Skittles and Today's Successes

After school, J and R were in my classroom showering me with love. It's hard to tell if R was being sarcastic, but I think he was specifically being vague about being sarcastic as a way to be comfortable showing his love. J: "You're the best teacher. I love you, April." R: "April is the best teacher! She's the best teacher I ever had [insert vague sarcasm here]."

After school, JP singled me out and gave me props for my teaching. He said that I'm solid, that I hold the space well, and that I maintain boundaries while connecting with every student.

I'm not sure what I did (or what I do) to earn their respect, but I just wanted to jot down their words for one day in the future when I'm doubting my capabilities.

Today, I bought bags of Skittles to hand out to my students for Valentine's Day. Me being me, though, I couldn't just give them Skittles for nothing. I told them that it was for a lab activity. They had to balance chemical equations using different colors of Skittles to represent atoms. Here were some of the highlights of the activity:

-JG wanting to stay past the end of class to finish the HARDEST balancing chemical equation problem
-...and JG helping MS with her equations. JG adores helping other students out; he's also usually the least engaged. MS usually gets 100s on her quizzes; she often asks for help and enjoys being helped, so it was nice to see them work together and to change up "status" in the classroom.
-FS, at the end of his period, "can I stay in here and work out the last problems? I can get a note from my teacher. I really want to figure this out."
-JDT understanding every single problem, volunteering answers, and asking for help. He even finished the assignment.
-CM helping AG during F block; they bicker and they both test my patience sometimes (off task, side talk, messing around), but they were really engaged with their assignment and were great about helping each other!
-AG saying "why do you always teach us so many ways to do the same thing?". Even though she may not realize that I do it to give students many different entry points for the same content.
-Just generally students loving getting candy and thanking me for candy (though I wasn't intentionally buying their love, I'm pretty sure I did anyway).


I am NOT building bridges that span between interest, prior knowledge, zone of proximal development, personal relevance, current events, social justice, the SATs/ACTs, state standards, literacy growth, preparation "not just to college, but through college" and/or career.

Creature comforts = French fries + Fridays + wandering purposelessly through Target
I've been feeling poopy lately. It's not so much that I'm stuck in a rut--I just needed to break the pattern.

To that end, this week, I woke up earlier, started work earlier, and escaped work earlier. As a result, my time in the evening has felt so spacious--In three consecutive evenings, I've read, binge watched a show, did yoga, meditated, cooked, hung out with the fams, and hey, check me out now! I'm blogging.

For the past couple of months, I'd felt like I was spinning my wheels and running on an empty tank, without actually doing anything productive. I felt like I was on no one's radar and doing a crappy job. Come 3:30 each afternoon, I'd felt like I managed to escape another day by the skin of my teeth--woohoo, no adults called me out on my bad lesson, and no youth revolted strongly enough to call me out on my not-good-enough lesson. Good for me, bad for the kids.

For hours after work and on the weekends, I'd grade and grade and grade. I'd grade homework and classwork and quizzes and tests ranging from "hey, great, you copied notes verbatim what I wrote on the board, full marks!" to "you came with 5 minutes left in class and scribbled illegible work with a marker, 1 point!" to "you tried your best and got half of one problem right, so, um, yay you got half of one problem right! and what a joy it is when we have room to improve." to "100% on the quiz... again... and 105% on the unit test... I wish I could challenge you more, but I can barely catch my breath, let alone differentiate appropriately..."

And also, let's not forget that I wrote the quiz and the test and the classwork so that they'd all align to whatever Chemistry I thought was important to know in the way that I thought it was important to know it, and then I conveyed it in what I thought was an understandable way, or at least, I understand it that way, so what do you mean you 'don't understand the homework'? what do you mean 'the test was too hard'? it's exactly what we went over in class! what do you mean you weren't in class because the class was simultaneously too boring and too challenging and less important than that phone call you had to take for a half an hour in the hallway?

And likewise, let's also not forget, I planned and prepared those same lessons to the best of my limited ability and knowledge and experience, in the half hour I had between 2nd period and 4 period, between helping another student, and looking for paper, and cleaning a spill, and praying to the Wi-Fi gods to please, please, please connect...

...Wait, you mean to tell me, that I worked oh-so-hard for the 30 whole minutes I had to type up a warm-up, a worksheet, and an exit ticket--to scrounge the closet for extra pencils and a stapler, to scurry quiet-as-a-mouse in an occupied classroom to prep labware and scales and ziploc baggies and potassium chloride and lithium carbonate and magnesium sulfate--for a lesson that didn't build a bridge that spanned between your interest, your prior knowledge, your zone of proximal development, your life's relevance, current events, social justice, the SATs/ACTs, state standards, literacy growth, your preparation "not just to college, but through college" and/or career?

*cue mini panic attack... for the second time this week*

At worst, I'm running in a hamster wheel, churning out warm-ups and worksheets with irrelevant formulas and Lewis dot structures.

At best, I'm entertaining and caring for and encouraging and keeping kids in class and pushing other wandering kids out of my class and checking up on a kid after they've run out of the room to vomit and discerning whether the shouting in the hall is a fight or a party and listening to a kid vent over lunch or before school or after school and sparking a love for Chemistry, if not a love for a challenge, and witnessing the joy that comes with the taste of success after weeks of academic struggle.

This is fine. I'm fine. Things are good. Things are mostly good.