The Graduation Rollercoaster

I received my cap and gown in the mail last week and I could not have been happier. After all my hard work in school, graduation is almost here! A few days later I received my honor cords and tassel pin from NSLS and I was beaming. After all these years, here I am, about to graduate with my Masters with honors. My husband has been nothing but proud of me throughout this whole process and he tells anyone and everyone that I have a 4.0 GPA, that I truly enjoy what I am doing, and that I am going to be an amazing teacher. Honestly, I have never been more excited than right now.

And yet…..

I think I’ve been feeling a little down for the last week or two. I have applied to a few jobs, which admittedly have been long shots, and there has been no response. I will begin to broaden my horizons to more realistic goals once school is over for the summer. I contemplated taking some summer classes, even enrolling in a few, but have since changed my mind. I am currently in this weird limbo where I’m not sure what to do about adding more endorsements – start now or wait to see if my future employer can offer financial assistance. But, the biggest downer has been the fact I cannot find a summer job. Lame, right?

Then came the cap and gown, the honor cords, and the pin. Just the boost I needed! Look at me, with all these accomplishments! Nothing boosts the ego better than a little self-recognition. Then came the email stating all graduates will receive eight tickets. Eight tickets…. Eight? Who are these eight people I am supposed to invite? All I did know is that I needed to have my hubby and my bestie there. That was a given. Of course, his parents are going to come too. And that’s when my mind started playing its evil tricks on me. I tried not to dwell on the fact that I would not have parents there. I tried not to dwell on the fact that there would not be any of my relatives there. I focused on just how damn proud my hubby and bestie are of me. Their love, pride, and support are more than anyone in the world could ask for.

So, why the long face, Seabiscuit?

Because sometimes life can be lonely. And it sucks. And I don’t have an explanation for it. It’s not about feeling loved because I feel that tremendously. However, there is a certain solitude sometimes that is hard to explain. Recently I was reading an article about the most important things to do in your first year of teaching to avoid burnout. Suggestions like breathe, don’t be too hard on yourself, and over plan were the words of advice I expected. Then the article slapped me in the face with “Call your mom. She loves you and is proud of you. She will cheer you up and make you remember why you are doing this” or something along those lines. Thank you Education World, I appreciate that advice.

Needless to say, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Then yesterday my funk blew up into a temper tantrum that might rival that of a toddler. Why? I’ve just become overwhelmed with this sense of loneliness. I feel like an orphan on so many levels. And it’s hard to explain to people without sounding depressed or angry. I’m not depressed. At least I don’t think so. Although, I may be a little bitter. I’m bitter about lost connections. I’m saddened by people who stopped trying. Did I stop trying too? I suppose I have. I know life gets in the way for everyone, but there are some people who really try and others who just don’t. And that hurts.

I have been thinking (and overthinking) about everything and I do know there are plenty of people who support me and are proud of me. I am by no means saying I do not appreciate these people in my life; I really, truly appreciate them. But, I sometimes feel like I am standing in a crowded room of strangers. It’s kind of like arriving at a busy airport or train station looking for the person who is supposed to pick you up. You are surrounded by people, and often times they are nice and even helpful, but they are not who you are looking for. It’s that void, the anxiety of waiting for the person to pick you up, that I sometimes feel in life. It’s hard to explain and I’m not sure my analogy did it any justice, but it’s a start.

Here’s the irony of my situation. I wholeheartedly know that when my name is called at graduation my bestie will be cheering the loudest of anyone in the entire auditorium (I mean, have you met her??). I also know that I cannot wait to lock eyes with my hubby when I am standing on stage because I cannot wait to see that “You did it!” moment that will consume him. So why am I in a funk, you say. Honestly, I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like it really comes down to an internal battle of quantity versus quality. Again, hard to explain; that was my best attempt.

I would apologize for the less than uplifting teacher blog post, except I’m not really sorry. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about all this and I just wanted to get the words out. It’s my blog and I can post my thoughts, whatever those may be…. Spoken like a true toddler wrapping up a tantrum….. *insert foot stomp here*. I guess what I am saying is that I needed a place to talk myself through this whole situation. There is a lot more to it that bothers me, but I know people have busy lives perusing much more entertaining social media outlets. So, if you did actual get to the end of this post, I would like to thank you for listening/reading. While I may not have clarity, I do feel better expressing my frustrations. And I suppose that’s a start.

 

Not Exactly a Walk in the PARCC

parcc

It’s been a while since my last post, mostly because my school schedule was inconsistent. We were on spring break for a week and then had two weeks of PARCC testing. For those of you not familiar with PARCC, I will quickly break it down for you. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The tests are brought to us by Pearson, of course, and are designed to do just what the title states – assess students’ readiness for college and career through math and literacy assessments. Students have three math tests, which average around 110 minutes, and three literacy tests, which average around 80 minutes.

During the two weeks of PARCC testing, the students’ schedules were rearranged to accommodate those with special needs and procedures as well as the overall quantity of students testing. Since I am a long term sub in a supplementary role, I was a 1:1 proctor for a 6th grader in the mornings. The rest of my days consisted of homeroom monitoring and lunch duty. Given the inconsistent schedule, student behavior was less than desirable over these two weeks.

My biggest take away from this was my lunch duty. I was covering two lunch periods during PARCC, which was two too many. Aside from the overall NOISE in the lunchroom, the students are quite possibly at their worst. Many of them are disrespectful to each other as well as to teachers and staff. There are set rules and procedures that the students do follow, but their attitudes are on full display. And this had me questioning my ability to handle middle school. Additionally, the overall dynamic in the lunchroom is a little depressing. I was quickly transported to my own incredibly awkward youth. There are such defined boundaries in the lunchroom. It is easy to identify the different cliques and outcasts and the students are quite vocal about who sits where in the lunchroom. I also saw many students sitting alone, which had me wondering if their isolation was their choice or not.

Lunch duty had me longing to be in an elementary school. I began to focus only on the attitudes and misbehavior of the students at lunch, convincing myself this is how all middle school students behave. Then I ran into the 6th grader I was proctoring and he smiled and said hi to me at lunch. And the 7th grader from my 8th period said hi and asked when we would be having class again. I saw a few of my other students throughout the days during PARCC and they were all nice and friendly, unlike the unruly mob at lunch. I then began reflecting on my experience so far at this middle school. Things have been going well so far. Sure, it has been a little difficult and it has been a little outside my comfort zone. But, that was the plan, right? Explore my options, broaden my horizons, and so forth.

This week we are back to our normal routine, thankfully. I have taken the time to reiterate the day to day expectations for all my classes. I have reviewed my classroom rules and consequences for those not following the rules. For the most part, all my classes fell right back into the routine we had prior to PARCC, which has made me happy. Hopefully my turbulent two weeks was simply because of the scheduling changes and the testing. Hopefully things will return to a semi-normal state and I can really begin to reflect on my middle school experience. Just like with elementary, there are positives and negatives. I want to make sure I am weighing everything accurately so I can confidently apply for various teaching positions for next school year. And that in itself is an overwhelming and intimidating thought.

End of a Chapter and Beginning of the Next

Last week was my last week of student teaching in 4th grade. In all honesty, it was all very bittersweet for me. I really liked the school I was at…. I liked all the staff and I adored the kids. They are all such great kids. So, it was hard for me to leave, especially since the school year is not over for them. It’s hard explaining that I am done with school while they are still in school. On my last day, all three 4th grade classrooms went on a field trip to Legoland. Let’s just say, whatever the salary is for the employees at Legoland, it is nowhere near enough. There were kids, toys, and chaos everywhere you look. Sensory overload does not even begin to describe what it’s like there. But, the kids had a blast, so it was all worth it! When we got back, they had a little farewell party for me. The kids made cards and some even brought me gifts. My cooperating teacher and the other 4th grade teachers gave me gifts and everyone wished me the best of luck. It was a wonderful send off that made me feel like I am well on my way to being a pretty good teacher!

While I was sad to leave, this week also marked a lot of extremely happy things for me. I officially passed the edTPA. I earned an A in my final class, solidifying my 4.0 GPA. I will be graduating in June, complete with the honor of Sigma Alpha Pi due to my grades. And I am transitioning to a long term substitute teaching position immediately after student teaching. All in all, it was a pretty good week!

Which brings me to this week. Yesterday was my first day filling in for the Reading Specialist at a new school. It is a middle school and I will be working with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through the end of their school year. It is considered a pull out program, with the goal of helping students improve their literacy comprehension. Because of this,the class sizes are small. My largest two classes have a total of eight students and the smallest two classes have just four students. The school is also testing a new program called Achieve 3000 which I will be rolling out with these students.

My first day was in a co-teaching setting with another Reading Specialist. But, as of today, I am officially on my own. The environment is completely different than an intermediate school, to say the least. My overall size and stature does not exactly demand authority, so I feel I am entering this experience at a disadvantage. Navigating the halls during transitions is quite similar to a cattle drive. The students seem indifferent, displaying their best “whatever” faces and attitudes throughout the day. After the first day, I felt confident in my skills navigating the classroom and conducting myself as a teacher but was still weary about the students.

This morning I returned for day two. One of my 6th grade students was waiting outside when I got here and mumbled a “G’morning Ms Daley.” Progress. She actually did remember my name, so she must have been somewhat paying attention yesterday. The troublesome boy in 2nd period seemed to be in better spirits today and I chalked that up to another small victory. In homeroom, several of the students referred to me by name and at the end of the period several of them said “Have a good day, Ms Daley”. Another victory. I smiled to myself as I managed to get back to my classroom without getting trampled. And then the four 8th grade boys in my 6th period walked all over me. Figuratively, not literally. Although literally is possible since they are the equivalent of football players. Minimal work was accomplished and I spent most of the time checking in with them repeatedly to see just what the frak they were working on (yes, that is a BSG term for all my fellow sci-fi nerdies). Clearly those boys will be a handful…. little do they know more busy work is in their future. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, aside from the 7th grade boy who insists on speaking in a British accent. It’s actually quite entertaining watching a struggling reader attempt to read aloud in a faux British accent. Might be beneficial to lose the accent in my class, Mate. 

Three Day Weekend… Finally! 

Monday was President’s Day, so there was no school. I have been so busy lately, I didn’t even notice until last week. I happened to look at the school’s schedule and there it was, that color-coded day to indicate there was no school. And that made my morning! I was definitely ready for a three day weekend!

We submitted edTPA just about two weeks ago, and that was an exhausting process. And now we are in the purgatory known as waiting. Our scores should be available by March 9th, but I am hopeful it will be sooner. So hopeful, in fact, that I have already begun checking the website each morning, which is probably contributing to my restless sleep the last few days. I just really, really believe I will not receive a passing score. I felt so rushed during the process that I have convinced myself I either forgot to upload a file or maybe didn’t answer a question sufficiently. What I did wrong is irrelevant, I just have this lurking feeling that I will not pass. As much as I try to chalk it up to jitters, I just can’t. I have accepted the thought that I may have to resubmit part or all of the edTPA and I am ok with that. I just want to know, ya know? And hopefully, I am wrong. Hopefully, there will be passing score and y’all can say “we knew it!”. I really think it’s the unknown that is playing with my head. I guess time will tell.

Aside from edTPA drama, student teaching is going well. I have found my niche in the classroom and I have become much more comfortable. And I really do love the kids! Every morning in the hall, I greet them as they are chattering with each other and scurrying to their lockers. I feel very Tami Taylor a la Friday Night Lights and it’s wonderful. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were struggles. I can’t seem to get through to them with comparing fractions and it’s bothering me. Is it me? Maybe because math isn’t my strong point, they can sense it? Should I be doing something different? How can we move on? I worry that we are spending too much time on this and I want to move on to adding fractions. But, that’s tricky; too soon and everyone will be lost but if I wait too long, I’m going to lose the interest of the ones that do get it. Decisions, decisions. I am glad math will be the last class I give back to my cooperating teacher because I’m hoping to see this fraction dilemma through. 

On to breaking news, I have a job! It’s a temporary, substitute job… But it’s a job, aka income. Yay! Immediately after student teaching I will fill in for a leave of absence through the end of the school year. It is as a Reading Specialist for a middle school at a different school. I’m glad to be gainfully employed for two months but I’m also looking forward to the additional experience at a middle school. Can’t hurt the resume, right? I’m also on the lookout for a summer job. Oh, and also one for next school year. So, if anyone has any leads, you know where to find me. 

Short Weeks, Long Hours

First, let me say I can NOT believe this week is finally over! We did not have school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but somehow our four day week felt like it lasted a month…. 

When we came back on Tuesday, I rearranged the seats. My cooperating teacher said I could do whatever I wanted, but I was concerned that no matter what I did there would be problems. At open house this past fall, most of the parents mentioned how this particular group of fourth graders were pretty close. While that has made for a great group of kids, they tend to be a little chatty and occasionally lose focus. My goal was to try to break up some groups but also to try to help struggling learners by placing them with students who tend to be more focused. To accomplish this, I went back to the small groups. They started the school year in small groups, then pairs, then long tables. So far it seems to be working out the way I wanted. Only time will tell. 

In addition to the social studies block, this week I began taking over the morning literacy blocks. For some reason, this part of the day has been most confusing to me. I think it’s mainly because of all the moving parts. Their Daily 5 assignments are posted on the class Schoology page and they utilize a variety of websites that include Scholastic, Night Zookeeper, ReadWorks, and Actively Learn. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m still trying to get the hang of these. Even though I am overwhelmed, I love how much technology they use every day!

That being said, I was observed by my university supervisor this week. It was the first of four observations this quarter. I opted to have her observe the social studies lesson since I feel pretty confident with the content. I have even managed to navigate the technology (finally!), since the lesson is interactive with the iPad. But, of course, we were having connection issues when my supervisor was there. Rather than the audio playing, I had to read aloud to the class, which was fine, just not what I planned. After going through the lesson we had this pretty cool activity planned and the kids were really into it. Things were going really well and I had a pretty good sense of confidence. Until my cooperating teacher said we were about to have a lock down drill and she was leaving to assist the principal. Ironically, my supervisor was here for a fire drill last quarter….

Although the drill went fine, it was kind of eerie. When the announcement came over, the kids all knew exactly what to do. I locked the classroom door and the kids all huddled on the floor behind the teacher’s desk, in a corner where they could not be seen from the classroom door or the exterior windows. I stood in front of them and we waited silently for the all clear. Part of the drill is to make sure the door is locked, so about halfway through the drill someone came by and loudly shook the doorknob to make sure it was locked. And that’s when I felt the sinking feeling in my stomach. I mentally took a step back and assessed the situation. Here I was, all five foot nothing of me, standing between a would be shooter and twenty fourth graders. I smiled down at the kids, who were squished against each other and squirming around impatiently. They wanted to get back to the activity we had been working on just before this. I wondered how many of them, if any, really understood why we were doing this. I quickly shook that thought from my head too. I didn’t want to think about that either.

After the drill, which they completed perfectly, we went back to our social studies activities. The kids were loud and having a little too much fun…. And I let them. After spending just under ten minutes thinking worst case scenario thoughts, I wanted see happy and carefree students. At least until my cooperating teacher returned and I had to assume the tough guy role again, that is.

There’s no crying in 4th grade

This week I took over the social studies block. While I was anxious, I was really looking forward to the activities we planned for the students. This was the second half of a two-week chapter on the U.S. Midwest Region and the kids seemed to be pretty engaged. We had one more quick project before the test and I was looking forward to it. As I began to explain this final project, one student huffed and said “Another project? Ugh! It’s not like I’m ever going to visit the Midwest!”

What?
See, the thing is, we actually live in the Midwest. We are in a suburb of Chicago. Chicago – which had TWO different points of interest in the text – O’Hare International Airport and Wrigley Field. I pointed out the fact we live in the Midwest and this student seemed genuinely surprised by this revelation.
While this may be a humorous, face palm moment, I can’t help but wonder how many of these students are out there. And how do I reach them? Of course my dream is to have a classroom full of students diligently and happily working on my insanely creative projects. Realistically, I know this will not the case on so many levels. But, how do I get things as close to the dream as possible?
On a somewhat brighter note, I finally flexed my teaching muscles. To the extent I made a student cry. While that was not my intention, it appears to have instilled a sense of respect, and maybe a little fear, in the rest of the class. I am student teaching in a district that is fortunate enough to have Chromebooks and iPads available for all students. I love that there is so much technology available for the students. I personally think responsible use of technology is something all students should learn – these are skills they will use throughout their education and into their careers. For the most part, the students are really good with their usage. But, there are times that technology is distracting. After reprimanding a student more than once, I was forced to take away his iPad. He reluctantly handed it over, eyes welling up. As I walked away from him, many students stared wide eyed and the class grew very silent. Hopefully they now know I mean business! We will see how the next week goes.
Speaking of the next week, my cooperating teacher has given me the responsibility of rearranging their seats. She switches things up frequently since this group is especially chatty. I’m excited to have the responsibility of creating their new seating arrangements but I am also nervous I will make the wrong choices. I guess in all honesty, I am just overall nervous every day. I keep wondering if that feeling will go away. Eventually it will…. right??

Lesson Plans and Haz-Mat Suits

I officially completed my first week of student teaching. And I survived. Although, for the record, it was not much different than what I had already been doing with my cooperating teacher – some assisting and some co-teaching.

That’s all about to change. As of this week, I will begin to take over the class, one subject at a time. Tune in later to see if I survive the week!

My takeaways so far are pretty simple:
– Planbook is worth the $12 annual fee
– Flocabulary is one amazing website and I hope my future employer is a subscriber
– Even though I think I’m speaking loudly, my voice is not carrying throughout the class
– I need to toughen up, Buttercup!

Planning is a LOT more involved than I thought. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s the way the teachers at my host school handle their planning or if it truly is a great undertaking. I suppose I will figure that 0ut as I find my way in this career. I would like to think I may be able to find a more efficient way but, if these seasoned teachers are taking a great deal of time planning, I may have to change my mailing address to my future school.

I also need to be more of a disciplinarian. These kids are like wild animals and can smell fresh blood a mile away. I am too nice, too patient, and too kind. Somehow all the traits I saw as strong points are rapidly becoming weaknesses. Why am I giving the students multiple chances when I know they are not listening? Why am I phrasing comments to students as questions? I need to be firm. Tough. Intimidating. All the things that I am absolutely not. That said, I am open to any suggestions how to become the class meanie overnight.

Lastly, I am beginning to fear that our school is being consumed by a plague of biblical proportions. Fifth grade has been hit hard with strep. Second grade is battling the stomach flu. And there’s pink eye in third grade. In the fourth grade, there is an ever fluctuating amount of students absent for a variety of ailments. And I won’t even begin to discuss the projectile vomiting. At this rate, I am not sure I will survive student teaching due to health issues.

I currently have a pineapple scented hand sanitizer attached to me at all times. The other day I used it multiple times in class, after the second student went home for vomiting. One student said to me, “It smells like a tropical island in here.” I hope they enjoy island life because I plan to sanitize like crazy!