Saturday, November 1, 2014

Teaching in a war zone

Y'all, I can't even explain how overwhelmed and exhausted I am every.single.day. Since the beginning of the school year. I had intended to chronicle my adventures during my first year teaching here on the blog, but I have literally been too tired/overwhelmed/stressed to even think about it until now.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. The list of things I love about what I am doing is long and my love for my kids grows more and more each day. However, there is a list of challenges facing me that grows longer each day as well.

Simply put, my coursework never prepared me for dealing with the type of social issues I have encountered thus far. I cannot call parents or schedule conferences without having an interpreter available. Some of my students only have the opportunity to eat when they come to school. Some students rarely see their parents because the adults are working numerous low paying jobs to make ends meet. Most of my students do not own any books. The kids constantly fear their parents being taken away in the middle of the night and deported. I've already had two students lose a parent this year.

In the midst of these social and emotional issues, I am responsible for teaching them academic skills. Did I mention that my classroom is at capacity and supplies are laughably scarce?

I'm not saying this to complain. I'm simply writing it down because some days I can barely believe I manage to get through the day, much less a full lesson plan. I had my first official observation this past week and it went much better than I anticipated. I got many positive comments from my AP and my kids' assessment scores are slowly but surely rising.

This job has been a huge dose of perspective. As is typical for doses of perspective, it has come with quite the adjustment period and a few growing pains. My heart gets broken at least once a week and more than once I have had to simply sit at my desk during planning and offer everything up to God. I keep a rosary in my desk for just such occasions.

Despite the challenges, I try to remind myself that this is what I felt called to do and where I felt called to do it. I accepted this position knowing that there would be issues to work through and challenges to face. I try to remind myself that these kids are not choosing these challenges for themselves and they deserve teachers that are fully invested in their success. It may be difficult for me, but these kids are worth my best effort every day.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Check out my SWEET trailer!



Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Summer Writing Institute at my school. There were approximately twenty teachers there along with our principal and the presenter from the county which made for an intimate session focused on improving the way we teach writing. By the end of the two day session I had some new strategies to try and a beginning outline of my grade level's writer's workshop focus for the year.


As exciting as all of that was, it pales in comparison to the excitement created by being able to see my classroom!


My room is of the portable variety and happens to be located on a slight hill next to the school. I didn't get to see what furniture will be in my room or spend much time there due to the fact that it is being renovated. By the time I show up for pre-planning my room will be tricked out with new laminate floors (to replace the old carpet), freshly painted walls and ceiling, and new doors. I might even get new stairs if I'm lucky. :)





This is what my room looks like right now. All of my furniture is in storage while the renovations are being done, but should be back in place within a week or so. I snapped this picture from the doorway when I got a quick opportunity to look in on the progress after our session ended for the day. I've already got some great ideas for making my room bright and colorful, as well as functional, before my students arrive.


My Pinterest classroom ideas board is overflowing with all of my plans for August. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting a jump start on my school year

In just three short weeks I will report to my school for pre-planning. I plan to bring lots of supplies and ideas with me once I show up to my first official, paid day of being a teacher. Many ideas are already rolling around in my head or represented on my many classroom related Pinterest boards. Other ideas will take shape in the next three weeks as I do many different things to prepare.

Yes, even though my job doesn't officially begin until the first week of August, I'm already busily preparing for my classroom full of kiddos. I'm reading my textbooks all over again within the context of my specific grade level, I'm reading blog posts from other first grade teachers and those posts geared toward newbies like myself, and I am exploring various texts and research about best practices with English Language Learners (ELLs). I'm doing all of this so that I can be the best possible teacher  I can be at this point for my students.


I have no illusions of being Superwoman my very first year of teaching. Even with all of this preparation, I still intend to rely on my mentor teacher and grade level team for advice and guidance throughout this year. As prepared as I plan to be by the first day of school, I realize that I will still have "oh crap!" moments and times when I am unsure. Still, I firmly believe that knowledge is power. I might be able to cut down on those moments a little bit if I'm proactive. If I have a firm foundation on which to build, I will get just that much more from each "learning experience" throughout the year.


Full disclosure: I'm both ridiculously excited and pants-shittingly nervous about this year. Being a teacher has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I actually had a chalk board in my room as a little girl and I would play "school" with my stuffed animals. I created worksheets for them to complete.... and then I graded them! Now, I won't be simply playing anymore. I will be living out the role I dreamed of and hoped for so much. Part of me can't believe it's actually coming true.


Tomorrow morning I'm going to my school for a writing seminar. I'm not getting paid for it and it is a completely voluntary activity. But, I'm giving up two days of my summer to sit in a meeting and learn about best practices in writing instruction. The best part is, since I'm going to be at my school anyway, my principal is going to let me see my room! By tomorrow evening I'll know whether I have a traditional classroom or a "mobile learning unit", aka, a trailer. Either way, it's going to be fabulous!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

We gonna party like...

It's my birthday!


This past year has brought about so many changes and new things. I finished my degree, got a new dog, worked my first semester in a teaching capacity, and got my first job as a classroom teacher. Truly, this year has been full of reaching personal goals. I can only hope being 27 comes with as much excitement as 26 did.


On Thursday I had new teacher orientation at the county administrative office. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't bad! I even ended up sitting next to the new ESOL teacher at my school and had some good conversation. If she is the one working with my kids this year then I know we will all make some great progress. In addition, I learned a lot about my county and got to meet some of the administrators that keep things running smoothly. Part of me is still amazed at how down-to-earth and kind everyone has been up to this point. Several hours in a room going over paperwork could have been an awful way to spend the day, but they made it seem like I was with friends.


I'm looking forward to next school year with so much enthusiasm. It's going to be amazing! August 4th cannot get here fast enough.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Somebody Pinch Me

I am officially a first grade teacher!

On Saturday I attended a job fair for one of the local counties and was offered a job teaching first grade. It was an overwhelming experience with hundreds of people and dozens of schools in one room. Basically, it was a social anxiety nightmare. I actually had to park in a field behind the building there were so many people there.

I met some wonderful people (principals and other applicants!) and learned about some great schools. In the end, the second principal I met called me shortly after we spoke to offer me a job at her school. Each of the three people I interviewed with at that school made me feel so positive and excited about their school that couldn't help but accept.

As I said, I will be teaching first grade and I seriously could not be more excited. My school (!) is incredibly diverse and serves a population of students very similar to that of the school where I did my student teaching. I have no illusions that this will be easy, but I am literally bursting at the seams to get in that classroom and meet my kiddos. I guess I will do my best to rein it in until July. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The harsh truth

Burpees suck. Call me Captain Obvious, but until recently I did not know the evil that is burpees.

A little over two weeks ago I began a fitness program focusing on eating "clean" and working out regularly. My ultimate goal in starting the plan was to get healthy with the just-barely-in-second-place goal of losing weight. I'm not talking vanity weight for bikini season either.

Normally the term "clean eating" rubs me the wrong way. After all, I'm not eating raw sewage... It's just pop tarts, and French fries, and McDonalds. Okay okay, that last one is cutting it close. The issue is, I stopped thinking of those things as an occasional treat and began thinking of them as staples in my "super busy life" diet. After all, I have a job now. I'm WAY too busy to grocery shop or to *gasp* cook dinner. I have stuff to do. Important stuff. Like sitting on the couch reading and panicking about my never-been-to-yoga pants not fitting anymore while chugging hazelnut coffee.

After three different doctors told me I needed to do something to reduce my stress level and two of them suggested losing weight, I decided doctors were jerks who liked making people feel bad about themselves.

Then, I was talking with a friend about her recent spike in positivity and fitness and she told me about the fitness program she started doing. It involved working out every day, planning out your meals to ensure you eat the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies while also maintaining correct portion sizes. It sounded like a lot of work. After all, I'm living my super busy grown up life now. I don't have time to be all responsible and healthy.

Then I remembered she has a toddler and a full time job and a marriage and still managed to do the program and kick it's butt. So, I decided to give it a shot.

A little over two weeks later and I am amazed at how different I feel. Eating fresh, whole foods on a regular basis has given me tons of energy, my skin has never looked better, and I feel stronger. There has been weight loss too, but I feel more balanced in general and that is a better felling than any weight loss on its own could bring. Case-in-point: I can do burpees now, and plank for a full minute. It has also forced me to manage my time better. I still make time for reading on the couch and hazelnut coffee, but now it's after fitting in all of the other necessary things in my life rather than instead of them.

This Sunday is the end of my initial "challenge" period, but I intend to continue with the workouts and the eating philosophy. Hopefully it will lead to even more positive change in the future.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone is enjoying the Easter holiday! I know we are loving the slightly lazy day home with the dogs. We were fortunate enough to get to spend some time with some dear friends yesterday including our Godson. It's such a blessing to see him and all of the wonderful people who were there for some of the most important events of my life.

As much fun as this weekend has been, part of me simply cannot believe that April is nearly over. Where did the time go? How can May be approaching so quickly? Is this what happens when you become an adult? Does time speed up when you aren't looking?

So far I have not had any job offers for next year, but I am remaining positive. I'm attending a job fair in two weeks and have participated in a phone interview for one of the local counties that went well. There are definitely some promising leads being pursued. And after all, if this is what I am supposed to be doing then God will provide, right? I'm positive that this is what I need to be doing so I'm positive that the right opportunity will present itself in time. Still praying in it though.

Lastly, I'm trying to figure out what to do for my sixth graders during our last PSR session. Our last class is on May 4th and I want to give them something little as a reminder of how much they have meant to me this year. They tested my patience and my knowledge of canon law, but they also made me laugh a lot and impressed me with the genuine curiosity and desire for truth. We have food allergies within the class and I want to do something more meaningful than food. Any ideas? I'll be browsing the local catholic shops, but any suggestions are welcome!