TPR is one of my favorite ways to teach kids vocabulary, and they love every minute of it (seriously, I have kids wanting to make up TPR moves for EVERY.SINGLE.THING)!

Like I said, I had a really lovely spring break, and I’m beyond thankful that I had a whole week to relax. I mean, how often do I really get to sit outside with a coffee and a crossword? Answer: not as often as I’d like.

Even though we have a full seven and a half weeks left of school, I’m legitimately looking forward to what those weeks hold. This part of the year sometimes seems to inch by day-to-day, but the weeks certainly FLY.

Before I know it, I’ll be hugging 57 third graders as they leave my classroom and become fourth graders. Ain’t no stoppin’ us now, it’s fourth quarter of third grade and we are about to KILL IT (no spoon).

Let the Fun Begin!

My very first ever placement for student teaching three years ago at UNC was in a third grade classroom in Chapel Hill. I was there once a week and spent my mornings in a writer’s workshop with some pretty neat kids who are now in sixth grade (?!?!?!?!?! JUST REALIZED THIS AND AM FREAKING OUT).

Here I am a few years later teaching all by myself (literally all by myself — no teaching assistant! But that’s another post in itself) in a third grade classroom in Durham.

That first student teaching placement only lasted a semester, and like I said, I was only there for one morning every week. Needless to say, this didn’t really give me the most accurate picture of daily third grade life. Despite this, I knew there was something really awesome about third grade.

Personally, fourth grade was my favorite grade in elementary school. I had the best teacher, everyone in my class got along really well (BFFLZ), and I was introduced to my now all-time favorite author, Roald Dahl. I also learned all about North Carolina history in fourth grade, and I think that’s when I caught the history bug.

I student taught full-time in fourth grade and really enjoyed it. It was fun teaching concepts I recalled struggling with when I was 10-years-old, and it made for great teaching point connections. The lessons were fun and I’d like to think my kids enjoyed the teaching and learning time we spent together.

Despite my true love for fourth grade, I chose to teach third grade. To be completely honest, part of the reason I chose third grade was because the upper-grades in Durham scared me and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. I also prefer being taller than the students I teach.

The last couple weeks haven’t been my favorite behaviorally — I can tell the kids are ready for spring break (…I can’t blame them), and their constant chatter lets me know they’re ready, too. Disrespect is never easy for me to accept, and I’ve certainly caught myself overreacting to misbehaviors. This has just been such a long stretch with no break for us, and I can feel my patience thinning as April draws closer. I’m praying for patience and compassion every day, and I’m thinking about how I want my kids to feel when they leave my room at the end of every day. I want them to feel loved and that they’ve learned lots of neat new things, and most of all I want them to share that newfound knowledge in all its glory!

Even though we’ve hit a couple annoying little behavioral bumps, things are still good and I have no real reason to complain (because how could I complain when I have a job that matches my degree that I also love so much?). As far as lessons go, the last couple weeks have been fantastic. The planning has been especially fun, and I think the learning has been, too. We just started a unit on the human body, which is always so fascinating. I mean let’s be serious, who isn’t interested in how the body works? We’ve also started a series of lessons on plays and poetry, and the kids have LOVED working through plays! It’s been incredible watching them all get so excited about reading and writing. I have students who are writing plays from scratch, from their own minds — absolutely magical. We’ve also been working through some geometry lessons, and the kids find shapes to just be the coolest. It surprises me how spatially apt some of these kids are — I love it.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve really enjoyed planning lessons for these topics. We’re having so much fun, and I think that’s so important when it comes to learning. If kids see that learning new information is fun and exciting, then they’re going to want to continue to foster that passionate drive they have for filling their brains with more knowledge and trying new things.

Third grade has been such a clutch choice. I knew you learned fun things in third grade, and I really liked the concept of growing independence throughout the year. It’s amazing to know that these students come to you as little second graders in August, but then they leave you as these on-their-own fourth graders ready to take on the world.

At least that is why I envision will happen when they leave me in June…