Happy Teacher, Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving! For me, anyway. School's out for a week. Hooray, we made it!

I'm on a teacher high right now.

I love my students; I love my job. Ironically, I had to reminded myself with those words today. I said it in a frustrating moments out loud, psuedo-under my breath, to a class today after a student was--unintentionally--giving me a hard time. I wanted them to see that I was frustrated, but I also wanted to remind them and myself that I really do love my job--and my students.

That difficult moment was only a few minutes out of my day, though. Zooming out and looking at the day--better yet, zooming out and looking at the past two weeks--my teacher life has been great.

A few things I'm excited about:

  • There's a noticeable difference in my authority over the class now as compared to last year. That's due to many things: I use strategies like attention-getters, I use wait time until I have everyone's attention, I acknowledge positive behavior, I re-direct and correct inappropriate behavior in a firm and constructive way, and--more importantly--I've built relationships with many students over this past year and a half. Many of them have come to respect and trust me. In turn, not only do they give me their respect, they also help shape the class culture in such a way that feels respectful, trusted, caring, and positive.
  • I'm taking creative risks in ways that I'm teaching the material. I try many different methods of teaching the same content in order to try to allow different access points to the material. I am patient with students and with myself whenever I introduce a new learning structure.
  • I feel like I'm teaching students something meaningful. Today, I was upfront with my students when I told them that it's important to me not only that they learn and grow their abilities in math, but also that they improve and become better and better learners. I showed them coaching notes that my supervisor took of my teaching; I showed them how my supervisor observes my teaching and then shows me how I can improve; I told them that I am doing the same thing for them so that they can become better learners. In the long run, I hope that my walk away feeling confident in their ability to learn inside and outside of academic settings.
  • I also feel like I'm setting a positive example about just simply what it means to be kind to others and I feel like I'm being met with success. Some of my students can be rude to each other--they are, after all, 15 years old. I have a lot of talks with a lot of students about what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to be kind to one another and I've seen improvement in my classrooms little by little. 
  • At the same time, I'm learning tall lessons from my own students. One student kindly and lovingly reflected back to me a time that he felt disrespected by me when I called him out on his behavior; he even was self-reflective and forgiving enough to say "April, remember that time that I came into your class heated from an earlier class, and I just walked out? Well, I just wanted to compare that situation with this one. I wonder if you were having a bad day." I'm on my students' cases all the time; on top of that, I get bogged down by the stresses of the day. My last period students probably see the most worn-out, disheveled version of me every single day. Yet, every single day, they show up--it's a new day, one in which they're ready to try again with me.
  • I'm inspired to learn and try right now. I have a tiny notebook in which I write down all my ideas for things I want to try in the classroom. I have small ideas that I've already implemented, like a tracking system for students' classwork so that they can easily access their class notes and track their own progress with the content.  I have medium to large ideas, like having students create YouTube videos in which they teach a concept, and then make those videos available to the class and to future classes so that they can refer back to it when they need virtual tutoring. I feel like I'm starting to break free of having to learn sooooo manyyyyy millions of little teacher things--like how to use the copy machine and how to fix it when it jams, or how to set up an online grade book, or how to manage to clean up a classroom, set up for the next class, quickly tutor a student, get lunch, heat it up, and eat it, all within 30 minutes--and am becoming more free to learn and try interesting teachery things--like how to create respectful classroom cultures, and how to empower students to work hard and help one another.
OK, I'm going to stop that list there because I feel like I'm starting to gush. I could go on and on, though. I love my job; I love my students. Teachers may get a bad rap for "low pay", but I'm convinced that no other job pays you more in hugs and love than a teacher's job.

And they love me back, sometimes.

(Thanksgiving-grams, distributed by students <3 )

This one made me tear up; full disclosure, I thought that this kid hated me because I've been hard on him, he used to cut my class a lot, and I gave him a failing grade last year, so he's re-taking my class. And now, I get nothing but love from him. 



The saddest part, at times, is possibility extinguished. Gone. We imagined a trajectory; it was cut short. Who else's trajectories will be cut short? Why was yours? What's to stop anyone else's from being disappeared? I don't believe in ghosts--I didn't. When others leave, they're gone. Yours is one of the only ghosts that exists. You still exist. How? You're still laughing, still photographing, still eating ice cream. I feel this truth deeply in my bones.

Though now typically disenchanted, when I see photographs of Iceland, when I hear "Love Me Like You Do", I come to believe in the power of the universe once again because I know you're out there, somewhere.

A million miles of photo credits to MAG.