A small town girl takes on the world

Sunday, October 18, 2009

...On Getting the Hang of Things!

So, I know it's been awhile since I've posted....and this isn't going to be a long post. I just want to point out that the length between postings should indicate to you about how busy I am. So yeah, I've been busy. In fact, I'm supposed to be reading for tomorrow right now. But I thought I'd throw something up here first.

Teaching is hard. It's a ton of energy, even more time, and so often there is no sign of impact. At best, a day goes by where nothing really big happens. I've found that this is the attitude you get if you don't focus on the little positive things. So here's my amended philosophy....

Teaching is hard. It's a ton of energy, even more time, and so often there is no sign of impact. But if you really look hard at every interaction you have with a student, you begin to see big signs of impact. To illustrate this, I'd like to share a few short anecdotes. Then, it's off to bed (er...reading).

1) Thursday. 4th period. Student are ROWDY today, not sure why, but all classes have been like this today. My mentor teacher is tired, frustrated, and sick of asking kids why they're 10 minutes late to class. (Or do we even want to know?) She asks if I can take the class for just 10 minutes, so she can step out for some fresh air to recharge. Sure, no problem. Still won't settle down, so I decide, on the spot, to try something new. I say, relatively quietly, but oh-so-firm-and-disappointed, "You guys and girls can really do better than this. No, I'm not kidding. I know you can do great work, and I don't know why today it's so difficult, but I know you can do better. You know, why don't you...yeah, repeat after me: 'We will do better!'" The class murmurs, "wewilldobetter...." I say, "No, no, WE WILL DO BETTER!" The class says "We will do better!" except one student who never speaks up for good reasons, who never participates, and can't write down assignments to save his life....this student stands up and says, "I WILL DO BETTER!" I look at him, and say, "Yes! [Student], that's great, let's say THAT! I WILL DO BETTER!" The whole class, "I WILL DO BETTER!" It was marvelous, and after that they were loud but still got their work done....not sure why it worked for that one student, or the class, but it did. It made me feel great, because you know what? It shows that somewhere under that nervous, uncertain exterior, there are INSTINCTS. And that's what really makes a teacher.

2) Friday. 4th period again. Short classes today, kids are rowdy (what is it? a weather change?!). A student who is failing (at like 20%) for some reason is energized by her "role" as a physical anthropologist in the activity we're working on today (started on Thursday), and keeps calling me over to talk about fossils. She wants to know how they're made, and tells me that her family was driving somewhere and found a big skeleton of a big cat (think lynx, cougar, bobcat, not tabby or siamese). She's never spoken to me with excitement before, and certainly hasn't ever looked me in the eye. I'm puzzled, but excited too, so I chat with her about it while I can (this is a busy, high maintenance activity for the students). She leaves class that day, saying, in singsong, "Bye, Ms. Kramer!!!" I'm still puzzled, but energized by her uncorked enthusiasm. Later, I'm leaving school, and she's sitting outside waiting for a ride home. She looks up, sees me before I can say hi, and her whole face brightens. She says, excitedly, "Hi, Ms. Kramer!" I say hi back to her, smiling as big as ever, tell her to have a great weekend, and keep moving. She has no idea the start she's given me to my own weekend, and thinking back on this....I'm still smiling for her.

Those are just two of the little victories I've had in the past two days of teaching. I can't stress enough how much these matter to me, how much they keep me going. They also encourage me, because these tiny little connections I'm making with students mean that they can tell I care about them. They're letting me in, little by little, whether they know it or not. And that is a HUGE victory, because once they trust me, I will descend upon them with science! :) No, but seriously, the realization that I can be respected and trusted after a little over a month interacting with these students is quite an honor for me. When I see 5th period (who I only see once a week), I can tell the distance that is between the students and me. They still talk to me, and still know my name, but they don't trust me. And why would they? I'm never there. That will change soon, but for now I have all of my small victories to carry me!

This got long....didn't expect that! If you're still reading, thanks! I like sharing my victories the most!