Adventures as a Substitute Teacher

david-sipress-mrs-martin-is-here-she-s-the-new-substitute-teacher-cartoon

So I’ve been substitute teaching here in the valley since September and I feel like I have experienced enough to write about it now. I’ll start by saying that it is the craziest but best job I’ve ever had. I searched for a full-time teaching position in the spring and summer and when nothing turned up, subbing was my go-to. At first, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t land a full-time teaching position with my own classroom right out of grad school, but it ended up being the best path for me for this year. Everything happens for a reason and I have to remind myself that I am only 23 and I still have a whole lot of life to experience and find my dream job. I give to much credit to my friends from grad school that went straight into a full-blown teaching job right after graduation. I admire you all so much.

I’ll give you the bad parts of the gig first. I’d rather finish with the great moments and leave you smiling, (hopefully) you know? I’m sure all of us can think back and remember having substitute teachers in our classrooms… how were they treated? Were they respected? Chances are, the answers to these questions for most of you are probably, “badly” and “no.” After subbing for a bit now, I have come to the conclusion that it’s all about how you present yourself. If you go into a classroom without confidence, authority, and classroom management skills, they can smell that like a shark smells blood and they will eat you alive. But can you blame them? You’re just a sub. You’re only there for one day and you don’t know the rules. They feel like they can get away with anything because they’re most likely never going to see you again anyway. It’s rough sometimes. But I remember who I am and never back down from everything I’ve learned in school. But sometimes, days go a little like this:

 

 

Okay, so maybe I’ve never walked out of a class before, but there are times where I walk into a classroom with every intention of getting work done and standing my ground, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. There are usually two reactions students have when they walk into a classroom and see that they have me as a sub: “YESSSSSSS! SUB!” and “Wait… YOU’RE our sub?” The first reaction is a red flag for me because it usually means they will act like they have a “free day” and they can text, talk to their friends, and not get any work done. The second reaction means I can use my age to my advantage. Before I started subbing, I thought that being visibly very young would be detrimental to gaining respect. In reality, it has worked in my favor. Surprisingly, students automatically want to be on my good side and impress me because for some reason, they think I’m cool which also turns into a level of respect and admiration towards me. In turn, they try and act as mature and well-behaved as possible in order to become my “favorite” or even my “friend.” Granted, this only occurs at the middle and high school level, but we will get to the elementary kids later, which is an entirely different story. I may never understand the logic behind this, but I am not complaining. So the first thing I do when I’m in a classroom is feel out the students’ reactions to seeing me. This can usually be a good indicator of the kind of day I’ll be facing. A third and a little less common reaction to seeing me in the room is “Aw man, we have a sub? Where’s Mr./Mrs. ___________?” This can either be a good or bad thing. It can mean that they love their teacher so much that they are sad when he/she isn’t there, which warms by heart and shows me this person much be a great and respected teacher. On the other hand, how am I supposed to lead up to that? It’s like competing in a race right after Usain Bolt’s race. Although it’s nice to hear when kids love their teacher so much that they are sad when there’s a sub, it’s still hard to compete with that and get work done effectively. But by far, the hardest part of subbing is trying to deal with students’ attempts to get away with stuff. Most of the time, teachers don’t really leave their class rules with me. And I don’t know if students know that or not, but they damn sure try and test it out. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen a student with headphones in, I ask him/her to take them out, and they reply, “But our teacher lets us listen to music!” When I first started subbing, I wouldn’t know what to say because who am I to tell a student they can’t do something that their teacher allows them to do? But then I quickly realized that 60% of the time, they are lying. And none of the other students want to disagree and tell me the truth in fear of being called a “teachers pet” or “tattler.” So after countless times of this same conversation plus similar ones involving bathroom breaks, drinks of water, cell phones, and assigned seating with the same response of, “But our teacher lets us!” I’ve developed an end-all response to all of it. I start every class with this: “My name is Miss Gray and I may do things a little bit differently than your teacher. He/she isn’t here today and there is no way for me to know the rules indefinitely, so for today, it’s going be my rules and I would appreciate your cooperation. If I tell you something that is not your usual classroom rules, I’m sorry but you will go back to your normal routine tomorrow.” And with that, I haven’t had a single problem or argument since. It has also cut down on students trying to get away with things they know they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. I’m relieved to have found a solution to the problem that once defeated me and knocked me on my ass.

Hello-substitute-teacher...

The other huge negative to subbing… two words. Elementary school. As most of you know, I went to school for middle and high school education. And I have realized this year more than ever that I made the best decision. Elementary school is a whole new realm. Sure, they’re cute and genuine (for the most part) and love to learn. But they are just not for me. I have SO much respect for my friends who teach elementary school because it definitely takes a very special person to be able to handle it. When I started subbing, I decided I would accept elementary jobs simply for the experience. Because how bad could it be, right? The result… I don’t ever want to set foot in another elementary school class again (with the exception of one kindergarten class that I adore. The teacher is my good friend and I know the kids and the way she runs her amazing classroom so it’s no problem at all.) I am not the type of person to talk with a high-pitched voice and sing songs and read stories and spend 25 minutes trying to get kids to line up. It’s just not me. And every elementary school class does things differently such as little chants to get the class’s attention, and if you don’t know this routine, you’re screwed. The room becomes pure chaos and the students don’t care what you have to say. It’s crazy. While teaching elementary school, I was punched in the stomach, spit on, called “the b-word” and put up with countless tears, tantrums and “TEACHER!!!!! HE HIT ME!!!!!-s” …no thank you. I started to become a teacher I didn’t want to be. I yelled, I was stressed and flustered, and I was rude. Then I made a conscious decision to not sub in elementary schools any more. I tried, and I can’t force myself to do something I am not suited for or meant to do. I wish I could shake the hand of every elementary school teacher and say “Thank you. Bless your soul.”

Okay, I gotta get to some of the positive stuff because I don’t want to depress anyone or re-live the bad parts. As I mentioned, subbing is the best job I’ve ever had. I am always one who loves challenges, and I (sometimes mistakenly) think I can handle anything. Although it is not as rewarding as full-time teaching and I don’t build the relationships with students like I would like to, there are still the moments that make it all worth it. On the more shallow end of things, subbing is nice because it means no planning, little-to-no grading, no pressure of standardized tests, and if a particular class is rough, I just have to tell myself “Just get through today and it’s over.” It’s definitely draining, but not as draining as full-time teaching which is definitely a much-needed break after student teaching and graduating from a one-year grad school program after 17 years of school on top of that. I know that I don’t get to build close relationships with students because I’m always bouncing around from classroom to classroom, but I still feel like I’m making an impact. One time in particular, and a time I will never forget, I was in a high school class that had a reputation for being crazy and out of control. The ladies at the front office said “Good luck” with that look in their eyes as they handed me the keys. Teachers looked at me as I walked towards the class with that same, sympathetic look on their faces. I knew I was in for a crazy day. In what was supposed to be the craziest class, I introduced myself with a smile on my face and told them the plan for the day. When they started to work, the educational assistant that was in the room with me passed me a note that said “Congratulations. I have NEVER seen them this quiet or well-behaved.” I was shocked. After the educational assistant left, I decided to talk to the class and get to the root of their unexpected good behavior. I asked them why they were so quiet and great for me and one student raised her hand and said “Because you treat us like… we’re… human, I guess.” and I saw a few nods from the other kids. My eyes instantly swelled up with tears and I explained to them that that’s how every teacher should make them feel and that’s my entire goal as a teacher. I was so thankful that they saw that in me and respected me after about two minutes of knowing me. After that moment, I knew I was doing something right and I knew that even as a sub, I can make a difference and be an ally for students who need it. I’ve even had students come to me with their problems during lunch, after school; crying about their break-up, about their home life and about their frustrations with life in general. It’s amazing how students can see a trustworthy, open, non-judgmental person in me without even knowing me. I am convinced that students can sense fake-ness (for the lack of a better word) and they cling to anyone who will listen and be there for them, even if it’s just for a day. It warms my heart and makes it all worth it.

Sometimes, students want to know EVERYTHING about me. (How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Where are you from? Where do you live? Do you have kids? What’s your favorite food?) Sometimes, I am just a ghost in their classroom and they couldn’t care less that I’m even there. I literally never know what each day will bring but that’s one of the things I love most about subbing: the challenge. And part of this challenge is teaching in all different classrooms. I’ve taught calculus, physics, P.E., health, earth and physical science, world history, U.S. history, art, computers, basically any subject you can think of. It’s hard to try and act like I know what I’m talking about, but also fun at the same time.

I’ve gone home from subbing crying and I’ve gone home with a huge smile on my face. Students say things to me that have me on the ground in laughter and things that make me want to pull my hair out. It’s the biggest rollercoaster of a job, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Subbing is definitely better preparing me for my very own classroom and in the meantime, I am able to pick up books from garage sales and book exchanges in order to build a classroom library. I am able to save up money that I will put into my own classroom because let’s face it, teachers use their own money for just about everything they need. I am getting my foot in the door in dozens of different schools and hundreds of different classrooms and figuring out what aspects of teaching and classroom management I like and dislike. I personally think subbing is a great start to my career and I am learning more than I can ever imagine. Although I was disappointed and skeptical at first, I know that this year will make me a better teacher in the end and that right there makes it all worth it.

She’s got a little bit of money and a little bit of this and it’s all she needs to live. She’s got a little bit of love and a little bit of that and it’s all she has to give.

Image

She doesn’t know how to say no. She doesn’t know how to push people away, her arms turn to jell-o when she tries. Her heart is prepared for all of the love it can hold until it explodes, and sometimes, her heart feels like it might explode. Her heart is most full when she is standing in front of forty teenagers exploring the magical places that literature exposes. The only thing she’s missing is someone to come home to, someone to share this life she has created with. She has everything else she needs and wants. She doesn’t have money or much free time, but she doesn’t need either. She jumps at the opportunity for an adventure, as crazy as it may be. She would much rather be outdoors, in the middle of the woods, with nothing but a backpack. At the same time, she is completely content curled up on the couch with a good book or watching a good movie. She found her heart in Oregon, but a little piece will always remain in California.

She doesn’t like to argue, she would rather let it all roll off of her back and go with the flow of those around her. She laughs at everything, even when it’s not the appropriate time. To her, nothing is “TMI” and those around her seem to realize that quickly. She has a guilty pleasure for celebrity gossip and reality television; maybe because that’s her escape. She always loses the game “never have I ever…” because there’s nothing she won’t try.

She has a love for the young, the old, and animals of all kinds, but everyone else often falls by the wayside. She can’t sing, can’t read music, but she tries anyway. She can memorize a song after listening to it twice, and knows the lyrics to every song on the radio or every song on any given iPod. She has a horrible sense of direction but loves to drive. She’s happiest when she’s alone, but can’t be alone forever. She believes that no one truly knows who she is, but she’s willing to give someone the chance to.

She’s learning that she’s not as “Type A” as she once was, but anxiety still hits her hard every once in a while. She talks to herself, she smiles at everyone she sees, she talks to strangers, and doesn’t understand why people are rude for no reason.

She has a love for red wine, dark beer, and black coffee. She tries really hard to like tea because she thinks it’s cool when people drink it, but she can’t unless it’s extra sweet. She doesn’t like dessert and wonders if people judge her for that. She lives off of yoga and running, and without one or the other, she would probably go insane.

She’s never identified with religion, but is spiritual. She finds God within herself, in the trees, in the sun, and in the sky. She loves learning about religion but can never see herself committing to one.

She’s perfectly imperfect and comfortable in her own skin during most hours of the day. Her emotions can be a rollercoaster at times, but she wouldn’t have it any other way because straight, flat roads are boring.

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” -Martha Washington

Image

Quotes about “happiness” and whatnot can never do how I feel justice, but it’s close as it’s gonna get. I have never truly realized the concept of creating my own happiness until now. Very few know the things I have been going through and the things I am faced with because I am good at holding it all in, but somehow, I manage to keep plugging along. The human body is relentless. This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but I know that once it’s all behind me, I will be stronger than ever. I always used to roll my eyes when people would say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but now I can finally see how this may be true. I’ll believe it when I see it, but it seems like a truer saying now more than ever. I won’t air my dirty laundry to the world, but those of you that know what’s going on will understand what I mean. I couldn’t do any of it without the love and support of my amazing friends and family, (as per usual).

For the first time ever, I live alone. I love it, but it’s really testing my fearlessness. I used to think I wasn’t afraid of ANYTHING. This is still mostly true, but this house is testing that. I live in the ghetto, for lack of a better word. I have already had a few scary instances and close calls, but all I can say is thank goodness for my pepper spray and my yappy dog. I miss Ashland SO much. Medford is definitely a whole new world despite being right down the interstate. But like everything else, I will be just fine and will use my lack of fear and my strong instincts to my advantage.

As I mentioned, I LOVE living by myself. I have a little yard to take care of, everything is mine, and I can sing at the top of my lungs and walk around naked. What could get better than that?! I have decided I will never live with a roommate again until I am living with the person I am going to marry. Life is just so much better when I can be free and do what I want.

I have spent the summer working (still at the Housing Office at SOU), nannying for two amazing families, reading (finally started the Harry Potter series for the first time), writing, running, and watching my pup grow while attempting to train him. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not taking summer classes, I don’t have textbooks to order, and I don’t have homework to worry about. It feels good, but at the same time, I feel like there’s something I should be doing. I know I’ll get used to it and that’s one beauty of teaching: I’ll always be in school!

Lastly, I don’t usually speak of myself like this but I’m going to right now. I’m a catch. Yeah, I said it. I love myself and I know that someday, I will make a wonderful wife. I have so much love in my heart and if I do-say-so-myself, I am pretty darn easy to get along with. Okay, I’m done. You’ll probably never hear me talk like that again, but I just had to say it because I’m realizing it now more than ever as I watch others around me.

I hope this post finds you well, and I hope you find your happiness while I am maintaining mine. Until next time, love and light.

Life in the Real World

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.

Where do I begin? In June, I graduated from Southern Oregon University with my Master’s degree. It still feels so weird to say that. It still feels weird to be done with school. Someday, I’ll go back to school for my PhD, but for the time being, it’s a weird feeling to have the whole world in front of me without school in my direct line of view. It’s so exciting, but at the same time, so scary. For years now, I’ve had financial aid to get me by, along with various part-time jobs. Now with financial aid obviously out of the picture, panic mode has set in. I have definitely learned over the past few weeks that I need to take each day as it comes and only think about the bills and the stress and the debt when it’s necessary. The most important thing to me right now is happiness; the happiness of my family, my friends, and myself. I refuse to let debt or stress get in the way of the most important thing to me. I know that everything will work out because it always does with a little hard work and dedication. I am living proof of that. I am so blessed to have the most amazing family, friends, and partner; I have a roof over my head, food in my tummy, a beautiful car, and everything I need. The rest will fall into place in due time.

In July, I took the plunge and adopted a baby into my life. His name is Cash and he is now an almost-3-month-old bundle of joy and energy. He is a maltese and yorkie; what they call a morkie and I don’t think I could love him any more than I do. He’s a handful and keeps me on my toes, but he is worth every second. I already can’t imagine my life without him.

Image

Last but not least, I wish I could announce it on all of the rooftops in the world: I’M IN LOVE! I’m in love with someone that has been right in front of my face for years and years. I am so lucky to have him in my life and I finally feel like all of heartbreak I have gone through happened for a reason and was worth it for this. This is how it should feel. He knows me better than anyone in the world and I can completely be myself with him. So if you’re reading this and waiting for something good to come along, keep waiting. DON’T SETTLE. Those words have been thrown to me for years, and now I finally understand. It was worth the wait.

For now, my life is on a day-by-day basis and I’m always looking at the positives in my life because there are so many.

Lights and Cards

Lights and cards,

Cards handed to strangers,

On these cards, half-clothed women,

Subjectified.

Printed on the little cards,

Like advertisements.

 

Little cards,

Scattering the strip,

People stumbling over them at 3am.

Lights surrounding the people outside,

Making them feel like it’s daytime.

 

But in the daytime, people don’t act like this.

Out of their bodies,

Out of their minds.

Bad decisions

And black and blue bruises.

 

Bruises from tripping and bruises from stripping.

Legs hitting poles as men watch,

Like children watching a circus act.

 

Dollars in their hands given to them by tricky machines,

With a side, pull-down handle.

 

When the sun starts to rise,

So do questions.

Confusion,

Strange places,

Strange faces.

 

Smeared make-up on the pillow,

The dress from last night lying bedside,

Tangled motel sheets.

 

Downstairs, the bells of those tricky machines,

Still sounding,

Poison still being served on trays,

Whether it’s the first poison of the day,

Or last night’s binge continued.

 

The cycle never ends,

The machines never shut off,

The poison never runs dry.

 

In a few short hours,

The lights and the cards will reappear,

And the bumped legs on metal,

Will turn to black and blue bruises,

While new bumps will be made only for the same to happen,

Tomorrow.

-Caitlin Gray

 

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood” -T.S. Eliot

Image

Yes, I’m alive. It’s crazy how many people have said “you haven’t blogged in a while!” when they see me. So I’m back with an update. We have started our Poetry unit! As expected, I heard many grumbles and words like “I hate poetry. It’s so stupid and pointless.” Welllllll, I think we have started to get through to them and they are finding things they like about it which is so fun to watch.

Side note: Although I definitely DO care more about the people my students become than the scores on the tests they take, I have to say that I just finished grading their final exams on Night… Out of all three of my classes, I only had ONE student not pass (and just barely), three students got C’s, and about 60 students got B’s and about 30 students got A’s! I couldn’t be more proud of them. This wasn’t an “easy” test, either. It consisted of multiple choice, matching, defining, and short answer questions. WOOOOO! THEY’RE AMAZING!

tests

But anyway, back to poetry. So we started off by watching some “slam poetry” videos which is performed, spoken poetry. I feel like this really reeled them in. They saw how dedicated and emotional people are with their poems. The first poem we watched was Gina Loring’s “Somewhere There is a Poem” :

Students seemed to like this one and realized that poetry is a wonderful outlet. It sparked a great discussion about self-expression and ways to handle stress, sadness, anger, happiness, frustration, etc… Although this was probably the “least liked” poem of the bunch, most students seemed to enjoy in and a few could definitely relate.

The second poem we watched was “Dreams are Illegal in the Ghetto” by Twin Poets. This one was a little bit different because it was performed by twin brothers at the same time:

The students liked this one (although I thought they might find it confusing) because many could relate. Many students come from places where their dreams have been shot down and they have felt hopeless about ever getting out of this city to chase their dreams. I’m glad that they saw themselves through these poets and were able to make connections.

The third poem we watched was “Knock, Knock” by Daniel Beaty. This was probably the most powerful and inspiring poem for us and they even asked me to play it again (we’ve seen it five times now):

When we finished watching it, we all said “PHEEEW!” because it was such an intense experience. This was the most relatable to students because many of them said “I can really relate to that because my dad wasn’t there for me either.” It breaks my heart to hear things like that from these kids that I love so much, but I was again thankful that they could relate to this and they were pretty darn inspired.

Next, we watched “Hands” by Sarah Kay, which had a very opposite subject “Knock, Knock.” This is the one I relate to the most and it gave me an opportunity to talk to the class about the relationship that my dad and I have, which they loved hearing about:

Through this experience, I realize even more that I am so lucky to have both parents in my life and to have their immense support. Most of my students don’t even have that. They get themselves off to school, get themselves home, make their own dinner, and go to bed without ever seeing their parents. I couldn’t imagine. So they had a hard time relating to this poem, but they still enjoyed it nonetheless.

The last poem we watched is one we could all relate to. It’s by one of my favorite poets, Taylor Mali (and he’s a teacher, too!) and he’s somewhat mocking how this generation speaks. This is called, “Like, You Know?”:

This was a good way to end our discovery of slam poetry. It was light-hearted and sarcastic and had us all cracking up. I asked the students if they think I’m in the same generation as them (which they found out my age through this conversation, dang it!) and thanks to Google, we found out that we are all part of the same generation, generation “Y.” It’s weird to be so close in age to my students but also pretty fun at the same time!

Also, I was observed by my supervisor and my mentor teacher last week and it went really well! I love my mentor teacher, but he has a hard time giving compliments. But when we sat down formally with my supervisor, it all came out and made me cry. He told my supervisor “I wish you could be here every day to see the connections Caitlin has with these kids. They adore her.” and he gave me scores on my formal observation that aren’t usually given during a first observation. My supervisor observed me and told me how much she’s already seen my grow as a teacher. I’m so inspired and so thankful that both of them see the passion I have for education and for these students.

On this same day, we had a bit of a catch-up period and some of the students went to the lab with my mentor teacher and the rest stayed in the class with me. As soon as they left for the lab, I had a line of students saying “Miss Gray, read this poem I wrote last night!” (They’re writing poetry in their free time, WHAT!?) And asking me if I have any other poetry formats they can try. I was blown away. And after that, three girls came up to me and said “Miss Gray, we don’t want you to leave.” I said, “I’m not leaving yet!” And they said “But you are soon. And we want you to stay the whole year. And then teach 11th grade. And then 12th,” followed by the rest of the class saying “YEEEEAH!” …Man, I love them. It was hard to leave my middle schoolers last term, but it’s going to be even harder to leave the high schoolers this term. I will never, ever forget them. So let’s just say that this was the best teaching day I’ve had thus far. MY. HEART.

Today, we started a documentary called “Louder than a Bomb” which follows four high school students preparing for a poetry slam competition that happens every year in Chicago. The students seem to be really into it and inspired by the fact that people their same age can write and perform such powerful poetry.

A student that I have really connected with this term through music blew me away today. We always talk about metal music, tattoos, and piercings, but today was different. I pulled him aside because he hasn’t turned in any work all term, and eventually it came out that he has a child. It’s so hard to react to something like that in a calm way. But it was a learning experience and my eyes have been opened to his life. It’s hard to imagine a 15 year old becoming a father and juggling school at the same time. We talked a lot about doing this for his daughter and for himself, and it definitely brought some tears forward. I am so thankful for this experience and for him opening up to me.

Overall, things are going so well in the classroom. I don’t have time for much else but that’s actually okay with me. I am working on completing my long and tedious work sample and I will be so relieved once I’m done. But for now, it’s massive amounts of paperwork for me! It’s cool because my students know all about my work sample and the classes I’m taking so they are constantly asking me “What part are you working on now?” I love them. One of my students also bought me HELLO KITTY STAMPS TO STAMP THEIR PAPERS WITH!

hello kitty 2

My heart is full and I love the connections that are being made each and every day and the relationships that are growing. I wonder how I got so lucky to have these students in my life. LOOOOOOOOOOVE.

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, gotta get down (AKA do homework, grade papers, go to work, and scream) ON FRIDAY!

Image

First of all, I finished watching Freaks and Geeks today before work. NOW what am I going to do with my life?! BAHHHH. (That’s the reasoning behind today’s picture, kind of like… a memorial)

Anyway, today was yet another good day, thankfully. Usually Fridays are crazy because kids are ready for the weekend. (I know I am). Today, I learned that teaching is alllllll about thinking on your feet. I told my students last class they need to have Night finished and they need to be prepared for a quiz next class. First period comes along, I have a total of 11 students in class and I usually have 37. (10 were out for state testing, all of the others caught the nasty flu). I gave students the first 20 minutes of class to finish reading if they hadn’t, or to finish their reading comprehension packet and review the previous section. I expected that a few students would finish up the last few pages and the rest were already done. As I walked around while they were reading, I noticed most were at least 20 pages away from being done. GAHHH. I thought, “How am I supposed to expect them to take this quiz if they aren’t even done?” The rule in my class is that you have to have taken and passed 3 out of 5 of the quizzes in order to even take the final exam, and my students know that. I used the analogy of a basketball player never showing up to the practices and then expecting to start in the game…not gonna happen. And another dilemma, I didn’t want to give away the ending of the book to the students who hadn’t finished it when we did our discussion. So this is what I told them: For the first time ever, we are not going to have a discussion before the quiz. If you are not done with the reading, make an attempt on the quiz. Don’t panic if you don’t know anything, you can come and retake it once you’ve finished the book. And remember that you have to take and pass at least 3 out of 5 of the quizzes to take the final, and most of you have done so. So don’t panic about this one.

I handed out the quiz and about half of them passed it. When I was in high school, and even still today, I hated when teachers would push assignments or tests back just because half of the class wasn’t prepared. So I didn’t want to do that to those who were prepared for this quiz. And I think it went as well as it could have and I’m trying to be fair by letting them come and retake it once their finished. I’m getting better at this whole “think on your feet” thing.

Yesterday, my mentor teacher gave me a book to read called Teach like a Champion. It’s basically his bible and he swears by it. He told me I need to work on not letting students “opt-out,” meaning if students don’t know the answer to my question, I can ask someone else, but I always have to go back to the original person and ask them the question again to make sure they have the answer now rather than just letting them opt-out. After reading that section in the book he gave me, I decided to try it today. I probably did it about 20 times, and every time I did it, I looked at my teacher and he was grinning. After class he smiled and said “You read the book didn’t you? Today, you’re teaching like a champion.” …DAY. MADE. For him to say something nice to me like that is HUGE. And also the first time he has ever done so. Making progress!

We had a pep rally in between my two classes and it was so much fun! My students fought over where I would sit so I decided to just stand on the side instead. There were so many fun activities and games and SO much school spirit! It’s so cool to see them take such pride in their school and get so excited about it.

During third period, I did the same thing with the quiz as I did with first period but this time, I actually had a full class of 35. I don’t really know why. But this class did a lot better on the quiz and more of them came prepared. The difference between the two classes is like night and day. My first period is filled with zombies and low participation, and my third period is filled with laughter and raised hands. I always have so much fun in third period. My second period (I didn’t see them today because of block scheduling) is somewhere in between. I have a lot of honors students in second period and I feel like they’re bored, which is something I want to work on. But anyway, third period went well and everyone participated. I witnessed many students finish the book and start to cry. Lots of tissues were being passed around today, that’s for sure. Even one of my football players needed the tissue box passed to them. As hard as it was for me to see them cry, it was also an amazing experience to see my students so moved by a story. A few students even mentioned to me, “Miss Gray, this is the first book I have ACTUALLY ever read.” AHHHH! HEAVEN. I think that’s a dream for any English teacher. I’m so glad this text moved them so much. On Monday and Tuesday, we take our final exam! The real test of knowledge!

This has been a rollercoaster of a week if I ever saw one. But it ended on a good note, and that’s really all that matters. The bulk of my unit has been complete, and now it is just up to my students to demonstrate their knowledge next week through their tests and memoirs. I can’t wait! I did it! Well, WE did it. As I was walking out of the door this morning, my mentor teacher called out, “Good work today, champion teacher!” MY HEART IS FULL.

May this weekend be filled with relaxation, catching up, yoga, and more happiness.