Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 20 2011


It is spring break. Do you understand the magnitude of that statement? It is 80 degrees outside in Dumas, Arkansas. I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt that I stole from Caitlin in the 9th grade, paper thin, from Mackinac Island, MI. My face is tan, because Friday I spent the entire day outside with my classes. They all chose to use their class points on an extra recess. I fully fuuully support that over sitting in the dark watching a movie (though that would have been significantly nicer on my head, which was pounding by the end of the day).

But my current situation is not the point of this post. The point is it is spring break right now. Tomorrow I will board an aeroplane, then another, and the second landing will be in Portland, Oregon, to see my beautiful college best friend Valerie. This is insane, this is too insane.

Spring Break is an important landmark in first year teaching. I feel it requires some reflection.

First, my students. They did a cold prompt on Thursday, and I’ve graded two classes so far. The prompt was to write a personal narrative about a time when they were afraid. The responses are overwhelming. A few responses so far have included: going to hell, meeting a twin for the first time since they were separated as 3-month-old infants, life (which included a confessed suicide attempt, my heart broke on the spot), going outside (because of constant bullying/abuse from neighbors), roller coasters, snakes, black holes, and the dark. I am so impressed with my students.

Impressed and in awe. Often, I notice teachers catching and reprimanding things that are definitely deserving of reprimands, but that are things I don’t notice. Why? Because I almost see these kids, kids, as peers. How is that? I have so much respect from them, learn so much about them and from them, that I frequently overlook things that I am supposed to teach them. I am sure students grow huge amounts every year of school, but something tells me that sixth grade is a particularly amazing year to watch. This is the beginning of the great P word: puberty. Some students who were itty bitty quiet children in August are now boisterous, developed pre-teens.

As for myself and my classroom, I am so full of gratitude. I’ve think the single most amazing thing in a teacher-student relationship is trust. Building trust with students has changed me as a person. Sixth graders can be so mature, and so childish. I WISH I COULD EXPLAIN THIS FEELING BETTER.

I have a student who in the beginning of the year would sit at an isolated desk and rip his paper into tiny bits, talking through the entire class, taking off his shoes, and humiliating me. On Thursday he asked for TWO EXTRA PIECES of paper for his essay, formatted it perfectly, and used every kind of figurative language we learned in class. He is the one who wrote about getting beat up if he went outside. He is the one who I think trust was the single most essential part of him working in my class. I could be wrong.

I’m frustrated by how disorganized this post is, maybe I’ll attempt again in a few days, but (sigh) I can’t put into words how proud I am that I have endured and loved these seven months.

Tomorrow the custodians are moving my classroom into the new building. I will very likely be without my smartboard AGAIN for another… who knows. Probably until the end of the year. But I get a room that is clean with white walls and built in shelves. I get to have complete control over what goes into my room and where. I know that it is going to make me feel so much more permanent, like it is my space, my classroom, my students. I know it’s going to be a big mental change for the better, in contrast to this room that I moved into, where I inherited so many things I didn’t understand.

I could go on and on, but I’ll save it for when I have my thoughts more together. For now I’m going to go sunbathe on the third grade playground.

2 Responses

  1. Cool post, even if you’re not quite happy with it. What are the advantages of a smart board?

    • I addressed this question in the next post! THERE ARE MANY.

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