Saturday, February 26, 2011

Highs and Lows

I know I wax eloquent (or perhaps just long-winded . . . you be the judge) about how awesome my job is. And it is. But if I'm going to be honest, as one should be, it has its ups and downs and bad sides and all that jazz, same as any job. I've said it before once or twice, but working in an elementary school has got to be the best form of birth control known to man. Some days I come home ready to drag Luke to the hospital for an immediate vasectomy. Of course, other days I come home wishing I could have brought a couple of kids with me. Anyway, for those who might be interested, here are some recent occurrences.

~ I absolutely have to start with Aunt Sharon pulling me out of Katie's class for a moment on Thursday. Why? To inform me that she was my favorite aunt (so true) by handing me my pink ribbon!! YAY!!!! Apparently I checked the lost and found a few hours too early. On that note - so glad I blogged about it; I really debated it. Good thing I came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that blogging is cheaper than therapy, lol. And can I just say thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! again . . . made. My. Month. :-) It may be totally shallow and superficial and childish of me, but it's the little things that count, you know?

~ It's so frustrating when you know a kid gets a concept but the wires aren't quite connecting in the right order. I was working with the sweetest little third grader yesterday, who shall go by Angeline because she is such a little angel, working on some time concepts. You know - hours in a day, days in a week/month, weeks/months in a year and all that. (side note: I'm pretty sure the weeks in a month thing was not covered when I was learning time. I distinctly remember picking up that little piece of trivia in high school.) She's got all the appropriate numbers in her head, but can't always attach them to the correct measurement. Example: I hold up a flashcard that says "How many weeks in a year?" and she rattles off 52 immediately. The very next card says "52 weeks = ____ year" and she was just certain that 365 was the right answer . . . which, technically . . . sort of . . . it is . . . just not the way she thought it was. She's so eager to please that I hate having to tell her she's wrong.

~ Remember Begat Boy? Firstly I have decided that he shall be known as Jehosaphat, because that's just fun to say. Secondly, he is one of the most adorable kids EVER. For starters he's got the cutest heavy accent ever that makes pretty much everything he says a little bit funny. Also, he's a little bit of a clown. And so enthusiastic about everything. He's among the kids I work with in that class who have a harder time with spelling. I start every day asking them if they remember the concept in the week's spelling list - for example, this week it was "oo" and how it sounds in "moon" and in "book." All six of the kids I work with have really improved, at the beginning of the year a lot of the time they couldn't tell me but now they usually can - YAY! Anyway, I'm all about matching their enthusiasm and stuff so when they get the right answers I always get all excited and high fives are had and fun stuff like that. And little Jehosaphat here has developed his own little celebrations when he's the one getting it right. When I ask him specifically and he gets it right he takes a little bow in his chair and says "tank you, tank you" . . . it's so hard to describe without pictures but he does the hand motions too - you know, one hand across the stomach and the other hand kind of out, and then switching sides. He'll switch back and forth up to four or five times, bowing and "tank you-ing" away. Darling! Then if I ask everybody and he answers first he jumps up (not much of a difference, he's pretty short still) and does that little dance where you move your fists in a circle while singing some variation of "uh-huh, oh yeah, I did it, I got it!" and so on. There are seriously not enough synonyms for adorable to describe this kid. He makes me laugh almost everyday . . . which of course he eats up and does whatever he was doing even more.

~ What a difference a couple of years makes! There is very little enthusiasm in my fourth grade class, and sometimes even open resistance. Crazy! There's one boy in particular - (Jared) whom I'm really at a loss for what to do with. I'm in there during math time, and each day I have a small group back with me working on a weekly assignment. During the course of the week the whole class is with me and does the same assignment, and the groups are, naturally, arranged according to their math skills. (side note: I can't help but wonder sometimes if by 4th grade the kids realize that's how they're grouped . . . ) Jared started out in group 3. Now, in groups 1, 2, and 3 I let the kids work at their own pace and help them as needed, and group 3 generally needs more help than group 1. Anyway, every week when Jared comes back he starts off by complaining that he doesn't want to do it, doesn't see the point of it, thinks it's stupid - all that fun bad attitude stuff that's really thrown me for a loop because seriously, shouldn't that not be hitting for two or three more years at least? Blargh. The assignment is the same every week, there is a chart with various numbers and pictures and such that gets changed weekly and the questions are the same. #11 is two numbers that you add and then subtract. #21 is a clock, you say what time it shows and calculate going forward and backward a set amount of time from there. There's money to count and numbers to round and all sorts of math related things. And every week Jared would come back and insist I had to tell him the answers because he didn't know how to do any of the problems. Which, of course, I know he does because 1) I correct his math homework and 2) these are the things that are being taught in the math lesson immediately before we split into groups and I hear him answering questions correctly and understanding the concepts. So basically I refuse to give any answers and eventually he'd give up and do the work, generally getting things right. Then groups were shuffled a little bit and among other changes Jared was moved to group 4. In group 4, everybody works together. We read the question together, I make sure everyone knows how to solve the problem, they do it on their own, and I check their answers right then instead of the whole sheet when they've finished. It's a bit slower, but it works for the group. Only now Jared has decided that he knows what he's doing and insists on going ahead. And the problems he doesn't do with the group tend to be wrong, and I make him redo them. The complaints have gotten more frequent, more vocal (he used to just whisper them to whoever was sitting next to him just loud enough for me to hear and him to know I did, but soft enough I could still pretend I didn't), and more specific. Now he doesn't just hate math, he hates having to do this specific assignment every week. Not being the "real" teacher I can't exactly do things like send him to the principal's office or whatever, and he doesn't seem to care about the things I have tried. Frankly I just want to tell him to shut up and get to work . . . which, you know, I kinda can't. But I'm pretty sure the shock of it might be effective, at least the first couple of times. Blargh.

~ Can I just say that little kids are pretty much the textbook definition of sweet? Rarely do I walk into my kindergarten classroom without at least one child jumping up and running to give me a hug. Same goes for the first grade class I subbed in for a couple of months when I pass them in the halls. All the innocence and pure love and gobs of candy-coated cliches of goodness really make my day. Going to kindergarten right after fourth grade can be a real pick-me-up some days!

~ It's also really frustrating when you know a kid can do something, but he won't. There's one kindergartener - (Donatello) who is just like that. I do progress monitoring in kindergarten, which is basically testing them every so often to see what letter names/sounds they know and if any more have managed to stick in their cute little heads recently. Anyway, when Donatello is in a good mood, he'll work with you and he knows almost everything you ask him. Sadly, more often than not, he's not in a cooperative mood, and you can totally tell the answers he's giving you is whatever happens to come out of his mouth because he's probably not even listening to you. Grrrrr. Things are going to get interesting when he's in first and second grade.

~ On the other hand, that same Donatello is one of the sweetest of the sweet in his good moods. Both Thursday and Friday I got multiple big hugs from him and Friday he held my hand taking me around the classroom showing me a couple of his art projects on the wall. So precious . . . talk about a moment of wanting to take one of the kids home with me!!!!

~ I was a little bit shocked back at the beginning of the month to hear that one of the third graders had been sent home for hitting a classmate with a baseball bat. (At least, I think that's what Katie said - the conversation was both rushed and hushed.) The action itself was not completely surprising - (Adam) is another one who's very sweet and hug-giving on good days, but prone to tantrums and freak-outs on bad days. But I had no idea kids were sent home. It makes sense, really, but I don't remember it ever happening when I was in school, so I never thought about it. I have to admit though, ever since I've been curious about the other times I've gotten to that class and he hasn't been there . . . I've always just assumed he didn't show up that day, but how many other times has he gotten himself sent home by 10:00 in the morning? I'm curious, yes - but I probably don't want to know.

~ It's so fun chatting with the fourth graders a little bit as they work on their math. If I could get away with it, I'd take a tape recorder to work and start my own web-based version of "Kids Say the Darndest Things" because they're always making me laugh. I like to think I surprise them too, a bit. This week in one of the groups we were talking about last week's long weekend, and that drifted into talking about summer. One girl quoted the first line to the theme song for Phineas and Ferb, I'm pretty sure just to try and impress me with the fact that she knew offhand how many days there are to summer vacation. I quoted the next line just as offhandedly as she did . . . and everyone stopped working and looked at me with wide, shocked eyes. It was awesome. :-) I think I may have achieved cult hero status by telling them that song was one of six P&F ring tones I've recorded for my phone. Good times.

~ And finally - Star Wars-loving Eric? Totally another hugger. He was in my second grade class last year, so I've spent about a full year now trying to decide if he has a crush on me, or if he's just crafty enough to try and milk the fact that he knows he's adorable, attempting a five-minute long hug to get out of whatever little thing he should be doing like clearing his desk. Last year he was always begging me to pull him out into the hall to work with him like I did the other kids, but he's quite simply too smart to need to extra help. Yesterday as I was pulling a few kids out he started begging again, saying he "just wanted to see what it was like." I laughed. He pouted. I laughed more. He giggled. Whatever class he's in next year, I hope I am too . . . he's such a character!

So there you go. Good times, bad times . . . the good generally outweighing the bad. I've confirmed what I've always thought - I couldn't stand being an "actual" teacher . . . no way do I have the patience to spend all day in the same class with the same kids! But my job? Is awesome. Here's hoping I can come back again next year!!

P. ost S. cript
So wish I'd been there for this!! Must have been a day I was working instead of hanging out with all the other Star Wars geeks . . . also - while I don't know this Darth Vader, I do know a Darth Vader.


  1. Vader's reaction is classic. I never saw it, but apparently "Darth Princess" tripped on his cape in a show some Backlot people were watching.

  2. so glad you found your ribbon! :) I would love to see it.

    I love to hear your stories about children at school... someday, I would really like to be a teacher :)

  3. Ha!!! Loved reading this... Can totally picture each of these moments!
    First- I CANNOT BELIEVE you just came right back into class like something as huge as finding your ribbon hadn't just happened!!!! I demand that you wear it this week! Book club or school...your choice. But... Add a tad of super glue this time!

    And.... "Angeline"...totally. Isn't she sweet? You know her answers are in there, now just to get them out in the right way at the right time. Story that will break your heart later....remind me.

    And..."Eric"? Definitely a crush on you, while also totally a milker. That one LOVES the attention! Have you noticed what goes on during math groups at his seat? Check it out this week...he just jumps right into Alisa's group....which is not quite where he needs to be with what they're working on!

    And "Adam"....rarely absent. Usually a friend of Miss Shelly's for extended periods of time....

  4. Ohhh- and curious on the 4th grader.... The name association isn't helping me on this one... We need more time to chat during the day!