Today was an interesting day.
I've never cried before school before. 'Til today. It was morning, I was just finishing up my morning prep routine in my silent, empty classroom. I read an email from my principal commending the staff about what great strides we're making and that he knows it has been tough on everyone, teachers and students alike. That broke me down at 7:45 in the morning. I cried before the kids even had a chance to get to me.
"You just don't know how hard teaching is until you do it. Every day."
She's not kidding about that "every day" part. One day is tough as hell, but day after day after day... forget about it.
I didn't know how far up ahead my breakdown was... didn't know when I'd need to stop for gas... turns out it was today. Before school, of all times.
I tired to salvage my morning by squeezing in some 2-minute positive little things during my prep. I smiled and joked with a kid on his way to class. I love that kid, even though he's sometimes one of the worst behaved kids in my class. I made him laugh and smile while he was on his way to class, and that felt nice.
I observed four different classrooms of my kids in their other classes. I redirected some students who were off-task and acknowledged positive behavior of other students with post-it notes.
I walked into one of 8th graders' classes and was surprised to see one of my teacher friends at the front of the classroom. "Shhhhh! Shh! Just... shush!" she said. She walked around the classroom and said something like "eyes on your own paper -- put your arm over your work if you have to so that the person next to you is not tempted to look at your paper." I noticed brightly colored papers on their desk and markers. Mind you, this was math class.
I stumbled through my first period with the support of one of the leads. He had a video camera in the classroom in order to help me analyze my teaching later. He came in and observed 5-15 minutes of all except one of my classes today and helped me redirect a student here and there in each class.
I felt slightly most confident for my next period because I knew what potholes to avoid after my mishaps with my first period. At the bell, students started streaming in and semi-quietly going straight to their seats. This was the first time that ever happened. What's going on?
One by one, they handed me brightly decorated, colored cards saying things like "Thank you Ms. Angeles for being our teacher", "I promise to do better in science class." "I'm sorry if I ever misbehaved and distracted others from learning." I would have started crying again in front of the kids if it weren't for the fact that I've somehow trained my tear ducts to shut down whenever students are around.
Things were still crazy in the classroom at times, but every outbreak of behavior was met by "you guys, c'mon! We're trying to learn here, remember?!"
Class was still bumpy, but we're making inching along in our progress -- all of us: teachers and students alike.
By the near-end of the day, I didn't have the energy to get kids to take out their homework in my advisory class. I just couldn't do it, I was so exhausted. I whipped out some science materials and played with density blocks with them. We practiced using the scale balance by weighing everything we could fit on the scale. I let them play with some disposable pipettes, food coloring, oil, water, and the aquarium that I bought for the class.
I have 13-year old boys in my advisory; I had to stifle a smile when I them busily stripping down to their undershirts and comparing non-existant muscles. They challenged each other to arm-wrestling matches in our advisory class. I walked over to straighten out their unfair matches ("Put your elbows here. Now sit like this. Don't pull your arm in towards you, that's cheating. Lock other arms. There you go."). I mentioned to one of my boys that one of my headlights needs to be replaced. He hid a smile when saying that he's replaced plenty and wouldn't mind replacing mine if I had the new bulb. Another boy overheard and assigned himself to help out. They've been talking about it all week -- "Ms. Angeles, you drive a Civic, right? What color is it? Two-door or four-door?". They've been bragging to their friends all week about replacing my headlight tomorrow.
I'd be happier if it weren't for the fact that I'm so tired. I'd look forward to the improvements that I can make tomorrow if it weren't for the fact that I'm so tired. I'm going to rest now because at least I can do that right.