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First Year, Twenty Sixth Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

Daylight Savings Time threw off my sleep patterns this week. On Sunday night, I went to bed around 10pm like I usually do. But then I tossed at turned for 2 hours without being able to fall asleep. I tried praying--thinking maybe God was trying to get my attention. I tried eating a snack--recalling my anxiety book's chapter about insomnia that said sometimes being hungry keeps you from sleeping. I tried answering emails that I was behind on--thinking maybe I needed to empty my mind. Nothing was working. I found it amusing when I went on Facebook and found all my other friends who were having the same problem. My final attempt was to read a couple chapters of a book I was trying to finish. I really didn't like the book, but I hate not finishing things so I read the rest of it anyway. I got it out of the way and could then move onto my pile of 'want to read' books. Now I'm reading "And the Angels were Silent" by Max Lucado. I love his storytelling ability, and this one focuses on the Easter story. Just in time! :) The book reading has seemed to help when I have insomnia. I've taken to keeping a book and flashlight next to my pillow in case I wake up and can't sleep. I hate feeling so tired though! It was a hard week to be tired--my job took a lot of energy with Wacky Wednesday, a field trip, leading staff devotions, and a St. Patrick's Day party. Thankfully though, I was able to be really on top of everything and super organized and ahead of schedule so I was able to leave at 4pm every day and didn't have to bring stuff home to work on. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of this job?? ;) My lesson plans are written for the next two weeks--I've never been that far in advance before! I was able to go home and rest every day. It was a breath of fresh air straight from the Lord's hand. My laptop troubles kept me off of the computer too, so I was genuinely resting--usually it's so hard for me to do that! I played piano for hours, finished writing a song, read two books, and hardly thought about work. It was heavenly!

On Tuesday night after getting ready for bed, I realized I needed an outfit for Wacky Wednesday; I hadn't even thought about it yet. So I changed from my pjs to the clashiest clothes I had. The nice thing for me is I have a lot of brightly colored clothing, so it wasn't too hard to put a plaid jacket, with a rainbow striped sweater, with a brown and white polka dotted skirt, mismatched shoes, and colorful socks. I was going to wear some bug antennae from a Halloween costume, but hairbands give me a headache, so I just did a ponytail on the top of my head--you know, like the ones moms put on their baby girls' heads when they're little and have hardly any hair? I looked like I stepped out of Whoville from Horton Hears a Who! All of the teachers dressed pretty crazy. It was fun. We took a picture that is going to be in the Yearbook. And the principal caught me walking across campus, held up her camera, and said, "How about another one?" That one made it onto the school Facebook page. Great! Goofy Miss Neal on Facebook, representing the school. Haha. At least I have school spirit; I've always been one to dress up for Spirit Days. I got to be creative and get out of school uniform. Now I love to do it because my students get a kick out of it. In the morning when we were sitting on the carpet, one of the students called another "red hair, green hair." It was more of just observing out loud than calling him a name, but the kid got upset anyway and told me. (The tattling first and solving problems second has been rampant  lately. I don't know why they've forgotten everything I told them! You be a problem solver first, and then if it doesn't work, get help.) I asked the kid if his hair was red and green. He agreed. I told him he couldn't get mad at someone for pointing it out since he chose to do that to his hair. I told them they could call me "ponytail," which made the class start giggling and thinking of funny names for themselves having to do with their wacky attire. I'm personally just glad that I survived the day. God decided to wake me up for an hour at 2am to talk to me. I love hearing from God, but the hour was a little of a stretch for me. I had anticipated the kids to be wild since we were all dressed crazily, but they were surprisingly good for the most part.

Don't you wish you had teachers like us in grade school?

Thursday was field trip day. We are doing a unit about teamwork in language arts, and planned to go to Albertsons where one of my student's parents is a manager to learn about how a grocery store works together as a team to provide all that the customers need. The other kindergarten teacher had taken this field trip before, but it was at a different location that no longer does school tours. I found out afterward, that she had never done it with two combined classes before. There were 36 kindergartners total. It was a nightmare all the way around. I don't know if I've passionately talked about this enough in previous posts: I HATE FIELD TRIPS! When I was preparing for it, I wanted to pull my hair out. When I was there, I wanted to scream. When it was over, I wanted to pass out from the sheer exhaustion of it.

When I was in credential school, we planned field trips. We went to sites and created lesson plans around them that we could have before, during, and after the trip. I've always viewed field trips as an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of a topic being studied. Kids have a better connection with history if they go to a historical site that has been addressed in class. They have a larger awareness of ocean animals they studied in biology if they go to an aquarium. I always thought it was a shame that field trips were cut so often because of budget--that the older you got, the fewer field trips there were. I think each teacher at my school does four trips a year--one for each quarter. K-5 does at least. But, now that I am a teacher and have taken my students on 3 field trips, I have a deeper understanding of why field trips are less common--it's so much work! They never warned me about this when I was in my credential program. You'd think with all the warnings they gave us about how difficult it is to be a teacher, they'd have prepared us for field trips, but no. I've been left to suffer through on my own.

The first difficulty is getting chaperones and drivers to commit. It's been like pulling teeth! The first one--to Bates Nut Farm was a cinch. I had plenty of volunteers, and some parents even carpooled. The second one to Alamosa Park to fly kites was pushing it really close. This one was just ridiculous. I was short one seat, which turned into a nightmare. I had parents telling me if I reeeeeeally needed them to, they could try to squeeze off work for a couple hours. I was trying to figure out if parent permission was given if a student could ride with someone else's grandparent. I was given yeses and then nos. It was frustrating. Finally, I opted to put the one extra student in the car of someone in the other kindergarten class. Then word got around to the parent who talked to me about if she had said she could drive on the permission slip; she thought she had, but she had really said no. Every field trip I have taken, I have tried to be my usual organized self, and the parents keep changing things up on me, so I end up changing chaperon groups and car assignments every single day leading up to the trip. I swear, I copied the car assignments paper 8 times this week, and even then it had a "maybe" person on it who had told me the morning of that she could come if I needed her. I said I didn't need her, but she could if she wanted. She didn't tell me if she wanted to or not. I had one parent say that she had too many in her group last time--that wasn't my fault because I didn't have enough chaperones sign up, and she happened to own a van. I had one parent call the day of the trip--just two hours before we were going to leave to say the power was out at her house and she couldn't get her car out of the garage. So I ended up having to drive, hoping that someone else would have an extra car seat for the one whose parent thought she would be there but couldn't. This was the first time I had to have a group of kids to chaperone while I was taking my class. It wasn't ideal because I prefer to be wandering around making sure everyone as a whole is listening and doing what they're supposed to. This time I had to balance doing that and holding onto my group's hands and taking pictures for the yearbook.

I don't know if you've ever been on a field trip at a grocery store before. They take you behind the deli and meat counter, back to the shipping and loading dock, walk around the storage area and into the walk-in coolers, and give you samples at each place. Now, picture that with 36 kindergartners and some assorted parents. The best word for it is LOUD. It was ridiculous. You couldn't hear a word the "tour guide" was saying because every child was talking at once and cared way more about pushing their way to the front of the crowd to grab a sample. The poor workers were being mobbed! The coolers were the worst. The kids were literally SCREAMING and RUNNING around inside. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears! I feel kind of weird telling the other class what to do, because I'm not their teacher, but they were awful. My kids had had a talking to at school before we left about listening, showing respect, and staying with our leaders. About half of them did exactly what they were supposed to do. But the other class? I didn't see one child behaving themselves. The other teacher wasn't really doing anything to help, so I finally yelled "class, class" a few different times when the "tour guide" gave me a helpless look. I even blew my whistle when I couldn't be heard over the noise. By the time we got to the meat department, I had had it! I got every student's attention and reminded them that they were here to learn, talking while someone else was talking to them was not acceptable behavior, and they better shape up! Things were a lot better after that incident. I was so thankful for my two little tag-alongs on the trip. They were on their best behavior--usually these ones are a little wild at school. One clung to my hand the whole time, by her own choice, and the other was always walking right behind me. I knew at any point I could turn around and she would be right there. What a relief.

By the end of it, I just wanted to get out of there. I failed to get a group picture of us all at the store, which was a bummer. But I did a head count and we booked it outta there! The other teacher and I discussed it afterwards. She said different stores do it different ways. The other store they've gone to in the past let each kid scan something, and had more hands on things. We both agreed that it was way too crazy with two classes. I don't know if it's required for us both to take the same field trip at the same time.

I got home literally feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Or like I had spent the entire day running around Disneyland to make sure I got on every ride and saw every show before it closed for the night. The only difference was, our field trip took an hour. Disneyland would have taken 16 hours. Something not right about having that same result. I would've rather run around Disneyland--but NOT on a field trip. Haha. It was 4:30 when I got home, and I wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately, I realized that I had to lead staff devotions the next morning, and hadn't prepped for it yet.

Leading devos is kind of hit and miss for me. The first one was okay, the second one was great, and this one was just okay again. It probably didn't help that the two hours I spent preparing for it were completely exhausting because of that wretched field trip. I had no mental capacity to come up with anything brilliant. I chose to just bring the couple verses God had been sharing with me that week and talked about the ways that He was helping me view them. For someone who is not a big talker, I didn't have a lot to say. I am a teacher; I can talk in front of my students all day long. I am a writer; I can write pages and pages of my thoughts and ideas. But when it comes to leading a discussion about something; I have an epic fail moment. There are some things that I am very passionate about that I probably could discuss for a really long time, but mostly I just have a few, short, wise things to say and then I prefer to sit and listen. I feel weird leading devotions with people who are older than me and have been walking with the Lord a lot longer than me too. What could I possibly say that they haven't heard before? So, I talked for 5 minutes about Psalm 37:23-24, prayed for 2 minutes, and dismissed everybody. Put me one-on-one with someone, and I can come up with a lot to say. Put me in a group setting, and I'd rather just listen and observe. Everyone is different, for a shy girl like me, that's just who I am.

The only other thing worth mentioning from this week is our St. Patrick's activities. I found two adorable crafts off Pinterest. One with a writing prompt about why we're lucky. Another one was a leprechaun made out of paper plates. The kids LOVED them! They were playing with them for the rest of the day. I was glad to have had some awesome helpers prep all the cut-outs needed for it. We also did a graph in math class with Lucky Charms. Nice. :)

Aren't they cute?? I simply adore these little ones. God has blessed me immensely with their sweet, daily presence in my life. <3