And the Craziest Week of my Life is Complete!

WAAAAAAAAAH, I don’t even know where to begin. This week has been so crazy, and so busy, and filled with so many ups and downs. As always, the ups outweigh the downs. Monday and Tuesday were both rough, but the past three days have been pretty darn great. I am getting to know my students more and more each and every day and they are respecting me, opening up to me, and asking me to open up to them. I have been staying up until 1am every night in preparation for the next day. It’s so crazy to think hours and hours of preparation results in a 67 minute class period. I have come to realize that teaching is one of the most time-consuming and difficult professions in the world. It takes someone who is willing to put in countless amounts of extra hours in order to be completely prepared and give students what they deserve. Also, “co-teaching” is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Having to run everything by someone else and having them critique and change each and every assignment, PowerPoint, and quiz is definitely a frustrating reality of this profession.

I have also learned (well it was solidified, at least) that when you walk into that classroom, you need to be 110% THERE. Not just present with your actual body, but 110% of your mind as well. This leads me back to my favorite quote from Jim Elliot, and the background on my phone to serve as my daily reminder, “Where ever you are, be all there.” I’ve never heard truer words. On Tuesday, I went to class with my head elsewhere. I don’t know where it was, but it wasn’t fully with my students, and it showed. I was disengaged and my students weren’t grasping the material because of it. My mentor teacher could tell I was having an off day, but still gave me a lot of negative feedback. I didn’t dare say this aloud, but I left school that day asking myself “Am I really supposed to be a teacher?” I felt like I had failed them and I failed myself. On Wednesday, I made it my number one priority to focus myself and give my students 110%. That simple thought did it. Telling myself I needed to focus and be present, both with my mind and body, was what it took. I was on top of everything, I had the classroom under control, and my students were engaged and grasping it, acing their quiz. I realized it’s 75% me, 25% my students. If I’m not “there” with them, they’re not “there” with me. From this point forward, I’m focusing on being 110% present for my students. I need to leave anything that’s on my mind in the morning at the front office when I sign in for the day. And so far, that mantra has been golden for the past three days.

Yesterday, Thursday, I was observed by my supervisor through the grad program. My supervisor is the first person I met when I came to Southern Oregon University 3 years ago and someone who means a lot to me. She was my professor for many English classes in undergrad and I look up to her so much as a teacher. Thankfully, everything went really well while I was being observed. The kids were angels (!!!) and everything went smoothly and was rather uneventful. Afterwards she said everything went great and it is so cool to see how I’ve grown into a teacher after all these years. I was so nervous about it, but it turned out I had nothing to worry about at all. PHEW. Also on Thursday, I did what I call an “exit ticket” which is a little slip of paper that will get them out of class at the end of the day if they answer a prompt question on it. The prompt was, “I am thankful for…” and they were asked to write 3 things they are thankful for. OH. MY. GOD. This was probably my most brilliant idea thus far. It was so amazing and inspiring to see what they wrote. Their answers ranged from access to food and water, family and friends, the right to an education, the gift of having inspiring teachers, to the foster care system that gave this student a second chance. When I went home that night, I read each one and teared up. The things my students have to deal with are beyond me. I loved that they recognized the things they are thankful for and are lucky to have. Some students even tied their answers back to our book on concentration camps by writing things like “I am thankful for my freedom and a roof over my head.” (THIS IS A TEACHER’S DREAM COME TRUE!)

Today, my mentor teacher was out at a meeting all day so it was THE MISS GRAY SHOW all day. Sometimes, it’s a lot of pressure to have my teacher there with me all the time so it was nice to run the class alone today. I felt like I was better able to be myself. The kids like to laugh at my mistakes and that’s what today was about. I gave out the assignment on memoirs and told them if they were all caught up on everything, they could start drafting their memoirs. The book we are reading right now is a memoir and they know what consists of a memoir (a story of a particular significant time in one’s life) so they were surprisingly eager to get started. I am having them get their topic approved by me first and from what I’ve seen, these are going to be so great and eye-opening. I cannot wait to read the final products! I surprised my students with canceling their daily quiz and you would have though I was the dang Queen of England for doing so. My eardrums almost burst form the amount of excitement that filled the room. I instead gave them the period to breathe, catch up on work they missed and catch up on the reading. They have worked so hard all week and done so well that I felt like they deserved a break and they were so appreciative of that. Gosh, do I love them.

They are doing so well. 90% of them are acing every quiz and so engaged in the book. I’m so proud of them and all their hard work.

HAPPINESS

Side note, I walked past a couple of my students’ math class today, who are fellow metalheads and can’t believe I listen to metal, and they both saw me through the window and made a heart symbol with their hands and smiled. MY HEART. It made my day.

Another side note, I am loving my crock pot and I just made vegetarian chili in it. YUMMMMM.

VEGETARIAN CHILI

I am so ready for the weekend and I am thankful for a week filled with so many learning experiences. Next week, we will finish Night and rap up our memoirs, then we move onto poetry! But for now, this weekend I will focus on relaxing, planning, wine, yoga, good friends, and catching up on all the things that slipped through the week’s cracks.

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