theme for 2014-2015 {be grateful}

grateful

I drove home from my classroom last night thinking, “Wow, does the new teacher glow really wear off that quickly?”  We had just finished two grueling days of meetings, trainings, acronyms, expectations, changes, new curriculum, and binders of information that we never even got to.  I have no computer or printer in my classroom, and we didn’t (still don’t) have final class lists.  We have a new schedule and we are implementing several new programs, so I just didn’t feel like I had my bearings.  Someone suggested, “Just go with the flow,” but the thing is, there is no flow.

It was hard to be excited for the first day of school when I was so stressed out and disoriented.  This is my second year at the school and I’m in the same classroom, so how could I possibly feel more unprepared and unorganized than I did last year?  I started thinking back to what I was feeling a year ago, and I noticed one major difference.

Last year I was so grateful to have finally landed a job after applying all summer.  I was so happy to have my own classroom that it was okay with me that it wasn’t quite perfect on the first day.  Honestly, the changes and expectations that we are facing this year are incredibly frustrating, but at the end of the day, I have a job.

I’m grateful that I have a job.

I’m grateful that I didn’t have to switch classrooms.

I’m grateful that I get to work with middle schoolers.

I’m grateful that I am physically able to make it up and down the stairs to my classroom every day.

I’m grateful that I woke up feeling healthy today.

I’m grateful that my car made it all the way to school without any issues.

We eased the kids into the school year today, so each class period was only about 25 minutes long.  By the time I took roll and figured out who was here, who was lost, and who moved over the summer, we only had a few minutes left in class.  Rather than jumping into procedures, I just told the students about my gratefulness theme for the year.

1stday

I told them to remind me about this theme when I get grumpy.  And I will definitely be reminding them about it when they get all teenage-angsty.  We talked about training ourselves to be grateful every time we are annoyed or frustrated.

You don’t feel like doing this worksheet?  Be grateful that you have the ability to actually read that worksheet.

You are tired in class and wish you could go home?  Be grateful that there is a bus to take you there at the end of the day, and that you don’t have to walk.

You got a low score on an assignment?  Be grateful that there is an extra credit opportunity coming up.

We also just casually shared out things that we are thankful for in general.  This was a pretty cool way to get to know some of the kids on the first day.  Some said they were thankful for their parents, their friends, God, bacon, and clean water.  One kid said he was thankful that his sister didn’t get deployed to Afghanistan.  They were thankful for their new school clothes, and the fact that they don’t have to wear uniforms.  Every class seemed to have one cheeky little student who said, “I’m thankful that I get to be in your class this year.”  Well played, kiddo.

On that note, happy new school year!

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picture day

Today was Picture Day.  I forgot.  But when I noticed about five boys in a row wearing button-down shirts I figured something was up.  Luckily I’m still in the first-few-weeks-of-school-and-trying-to-look-authoritative phase, so at least I was wearing a cardigan.  I look like a total dork in my picture, but I figured it was just the middle school awkward-ness rubbing off on me.

I think I’ll always remember this Picture Day, though.  Technology has increased at an almost alarming rate since I last took a school picture, and the kids got photo ID cards right away.  The Lifetouch people just print them out right there in the gym!  It was very impressive.

But that’s not why I’ll remember today.

In my 6th grade English class the students were working on a brainstorming graphic organizer activity.  They are supposed to be coming up with a complex main character for the Fortunately, Unfortunately stories that they’ll be starting tomorrow.  (I’ll dedicate another blog post to that assignment soon).  I was trolling around the room, checking on students’ progress and making sure that everyone was quiet enough that we could still hear Katy Perry sing, “Ro-o-o-o-o-o-a-a-ar,” at medium volume level.  Most kids were comparing their photo ID cards.

One boy showed me his ID card and said, “I look like my dad in this picture.  Isn’t that funny?”  I smiled and said, “Yeah, funny!” and started to move on to another group.

“My dad died when I was in 3rd grade,” he added.

I stopped in my tracks.  “Oh my gosh, that is really, really sad,” I said.  “It’s good that you look like him so that when your family sees you, they’ll think of your dad and be happy.”  I don’t know how I came up with that.  I think the Holy Spirit gave me the words because I kind of wanted to just cry for him.

“He died of diabetes,” he continued.  “So I think I might get it, too.  I have to be really healthy.”

“Yes, please make sure you eat really good food, okay?  You have to stay healthy!”

“Yeah, I think he was sick because of what he ate.  Also my dog died in 3rd grade.”

Really, kid?  My heart can only take so much!  “Wow, that sounds like a really sad year.  What a combination!  That must have been really hard.”

He was very matter-of-fact about his loss and his health concerns, but he didn’t seem too shaken up at that moment.  I eventually had to move on to make sure people in other groups had something (anything!) written down on their worksheets, but his little face stayed with me all day.  I think he is eleven, and he has already faced such heartbreaking life events.  I still don’t know what it feels like to lose a parent.  I haven’t even lost a grandparent.

He reminded me that these kids have so many issues hiding just below the surface.  Honestly, most have them have faced more hardships in their short lives than I have in mine.  They deal with so much, and then sometimes I get mad at them for not getting their homework turned in.  I feel like it is my responsibility to hold them to a high standard so that they become responsible people, and they can rely on themselves.  Some of these kids don’t have trustworthy or capable adults in their lives, so it’s important to me that they become trustworthy and capable for themselves.  But sometimes I just need to give them grace.  And genuine sympathy and care.  This little guy will be in my prayers.

‘Twas the Night Before School Starts…

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I am starting this blog the night before I begin my second year of teaching.  I will be teaching 6th grade Language Arts and 8th grade US History at a new school in a new district.  Tomorrow.

I was trying to remember my first day of school last year, but it’s mostly a blur.  I dressed up and tried to look professional and stern.  I showed a PowerPoint presentation about the school behavior policy in which I spelled the principal’s name wrong.  A brave student politely corrected me just minutes before Mr. Eastman (I mean Easton!) poked his head in my door, presumably to make sure I wasn’t crying in a corner.

I told the students about myself and I learned about them when they made timelines of their 13-year lives.  I grew to love those kiddos so much and I miss my first group of 8th graders.  I truly hope that they all have a wonderful freshman year as I move on to another crew of fidgety, awkward, amazing middle school students.

Everyone keeps asking me if I’m ready for tomorrow.  I’m not.  My computer isn’t set up, I don’t have a functioning printer, I haven’t made friends with the new copy machine yet.  But I can’t wait to meet my new students.  We will be flexible and patient and begin to learn about each other.  I will try to be stern like I always do, but I’m sure I’ll break into a grin as soon as I see their round, nervous faces.

I wonder if they are as excited as I am…