After such a glorious weekend, I was really expecting to go back to work yesterday and feel totally in control and ready for the new challenges coming my way. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and I ended up coming home on the brink of tears and ready to pull my own hair out.
I hate feeling that way.
The first two weeks of school were absolutely wonderful. I was skipping down the hallways with a goofy smile on my face, and I felt like nothing could bring me down. I had a wonderful class, I was excited about the ideas I wanted to implement, and I had the perfect schedule.
During the morning, I taught math, reading, language arts, and some social studies. Then, we went to lunch, came back, and did some science. Then it was recess time, back for a few minutes of read-a-loud, then my plan time. Once the kids came back from specials, we still had an hour and fifteen minutes left of the day, and I used that time to go back over some of the reading or language arts, and we did some math practice stuff together. It was awesome. The kids had plenty of time to learn in the morning, and practice in the afternoon.
But, that all changed last week.
Our district has implemented a school-wide intervention time for the last hour and fifteen minutes of the day. Which I knew about since day one, and why I spent the last part of the day going over the skills from the morning and really making sure my kiddos were getting the material that I had taught that morning. I was preparing myself and them for the changes that were coming. It also gave me time to pull some kids back to my table and work with them in small groups so that I could take it back a few steps if there were some gaps that needed to be filled. I was excited about having that time of the day for that very thing.
However, it all got a little jumbled and a little more stressful when we were given designated groups of kids that we'd be working with in the afternoons. Now, the entire fourth grade (and each grade level respectively) breaks the entire grade up into groups, and each teacher gets a group of students to work with. I was given 14 kids for reading and 18 kids for math.
At first I thought, no biggie. I'll just do what I've been doing. Going over the skills from the morning and letting them practice for a while. The problem is, it hasn't gone like that at all.
Before I go on, I want to take this opportunity to make it very clear that I'm not complaining about what's going on at work. This isn't me bashing the idea, or fussing about the demands that have been put on us. It's our job to make sure that our kiddos are getting everything they need. I appreciate and understand this new idea is something for us to try to help bridge some of the gaps that our kiddos have, and help them gain and make improvements in the skills that they need to be successful. And, in all fairness, I haven't given it a chance to determine whether or not it will be successful.
But, with that said, I have to say that I am feeling the weight of the stresses that are coming with the concept. Breaking up in to groups is tough because it takes time to get the kids organized, shuffled to where they need to be, and settled down enough to get them focused on what we're doing. By the time I'm explained what we're doing, and how they'll be doing it, I have about 10 minutes of good instruction time left for them to complete whatever activities they need to do. Then, it's time for them all to pack up again and shuffle on to their next group for math time. Then, it's rinse and repeat with a new set of kiddos.
I know that the shuffling and settling won't last forever. The kids will get used to where they are going and what they're doing when they get there. But right now, it's very stressful. The kids are struggling with it, I'm struggling with it, and I want the time to be as productive as possible.. but what ends up happening is that I'm looking at the clock and trying to cram in as much as I can before the very short amount of time I have is gone. Then, when it's all over, I have about five minutes with my home class before they are dismissed for the day, and I feel like I'm barking at them to make sure they have everything they need to go home, while answering questions and giving out information that they need before they're gone.
I honestly hate feeling so negative. And that's how I'm feeling right now. While I'm a proponent of change, and trying new things, I can't help but feel like I'm being pulled in a zillion different directions. By the time the kids do leave me, I just want to put my head down on my desk and breath. I feel exhausted. And then the guilt sets in that I spent the last few minutes of my day with my kiddos barking orders. I'm tired of saying "We don't have time" over and over again, and I don't want my kiddos going home with that being the last thing they hear from me.
In a perfect world, I'd get to spend the year doing what we did the first two weeks. Where I get to keep my kiddos and we can go over the morning's lessons, again. It would a time where the kids that needed to practice could practice, those that were good with the morning's lesson would be able to play some fun learning games that help them practice previous concepts, and I'd be able to work with a group of kiddos that have been struggling or need some extra guidance one day, a group of kids that just need some practice another day, and a group that needs some challenge on another day. I'd be able to differentiate my class based on their levels and adapt accordingly as the skills changed and their abilities changed. It's quite possible that my "advanced kids" may not be so advanced during a certain skill, while my lower kids master something a lot quicker than I anticipated. But, I could monitor and adjust weekly.
And, I know that I can do all of those things with the kids that come to see me in my reading and math groups. In fact, that's what I'm supposed to be doing. But, I don't know these kids. I don't see what they're doing in their home rooms, I'm not able to monitor and adjust based on their understanding... because until they're in my room doing what I've asked them to do, I won't know if it's something they need more practice with or not.
I don't know. I know I sound like a whiney baby. I understand that my administration has the kids' best interests at heart, and they're doing what they believe to be best for the kids. This isn't about test scores or mandates or anything like that. It's truly about doing what we can to ensure that our kids aren't getting left behind, or are being promoted without the skills they need to succeed in the next grade level. I get that, and I support that. I feel blessed that I work in a school district that does care so much about their students that they're willing to try new things in order to make sure the kids get the very best education possible.
I knew my job would never be completely easy. I knew that there would be some stress involved. I knew that new ideas and concepts would constantly be coming our way.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish that life was a little simpler. That I didn't feel so stressed or pulled in so many different directions. I have and will always have my students' best interests as my top priority. I show up every day wanting to make a difference and better the lives of each and every kiddo that walks in to my room. And, I know I'm so stressed because I feel like I'm failing... that I'm not handling the situation well. It's nobody's fault but my own. I just have to figure out a way to adapt, change my approach, and do what I need to do to ensure that the time we are spending together is meaningful and beneficial.
I know I'll work this all out... I know I'll get the hang of it. But, in the meantime I just need to remind my students any chance I get that I love them, and even when I'm a little crabby... I want what's best for them.
Here's to a new day, and a new outlook. I'm going to strap on my big girl pants, and just do what I gotta do. That's why I became a teacher. And I better show everyone that I have faith in myself. Because if I don't have faith in myself, how on earth will I convince my kiddos to believe in themselves?
Have a great Tuesday, everyone!