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First Year, Twenty Second Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

I have survived Crazy Week. By the end I felt like I had been run over by a truck, and was incredibly thankful for a long, four day weekend for President's Day. I needed it desperately. Thank goodness, I didn't have to battle any sort of sickness this week--a rarity for my new lifestyle. But let's start at the beginning... On Monday, we learned the verse "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." I have a worship song of that verse that I got to sing with the kids each morning. Starting my day with worship? Oh yeah, that was great!

Then I taught them our Bible story for the week, which was about Jesus and the children. We talked about how we are all important to Jesus and ways that we can "come to Him" today. One of my kids' first answers to that question was always "in heaven" which I had to steer away from--reminding him that we weren't dead today. We talked about prayer and reading our Bibles. We revisited our "listening to God" activity where each child found a quiet spot in the room somewhere, I turned off the lights and put on soft music, and we spent 10 minutes quietly listening to what God had to tell us. Then we went to our tables--still not talking and drew a picture of it. I called each student back to tell me what God told them and wrote it down on their paper and put it in their file. It's so sweet to witness their excitement about spending time with God and praying to Him--eager to hear from Him and learn something from Him. I love working at private school!

I also taught them about "breath prayer." We talked about how breathing is automatic and we don't even really have to think about doing it. I said prayer can be the same way--the second something pops into our head, we're reminded about something, or we're faced with a situation, we can in a breath, breathe that request or situation to God. That way we're in constant communion with Him and developing the habit of "praying without ceasing." One of my class parents related a story to me that she heard from one of the extended care workers. On the playground, two boys from my class we're praying, one told this mom's son that he had really bad breath. The son denied that it was really bad; it was just "chip breath" according to him. They dialogued back and forth a few times about it and then the son (who comes from a family of pastors) said, "We should say a 'breath prayer.'" I busted up laughing when the mom told me this story. The play on words and the perfect situation for it was just too funny. The mom asked her son why he had said that; he claimed he was just joking. She said she knew that, but the other kid probably didn't, and now he was going to have a weird view of what a "breath prayer" really was.

Tuesday was Valentine's Day. The kids were so eager all day. We put all our Valentine goodies to the side of the classroom in bags so everyone wouldn't constantly be going over there to show everyone what they had brought. Our party was at the end of the day. It was a shorter amount of time than we usually have so we only had time for one craft compared to the usual 3 or 4 that we do--rotating all the students. This way was a lot less crazy. They colored some crafts, then ate a couple Valentine cookies brought in from a parent who works at a grocery store, and then we exchanged Valentine cards. I need to come up with a more effective way of handing out Valentine cards. I explained to everyone that they needed to go around to each table and put the card in each student's paper envelope that we had made and decorated. When I said, "Go!" mass chaos erupted. Students were yelling out each others' names, asking people what name was on the card they were holding, and handing Valentines directly to the student instead of putting them inside envelopes. It was crazy and loud, and I had a lot of whistle blowing at the end to try and get them to put all their stuff inside their bags and get lined up to go. It was crazy; I'm glad it only lasted 10 minutes. I got a splitting headache. Apart from that part, it was a really nice day. I got lots of yummy chocolates, cheesy Valentine cards, a bouquet of roses, and one of pink tulips--my absolute favorite, and a Starbucks card.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The remainder of this post was mysteriously lost in cyberspace when I tried to post it the first time and now I'm too tired to write about it thoroughly. Here's the short version, maybe I'll have the heart to update it more later:

Wednesday - My boss came in to observe me for the 4th time. We were reading a super boring book on Patriotism from the curriculum. My kids were really bored from this super long, nonfiction story with a ton of big words they had never heard of before. I tried my hardest to be creative, including having the students vote when we got to the page about democracy to either finish the story now or take a break to do a worksheet and come back. My boss wasn't around for that part, I wish she had been so she could see me assessing the situation and adapting to it when my kids were disengaged. Reviews of our observations are next week--mine is on Tuesday. We had to fill out a form selecting two topics from a list of what we would like to improve. That list got me second guessing how I teach and thinking I frown too much and am too strict/stern with my students. I brought my concerns up to one of my aides who is also a parent of one of my students. She told me that my kids thrive with the boundaries that I give them and the expectations I have of them as far as behavior goes. She compared my class to other classes in chapel that week--how much better behaved mine were. I wondered if that was just because they're good kids or if it's because I've told them how to act in chapel. She gave me all the credit. I confessed my uncertainty of where the line was drawn about being too strict and firm. She told me to look at the bulletin board behind me with the writing prompt about what we love on it. She said, "Between you and Jesus, there isn't much else in the world that these kids love." She said that's how I can know I'm not being too mean with them; they know that I love them, and they want to be their best for me. She told me that there's been a few times this year that they've considered taking their 3 children out of private school. Financially, it's a hard thing to make work for a lot of families. But she said every single time they've had that conversation, they've come back to the fact that their son is in my class and what an amazing teacher I am and how blessed he is to be here with me. And every single time, they've kept their kids in private school because of me. I teared up when she told me that. I couldn't believe it. Me? A first year teacher, who doesn't know what she's doing half the time? I'm the reason they've stayed? That's amazing. I felt so blessed that she shared that with me and was able to encourage me. Sometimes you just need that reassurance that you're in the right place.

Thursday - We celebrated the 100th day of school. This day included making masks where the eye holes were the zeros in the number 100, writing what we could eat 100 of and what we would buy with $100, drawing a picture of ourselves when we're 100 years old complete with white yarn for hair and crumpling the paper to make it look like we had wrinkles (or "crunkles" as my kids called them, not remembering the word for 'wrinkles'), and counting, singing, and writing to 100. We also counted 100 fruit loops and strung them on necklaces. I was crunching fruit loops under my shoes the rest of the day though. We also made George Washington hats to celebrate President's Day weekend. The kids really liked those; they started marching around the classroom, pretending they were in George Washington's army. It was adorable.

I finished my taxes this week too. I saved all my teaching purchase receipts so I could add it onto my taxes for reimbursement. Since this is a realistic, and transparent blog about my experiences with my first year of teaching, I'll be transparent with you about these numbers even though I'm a little appalled to have spent as much as I did. Keep in mind this includes office supplies, small furniture pieces, posters, manipulatives, CDs and DVDs to supplement, books, craft supplies, class parties, marbles, treasure box toys, containers to put everything in, etc. etc. etc. As a first year teacher, I didn't start out with much. My total number was $754.61 from August 2011--December 2011. Crazy huh? Would you like to know how much the government is reimbursing me? $25. Yeah. There's a good, tangible picture for you on how the government values teachers. I'm not really complaining about it though because while buying these things I forgot that the government gives a tax break for it, and I'm good at budgeting for things, so I had the money to spend on it, and I'll be able to use many of these things for years and years to come. But still. Crazy.

By the end of the week, I felt like a truck had run over me. I was exhausted, and so so so thankful we had a long holiday weekend and I didn't have to go to school Friday or Monday so I could recover and get prepared for my review next week, new, leveled reading books for my kids, and parent teacher conferences which are next week. So much to do! So glad the time is flying by!