I was absent from my classroom this morning. It was a planned absence to meet with members of a district committee. I have tried to warn my students ahead of time when I know I will be gone and make sure that we have reviewed expectations for when there is a substitute teacher.
I forgot to do that this time.
I also forgot to make a post on Class Dojo to let the parents who are connected know that I would be absent so they could help their children mentally prepare for the slight change of plans during the morning.
Amazingly, my unannounced absence did not result in mass panic or chaos in my classroom. In fact, my substitute gave me a fairly decent report. He shared that a few students had a rough start to the morning but they quickly corrected their behaviour and had a good morning. It probably helped that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days the students have P.E. in the morning, followed immediately by Fine Arts (currently music). That means that the students aren’t really in the classroom until 9:30 am, which left just two hours of the morning.
So, what did my students do in class while I was gone? They practiced multiplication of multi-digit whole numbers by a single-digit number, they had a morning recess. and they had a class discussion about force, motion, emphasising pushing, pulling, gravity, and friction. In other words, a very typical Tuesday.
All in all, I’m glad that my “Oh, by the way, I’m going to be gone tomorrow” conversation that I forgot to have with students turned out to be not such a big deal. I have three more half-day absences with this same teacher substituting for me, so I am hopeful that each subsequent absence will be even better!
I feel like I have had a lot of posts this year that have hinted at frustration with my job, with my students, and with the slow progress we have been making in establishing a strong classroom community. While I don’t want to diminish those feelings, which I believe are perfectly valid and understandable, I also don’t want the casual reader of this blog to think that I am one of those teachers who blogs simply to vent.
Because I’m not and I don’t.
As a matter of fact, my blogging has become a way for me to proclaim, loudly and publicly, that I love my job and I love my students even though I am frustrated as can be with some of the things that are happening and, perhaps more importantly, not happening. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had for the past five and a half years to do what I do. This is, after all, the job I dreamed of having since I was in fourth grade. It is still my dream job even if, yes, I am hoping to eventually move from classroom leadership to building leadership as I transition from classroom teacher to building principal.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job because, again, I really, really, really do. Anyone who has ever talked to me in person knows that there are some topics that will get me going for hours on end and what I do every single day as a teacher is one of those topics. (Other topics include books, tabletop gaming, and British television.)
As the last hour or so of the annual Thanksgiving Day observance in the United States approaches, I wanted to express gratitude for the teachers, principal, staff, parents, and students who have made my job at Wiley Elementary School the wonderful experience it has been. In keeping with my blogging norms, I will not name them by name, but know this:
- My principal is wonderful; she cares, she supports, she encourages, she directs, she leads.
- My fourth grade partner this year (number five in six years) has been wonderful! We are learning together as we navigate a new math curriculum and as we change and adapt to the needs of our students.
- The fifth grade team makes me proud to say that I taught roughly half of their students. These two wonderful women (plus the long-term substitute who is covering maternity leave for one of them) are passionate about challenging their students, holding them to high standards of leadership, and preparing them for the oh-so-scary world of middle school.
- The third grade team does a great job of teaching and guiding, preparing their students for my classroom while maintaining wonderful relationships with them after they move to my room.
- The second grade teachers are a powerhouse of experience and they never make me feel weak or inferior when I come in to ask for help or advice, nor do they shy away from asking a much newer teacher (me) for technology assistance.
- The first grade teachers are delightfully wacky and quirky but they know how important their work is and they make sure their students are learning and growing every single day.
- The kindergarten teachers started at Wiley the same year I did, although one has gone from second grade to first grade to kindergarten. They are two of my closest friends at work and their passion for early childhood education amazes me.
- Our office secretaries are so patient with students, with families, and with teachers! I cannot imagine Wiley without them, although I still miss our previous office manager/secretary who retired this year.
- Our new custodian (who started this year after our previous custodian also retired and promptly moved to Florida), is great with students, smiling and talking to them but making sure they know that they had better not make a mess in the bathrooms!
- Our special education teachers are an amazing team that works hard to make sure we are meeting the needs of our students with special needs. The teacher who works directly with my students has been especially supportive of helping me find ways to increase the sense of community in my room.
- Our two reading interventionists are another powerhouse team that have worked together for more years than I can say, yet they are continually learning and improving in what they do.
- Our other specialists, such as our speech and language pathologist, our social worker, and our school psychologist, are always on the go and yet they are always ready to provide advice, counsel, or just to listen if I need to talk.
- Our fine arts teachers are amazing individuals who share their passion for music, for visual arts, and the performing arts in a way that makes each student know that the arts are just as important as academic subjects.
- Our new PE teacher has been a huge blessing to our building! Not only do our students receive a higher quality level of physical education than when teachers were doing it on our own, but he also works with us to identify ways we can improve play during recess. (And I am able to collaborate with my grade level partner twice a week every week now!)
- The other professionals who pop in and out of our building throughout the week are no less important. Whether they are working with students with specialised needs or teaching band and strings or providing instructional coaching, I see them and I appreciate them.
If not for these amazing women and men, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. They inspire me every single day and I hope that I am a positive influence on them and their students, as well. So on this day of giving thanks, to my wonderful colleagues, while I know it isn’t nearly enough, I say thank you. You really are the best colleagues I could hope for!
Teaching is a hard business. It isn’t for the faint-hearted, the thin-skinned, the unmotivated, or the inflexible. I have many days that I go home completely, thoroughly, unashamedly exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally. There are days that I wonder if I did any good, if I made a difference, if any of it matters.
But then I talk to someone, maybe a friend or a family member, maybe a complete stranger, and I am reminded that yes, I am doing good, I am making a difference, and what I am doing every day does matter. Whether it is that boy whose fourth grade teacher awakened a sense of purpose and passion or a girl who was brought from the brink of despair by an English teacher who found the right book at the right moment or the young man who was taught how to beat a drum and find a community in the marching band, teachers are making a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of children every single day.
Yet we still have tough times. We push through, we find our center, we recharge, we regroup, and we carry on. As so many have said in so many different settings, “This, too, shall pass.”
Today I reflect on the near completion of that time of year that a teacher blogger colleague I admire yet have never met refers to, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as DEVOLSON: the Dark, Evil Void of Late September, October, and November.
(I apologise to We Are Teachers and Love, Teach for snatching the image from their website; the last time I tried linking it, the link vanished and the image disappeared with it.)
I know that November isn’t quite over (we actually have a handful of days after Thanksgiving Break), but as far as I am concerned, today is the end of the longest 11-week period of the year. Tomorrow is going to be fun. It is going to be great. We are going to have fun and we are going to do great things. Why? Because I said so. I’m not going to let the upcoming five-day weekend of gorging myself on way too much pie, pumpkin, turkey, pie, more pie, and a little bit more pie get ruined by anything. Tomorrow is my day and it is our day.
The nonsense that happened today (having to call parents during the middle of a writing lesson, having to send students out of the room, having to deal with flying glue stick caps and pencils, and a host of other things) are done and over. Tomorrow is a brand new day with no mistakes and I am determined to see it end that way!
What are some of the things we are going to do to make the day before Thanksgiving Break an awesome one? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a sampler:
- Make picture frames with our learning buddies to celebrate the work we’ve already done this year
- Write thank you letters to one another for being a part of our classroom community (thank you, Love, Teach, for the idea!)
- Break out our tabletop games for a chunk of time in the morning to unplug and reconnect with one another
- Enjoy the crisp autumn air before it is quickly replaced with air that hurts
- Watch videos of Kid President encouraging us to be more awesome
DEVOLSON 2016 is done and gone; how do you celebrate the end of the DEVOLSON?