Friday, August 30, 2013

That'll Show Me!

I am so freaking happy it's Friday...and not just any Friday.  It's a Friday that kicks off a three day weekend.  Yep, already happy about a day off work.  HA!

Not for the usual reason most people like time off - they can't stand their jobs.  But, because it has been an EXHAUSTING first couple of weeks back to school, and I'm looking forward to having an extra day this weekend to rest and relax.  And soak up the fact that I will only have to stay at work until 6:15 each night next week for four days instead of five.

Of course, I better make the most of it, because the week after the short week kicks off the volleyball season...and I'll be missing my leaving work at 6:15 each night and instead getting home around 9 a couple nights a week.

I'm not the only one to be feeling some of the exhaustion.  Jelly had a pretty rough start to the day yesterday.  For only the second time in two weeks, she cried before getting on the school bus.  She only has to ride a bus from the elementary school to the primary which is a couple miles down the road.  Up until this point, the bus ride has always been a fun part of her day.  There was only one other incident, and that was only because she didn't get to sit next to her friend that day.  We've taken care of that problem since then.  She told me that she has cried almost everyday at school, because she misses me.  I think it has to do with the fact that she's not getting a nap at school.  In Pre-K, she got a good hour, to an hour and a half nap each day...and now that she's in kindergarten she gets a very small "rest" time..but it's not long enough to sleep.

I think it's just going to take her a little while to get used to the vigorous time schedule she's now keeping.  Other than being tired, she really does love school.  She spent the entire evening, last night, singing the Purple Song.  She definitely knows how to spell purple.

I had a much better day yesterday than I did the day before.  I started my morning as my happy, chipper self.  I didn't mention anything about the "social studies incident".  The kiddos, again, spent the morning working very hard.

I had my first walk-through observation, performed by my assistant principal during my reading lesson.  The kiddos were working in pairs to re-read the story we've been reading.  They then worked together to create sequence boxes of the story.  The kids did a great job...and even though I have no idea what my assistant principal thought of the activity (yet), the kids all had a great time with it.

After lunch and recess, the kids had specials followed by computer lab time.  So, I didn't have them in the classroom from 11:10 - 2:15.  When they got back, (which just so happened to be our social studies time) I figured it would be a good time to bring up the situation from the day before.  If you didn't read the post yesterday, the "incident" refers to a terrible situation in which we had a social studies lesson and I basically gave the kids all the answers to the sheet they were working from... yet, because they assumed I was just going to give them 100% for the activity, they didn't do what they were supposed to.  Which ended up in 80% of my class receiving an F for the assignment.

So I told them I had done a little thinking.  I told them that I thought I was partly to blame for what happened.  I told them that I'm not in the business of handing out free 100% grades, and I should never have just given them the answers in the first place.  

I made sure to tell them that I was still disappointed, but not just at them.. also with myself.

I then explained that they had two assignments to complete in the short amount of time before it was time to go home...questions from both the social studies and the science we'd been talking about from the past couple of days.

I wrote the assignments on the board, gave them the page numbers of the questions, and then asked them to get to work.  I told them I would be floating around to help, if needed.

They all sat there looking at me.  Confused.  

I again, reiterated their assignments and asked them to get busy.  Nothing.  So, I asked if there were any questions.  One kiddo raised his hand and asked "Aren't you going to tell us what page the answers are on?"  

I laughed.  So much for the whole spill I had just given them.  Sure doesn't take long to create an expectation from me, does it?

I told them all that I was no longer going to be providing answers, or even the page numbers in which to find the answers.  I reaffirmed that we'd discussed all of the content that the questions covered, and that most of the questions were easy enough to find the answers to.  And then I told them that there was no reason they'd struggle with the questions as long as they read each question carefully....the answers all came from our discussions that we'd had.  There really wouldn't be much looking up of anything, unless they needed to check their answers or spell something correctly.

I then assured them that they wouldn't be answering questions each time we were finished with a lesson...this was just a short review for them to complete.  When we started our next lesson, I'd find other ways for them to show their understanding.  

With some reluctance, they all finally started opening their books and reading the questions.

My honest thought from the get-go was that they would struggle.  They'd get a little frazzled.  They weren't used to this type of situation.  They expected a sheet in which to just plug in the right words, or matching words with definitions, or having to answer multiple choice questions.  The three questions they had to answer for social studies required some writing, some opinions, and explanation.  

As bad as it sounds, my point was to show them that there would be no more skating by or zero thinking involved in anything we did.  And I expected them to fail.  Not because I wanted them to, but because I had an inkling that I had already put a bad precedent in to place, and they wouldn't put any real work in answering the questions.  I wanted to show them how important discussion and participation was to learning...and that the bulk of the learning comes from those things.  Answering questions about our discussion should be easy, but I expected them to panic, get frustrated by my lack of direction in handing out the page to find the answers, and just basically crumble under the pressure of doing something like "Explain the purpose of the three branches of government".  I didn't read the questions to them and explain what each one was asking for.  I didn't give them a heads up to remind them the part of the discussion that each question was pertaining to.  I just let them be...smugly thinking that they'd be lost without me and would forever more be focused and committed to whatever discussion we had in class.

Boy, was I wrong.

The hustle and bustle started of paper being distributed around the tables, books being opened, and then...silence for a few minutes.

I sat at a table and pulled a few students that I knew would struggle with reading the questions.  I sat with each of them and read the questions to them... but that was the only support I gave.  When I finished reading, the three kids went straight to writing.  I sat there, totally shocked about them not only getting straight to writing, but knowing exactly what to write.

I watched intently around the room, waiting for the first desperate hand to raise begging me to offer some assistance.  I waited for the panicked eyes to find me, silently telling me that they had no idea what to do.

Instead, I saw one student lean over to another and whisper something.  Then, I saw that other student say something back...and a lightbulb seemed to magically go off in the first student's brain, and he began thumbing through the pages of his book.  I then looked at another table, and a quiet discussion was taking place there.  Four students were all huddled over their books, one reading from it..the others adding comments as she read.  And then they all started writing.  Another student asking the student next to her what a word was in one of the questions, when receiving his answer he began writing.

Then, as the end of the day started to get pretty close, one hand finally raised.  

"Can we take this home if we don't finish it?"
Not, Do We Have to take take it home if we don't finish it... CAN we.  

I was stunned.  Shocked.  My insides were doing somersaults and flips with excitement.  I thought about telling them that because they had all worked so hard, they didn't have to take it home... but the question had been posed much different than I'm used to receiving it.  So, I told them they could.  

I didn't see or hear one sigh, one eye roll.  I saw a few signs of relief.  I saw a few exchanges of smiles.  

Here I was thinking I was proving some major point, and instead they were all proving a point to me.  They were involved and engaged during the discussion.  They were all quite capable of taking on a challenge of answering essay type questions.  They did NOT need someone to dish out the answers for them...what's the fun in that?

Not only that, but two weeks ago, I had to basically force these kids to work together on something.  Trying to get them to discuss at their tables or assist one another was like pulling a tooth from an alligator.  They would sit at their desks, hands over their papers, giving death scowls to anyone that even thought of asking them a question or asking for help.  

And here I had just witnessed 45 minutes of cooperative learning.  I hadn't told them if they could or couldn't work together.  They hadn't asked.  They just took it upon themselves to help one another get through it.  They had discussed what the questions had asked.  They had shared answers, but not given them.  They discussed the answers, they had appointed a good reader at the table to check the answer.  And they had seemed to enjoy what they were doing.  Not only that, but when realizing they weren't going to have enough time to complete the task at hand...had then asked COULD they take it home to keep working on it.

For the first few days of school, I told them that my job was not to pump them full of information.  When I told them my favorite part of teaching, I had explained that it wasn't about getting the satisfaction of seeing them get good grades, it was about transforming them in to teaching themselves.  I gave direction, but each child in the room would become a teacher in their own right.  Each child had a set of skills that would come in handy to another student in the room.  That my favorite part of teaching was watching them solve problems TOGETHER, overcoming obstacles TOGETHER, and accepting challenges that were thrown their way.

And what do you know?  Only two weeks in, and my favorite part of teaching was rearing its beautiful head.

That'll show me, right?

I now know, that this is going to be one heck of a school year.  These kids will step up to the challenges thrown their way.  They'll embrace their own learning.  And it's time for me to start putting my plan in to action to mix up the challenges set before them....and help them feel those wonderful feelings of PRIDE, PURPOSE, and SUCCESS.

Once again: Man, I love my job!!


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