The day after my “hardest day” I got this from Auntie Sue, my mom’s best friend since the fifth grade:
She loves you so much. She told me when you were little and when I was getting my teaching certificate that she thought of all of her babies, Caroline would be the teacher. She knew!
It was the perfect thing to get; I almost started crying on the bus to school.
My first week as a teacher. I know I need to say a lot but where do you start? How to describe something like this? Later in the week it started to sink in that I am in Mississippi, teaching, away from everyone I know I love, in a place where the standard is already set over my head, where it’s a given that I am smart, talented, driven and successful. We know that, now here’s how to apply here. Here’s what you need to know. No time to brush up on time management, on the ridiculous expectation that yes you will get less than five hours of sleep every night and deal with it. There is no time. We are wasting time. The kids are waiting. Their futures are waiting.
Urgency is not a core value here, but is. It’s in everything. Patience is encouraged but do not test it. Everything is valuable, and if it’s not we are working to ensure it is next time, or it’s cut. I love it. One may say I am drinking the TFA kool-aid. I say I am trying not to drown in it, so drinking is the best option.
Last night roommate Lucy and I were a classic demonstration of TFA. I came home from school, to-do list in hand, ready to go running as promised with Sally. I laid on my bed at 5pm, before dinner, to wait for her to get home from school. I woke up at 3:30am. Oops. I get up, out of teacher clothes, brush teeth. When I get out of the bathroom Lucy is awake. Lucy, what are you doing? She fell asleep at 6:30pm and was just as surprised to sleep so long. She went back to sleep, I lesson planned then slept around 7 until 11. 15 hours of sleep. My body demanded it.
I got two (forced) apology notes on Friday, and made a major error in my lesson. I was teaching 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication and forgot to bring down a zero. It was the Introduction to New Material, it is a crucial step. I noticed as students were adding their numbers and were thousands off. What did I do? Told students:
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a mistake on a math problem, a silly mistake or a big one. (all students raise hands.) Well, class (I am in front of the room) I need you in Active Listening Position for this (all sit hands on desks, feet on floor, backs straight, eyes on me). I need to apologize. I made a big math mistake while teaching. Can anyone look at my work and see what I did wrong?
Here, our biggest behavioral challenge, Marchello, raises his hand immediately.
You forgot the zero.
I was floored. Marchello? Paying attention and immediately identifying my mistake? Marchello, who gets zeros on every assessment, cannot sit in his seat, and was by far the person with the most checks at the end of the day and the first to write an apology? Marchello who on Thursday I had to speak to in the hall privately about behavior?
Marchello has the lowest score in both math and reading in our class. But he is smart. He knows the content. He could do it if we can get him to concentrate. I hate the immediate “this kid has ADD” diagnoses and refuse to use it as an excuse. Marchello will learn. Marchello will demonstrate mastery. Marchello will do well in summer school. He will succeed.
In our class we have a cheer that’s call and response and changes every day: Levee Bowl Academy! Where we work hard and we succeed! How many days? 14! How many days? 14!!!
Monday marks 13 days until our final exams. I need to teach better. I need to learn more. I need to make sure Marchello and the other 10 students in my class have goals and meet them. One week done, three to go.