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First Year, Second Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

On Tuesday, I felt rested and ready for the week. The three day weekend was absolutely perfect. I had two days to catch up on teaching stuff and feel like I had it all together again, and one day to relax. I read a book (for enjoyment! Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff--hilarious! I was laughing out loud so much, my mom decided to pick it up and start reading it the next day!). I played piano. I practiced the song I'm singing at a wedding this weekend. I slept in all weekend. It was amazing. I didn't have to rush anywhere. I also got to hang out with a group of my friends from high school due to our mutual friend being back in town from Seattle. It was soooooo wonderful to see everyone. I'm not much of a big group setting type of person, but I adore hanging out with all those people. It was so wonderful to see many of them whom I haven't seen in a while. It was the best feeling. I also got to Skype with my dear best friend this weekend, whose home is now Amsterdam. It was lovely. The school day went pretty well. We began using the marble discipline system. You get marbles for good behavior. They're taken away for bad behavior. Pretty straight-forward. That first day killed a lot of them about the "you touch it, I take it" rule. They can't play with their marbles. (Marbles do have the tendency to roll all over the place, you know. Disaster waiting to happen on an unsuspecting person walking if there's a marble underfoot.) We had center time, and I tried out my Very Hungry Caterpillar art center. You can see the progression during the week of students who were there the first day through the last day. You're always tweaking and making things better as a teacher. So the first day when you see students smearing their finger across the page instead of dotting their fingerprints like they're supposed to, you tend to change up how you teach it. (The next day we practiced dotting our fingers and making observations about my example page; that worked much better.) We're working on them all week. Hopefully they'll turn out wonderfully because I'm planning to put them up before Back to School Night on Monday.

The heat wave hasn't been too helpful. We've been having recess/lunch inside the classroom. This means I have to find things to entertain them during recess while an extended care worker observes them so I can make sure to get stuff done. I'm never able to fully get stuff done when this happens though, because my kids don't understand the concept of "I'm not here, go ask the helper," when they can clearly see me puttering around the classroom. I felt bad for reminding one student of this when I think she just wanted to show me her picture. But the little darling took it in a stride and showed me when she was finished after lunch.

A couple good things happened on Wednesday. The extended care supervisor came into my room after school to get in her closet. When she came in she said, "I have to tell you that we're all very impressed with how well you handle your classroom." (They've all be in and out the past couple weeks to give announcements, get in the closet, do prep work for me, or assess my students.) She said I was the talk of extended care and I should give myself a pat on the back for doing so well. The other good thing was that I heard several of my students singing their Bible verse as we sat in line waiting for their parents to pick them up. That made my heart glad. "I have hidden Your word in my heart...." My insistence on teaching Bible verses through music is already proving to work wonders. :)

On Wednesday a not so good thing happened too. There's always got to be that "one" kid, right? The one who defies you, who disrespects, who challenges your authority. I have such a one. Sometimes two or three, but consistently one. She's one of my wiggle worms at rest time. I've had to move her location twice because I need to be able to keep an eye on her and keep her away from the group so she doesn't distract. I give my wigglers the privilege of reading a book quietly during rest time because 45 minutes is a very long time for them to try to keep still. If they're talking/making noise/being disruptive, the book is removed. Today after this student got her book taken away, she started playing with her shoes. Have you heard of "Twinkle Toes?"

The jewels on the toes light up. I have a couple students with light up shoes, whom I have warned not to play with at rest time. When the lights are out, the flashy lights are very distracting--not only to that student, but to students around him/her as well. So I took her shoes and put them on my file cabinet. She gave a wordless whine in response. I motioned for her to be quiet; it's rest time. I moved to help another student and when I turned, Defiant Student threw her socks at me. Are you serious right now? "NO," I said firmly. Another wordless whine. I shook my head. She gave a "humph" or something of the sort. I turned around to sit at my desk and felt the tip of her blanket whip the back of my legs. I turned around; she was pretending like she was just flinging it out in front of her to straighten it out flat. I left my desk to get a big marble to add to her marble cup. Big marbles are the bad kind. I walked around the class to allow my presence to intimidate the students that were curiously sitting up to see what all the whining was about. Once everyone had settled, I sat back down at my desk to work. (I was writing a note home to her parents about the marbles.) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw twinkling. You guessed it, Little Miss Defiant had taken them back off my file cabinet when I was walking around and was playing with them again. Ooooh, you know how to push my buttons, child. I held my hand out and told her firmly to give them to me. She shook her head with another whiny grunt. "Now." Same response. The countdown began, "5...4...3...2...1" Shaking head and an "nuh uh." I stood up to take them; she put them under her blanket and sat on them. Oh my word.

Lord God in heaven, please hear my plea. I'm having to deal with this stubbornness now. Please do not give me a child like this someday. I'm already doing my time, and she's not even mine. Amen.

I took her hand and helped her stand up, took the shoes, shoved them in my desk drawer, and shut it. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" She started coming at me. I held both of her hands. She tried to wriggle away. "Let's talk." "No!" "You're not making some very good choices right now. What choices are you making that are not very good?" She swayed back and forth not wanting to answer. I repeated my question. "Pulling my hands away." "Mhm, and what else." "Saying 'no.'" "Yeah, and what else did you do that wasn't a good choice." She was quiet for a while. "Did you throw something?" "Throw my socks at you." "Yeah, and did you hit me with something?" "Hit you with my blanket." "That's right, those were not very good choices. Why do you think I take your shoes away?" "Because I'm playing with them." "Yeah, you were. What are you supposed to be doing at rest time?" "Be quiet." "Mhm, and resting. If you're playing with your shoes, do you think you're resting?" "No." "So if you're being distracted by your shoes, then you're not able to rest. So I take them to help you do what you're supposed to do. If you're doing what you're supposed to on your own and choosing not to play with your shoes, do you think I'll take them?" "No." "No, I won't because you'll be doing the right thing. Do you think you can make better choices and not play with your shoes so I won't have to take them next time?" Nod. "Okay, I'm sending a note home to your mom about what happened, so you can talk to her about how you're going to make better choices. We'll try to do better tomorrow, okay? Go lie down please." She was pretty good the rest of the day. *Sigh. Writing notes home on the second week of school.

Her mom came in the next morning. She made her daughter apologize and we talked about their discipline system at home. They have card turning and penalties depending on what card has been turned. She had her Twinkle Toes taken away for the rest of the week and has to earn them back.

A few other nice stories for my week: the principal did a random walk through Thursday. My class was perfect. We were playing a fun game that they love, and one that requires quiet hands to be raised and everyone participating. I hold up a sentence strip with a word on it. I tell them the word and they have to look at my pocket chart for a picture that rhymes with it. This was the second day we did it. The first day was taking forever because the students didn't understand the concept of not raising their hand until they actually saw the correct picture card. They just wanted to be called on. This time, I put numbers in each row of pockets. All the students had to put up their fingers for which row they saw the picture in. Students who had it correct were called on. So all their little hands were in the air, and I was encouraging them to find the picture card that rhymed. They were so good; I was so proud of my little darlings!

Another thing that happened was one of the secretaries, whose granddaughter is in my class said when they were driving to the dentist, her granddaughter said, "I wish the dentist was my teacher because then I'd know he's nice." So cute!

Thursday had some big frustrations though. I got wind from other people at school, in extended care, the office, etc. that some of my kids have been fighting on the playground--yanking arms, using fists, etc. I'm not out there so I don't see that type of behavior, but this is a problem. Apparently a lot of the kids involved in it are in both of the kindergarten classes this year. Great. We were told to make very good notes about anything and everything. Documentation is key.

All this news came to me on the same day that the power went out. I was at school, on the phone with Golden Spoon to try and get free yogurt coupons to give to my kids when they're the star student of the week. In the middle of the conversation, the lights went out in my room and my computer went dead. A few moments later, the call was dropped. Ugh. I thought we had been using the AC too much at school and we blew a fuse or something because one of my lights was still on. I did prep work for another hour by the light of the sun. Then I got wind that one of my students went home with his dad who was not allowed to pick him up. The power was out and the lines were tied up. We couldn't get ahold of his mom. I told them I know there is a man who is allowed to get him because I talked to him mom about that, but I didn't have any more information than that. We figured it out, the ID had been checked and he was clear. I don't know where the miscommunication happened. I went home; traffic wasn't too bad going my direction thankfully. I graded homework by flashlight and went to bed early.

I got a call to be at school at 7am in the morning in case we couldn't get the phone tree working and had to personally call every parent at the school to tell them that school was canceled. There was some confusion about whether or not it was canceled though because my principal said, "If it's back by 6am then come to school." I had to go to school regardless, so I wasn't sure if that was pertaining to me or students. When I got to school, I discovered that no, we weren't having classes, and we were able to get the phone tree working. So I had an unexpected day off. What do you think I did for my day off? If you guessed create a "Big Green Monster" face to prevent tattling, clean white boards, put in a field trip request to Bates Nut Farm, copy papers for next week, organize stuff I'm giving out for Back to School Night, rearrange pictures on my walls, rewind VeggieTale movies, email the person who sent me the wrong Bible VHS, listen to Paige's favorite songs (favor from her bridal shower), color example pictures, prep centers for next week and future weeks, update my TeacherWeb since I didn't get to send home Friday Folders, pull homework for next week, stuff folders, order Highlights Magazine subscriptions, cough up a lung, alphabetize my bookshelf, sort through books being given away at the library, select center groups, have lunch with my best friend, make a million trips to and from the office, track down the location of my decodable books, and attend a wedding rehearsal, then you're correct! ;)

I find it amusing that I spend my whole day off working.

I love teaching. Truly.