This has been a strange year. Nothing has gone according to plan. Nothing has been as I had planned. It's just been a funky year. Add in new kids every few weeks, a heater and AC unit that hasn't worked right for 6+years (it blew up in August and then totally froze over 2+ weeks ago) and having to travel to other rooms to "teach" just make for a funky, funky year.
This year has me wondering if I can do this for the next 21 years. That's how much longer I have to teach - 21 years. That seems like a very long time. I have never, ever been one to toot my own horn and talk about how great I am as a teacher. In fact, I'm always looking at what went wrong. I am a true pessimist...it's what drives my hubby batty. I have felt off all year, which has me doubting myself. I don't like how things have gone, but I don't know how to fix it. I know people say not to complain about something if you don't have a plan to make it better, so I have been racking my brain to find ways to make it better. I don't know how.
Student behavior is the biggest issue we have at school. We have many, many students who can not, will not, do not follow the rules, behave, etc. They do not seem to think the rules apply to them or they are truly defiant and make it a point to do whatever it is they are told NOT to do. We do not have an administrator who will do their job to get behavior under control. There are many students who are on "behavior contracts", but all that means is they have to check in with the office staff (our admin is gone a lot) at every recess, lunch and after school and if they have so many smiley faces, they get a sticker. They earn enough stickers and they are given a reward like Pokemon cards (which aren't allowed at school...) or something else. If they are naughty, there is no consequence other than no sticker. I refuse to send my kids to the office for behavior. They do not need to be rewarded for their bad behavior. My kids who are good all the time are rewarded for their behavior and there are consequences for poor behavior. But, the ones who do not behave aren't motivated to do well, nor do they really seem to care if they move their clips and earn no reward. I don't know a good idea for the school-wide poor behavior, to help it improve. Our admin says we follow one particular "plan", but it isn't working. They have to know that deep down, but they have "checked out" and really just sit in on IEP's. There is little else going on in terms of administrative work. It's very frustrating.
I have also had the revolving door class. I have now had 7 new students this year. 2 students moved in the last week and a new one started yesterday. My newest one is very sweet and smart! It's a big change from all the other new ones. All my others came in below grade level - they all came in lower than where they should have been in August! It's hard to play catch up. The parents have all been surprised their children are low, even though the report cards from the other schools all said they were low. It feels like I take one step forward and 12 steps back. Add in that each new student coming in is an EL and the requirements for them keep changing as the weeks go on. It's hard, but we are doing the best we can. And by we, I mean my students and I.
Today, I asked my kids to do their math on their own. I realized I have been doing a lot for them. I didn't mean to, but with a new program, and I still learning what I should do, shouldn't do, etc. I wanted them to work on it on their own to see what they could do. I almost cried when all but 4 of my kids could successfully do it on their own. I wasn't giving them enough credit and when I did, they rose to the challenge. During reading time, I was listening to them read our story for the week. Some weren't perfect, but they were working so hard. I had that moment today where I saw all my hard work pay off. All my students' hard work was paying off. They were showing me what they know - and it was a lot. It showed me why I do this, even when it's hard and it's frustrating and I feel like giving up. It gave me a little extra spring in my step today. I was proud of them. I was proud of me for getting them to this point. They've worked so hard and it shows.
In 2 weeks, I am taking the week off to go on vacation with my family. I feel guilty, but this year, I also feel like I need some time away. I need time away to regroup and de-stress. I need some time to be with my family and also to miss my kids. I need to be excited to see them again. I need a little time away to focus on me and not feel like I have to decide between my sanity and my grading (which is piling up). Once I come back, I will have 6 weeks until spring break. I am looking forward to a busy 6 weeks of testing, report cards and a little fun with my kiddos. I feel like I'll be a better teacher with taking some time off. I need to remind myself that it's OK to miss school (I'll leave everything planned out, so they aren't on their own) and take care of me so I can be a better teacher for them. It's a hard feeling to get past.
I feel at peace today, knowing my kids have really made great growth. They aren't necessarily at grade level, but they are working hard and making progress, which is what matters. A lot of them have really started to become more confident in their learning which makes them work harder. It makes my teacher heart happy! 6 more days of teaching and planning and prepping and I will be enjoying the warmth of Florida. I am looking forward to a week of uninterrupted time with my hubby and daughter to relax and reconnect before getting back and tackling the rest of the school year with a refreshed spirit.
Here's to finishing the rest of the week strong and happy!