Wow... this is a long time coming. Life's gotten so busy that I never published my end of the year recap from 2 years ago! I guess this really is a Throwback Thursday post... one I never posted!
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
I can barely believe that this whirlwind of a year is over. My sweet kiddos are now 3rd graders, my walls are bare, my room is clean, and now I can write.
This year more challenging than anything I have faced before but so full of learning and growth that, while I am completely exhausted, I can now look back and remember and share some of the things I learned this year.
I went into the school year feeling apprehensive yet confident and prepared that I would be able to manage my new gigantic group of second graders. I had planned and worked all summer getting ready for the new adventure so I was really looking forward to the first day of school. And then they came in. All 27 loud, and excited kids loaded with new school supplies and joyful smiles to begin another year. Before they came in, I thought my room was huge with plenty of space for all the kids with the desks groups in pods to maximize space and cooperative learning. And then they came in. Finding places for all their stuff was nearly impossible and all day I felt overwhelmed and to be honest, I was really missing my class from the year before. Change is always hard for me so I was struggling to deal with it. That first day was exhausting and it only got more difficult as the kids became more comfortable with me and with school in general.
While I had prepared a great deal all summer for the school year, there were some things that I could not predict and plan for, which completely blindsided me.
The year before there were two first grade classes and so blending the two classes into one was definitely a bigger challenge than I expected. Every teacher has her own method, style, and expectations for classroom behavior so it quickly became apparent that some of the students from one of the first grades were not used to being in their desks and having to raise their hand to talk, get out of their chair, sharpen their pencil, etc.
In addition, there were several students who could barely read and could not find pages in their textbooks. In the three years I had taught previously, I had never had students who struggled so much with these issues so those factors were definitely unexpected and added an additional challenge.
Overall academically, socially, and emotionally, the class as a whole was a little more immature and needy than classes I had before and was so much bigger that every day I was being stretched too thin. They all needed me every second and, while I was managing, I was getting worn down very quickly.
Last summer, I discovered that I have food allergies and quite a few environmental allergies as well so I have been on a gluten-free, corn-free, and dairy-free diet to prevent me from getting sick as much. But, after a few weeks of being in school, I got sick with severe sinus infections and missed a few days of school. These days I was gone ended up being complete disasters which left me feeling bad for being sick. So now, I'm sick, I'm exhausted, and feeling guilty for being sick and exhausted all the time. Since I came back too soon from being sick, the next week I got sick again.
Meanwhile, all this time that I'm trying to stay afloat, trouble was brewing with some of the parents in the class. From the beginning, many were frustrated that there was only going to be one second grade class and were (naturally) concerned that their child(ren) would not receive the help and attention that he/ she needed. Some were concerned that the curriculum was "too easy" and their child would not be challenged enough because of the larger class size. While these concerns were valid, there was nothing I could do. The parents were not upset with me... at all! In fact, they were concerned that it was not fair for me to have to deal with all these kids. To make a long story short, the administration of the school decided to hire an aide to help me and to help work with students who needed extra help. From the beginning, the administration of my school had said they were willing to hire an aide, but I did not ask for one from the beginning because I really had no idea how difficult this class was going to be and, while I was managing on my own, it was not worth killing myself.
Lesson 1 learned: Don't be too proud to accept help.
I had lots of help from my aide that worked 4 hours each day and I had a mom who volunteered to listen to kids' Bible memory verses and work on reading with them. She was such a blessing!
Something I discovered with this class is that almost every single one of them love to talk and be the center of attention. Although that did make for some difficulty when I was trying to teach a new concept, I really tried to work with their personality and channel that for good (and not evil!). I had a group of students who LOVE to share (all. the. time.) so I tried to find ways for them to share answers and teach each other as much as possible.
Lesson 2 learned: Don't be afraid to try new things. You might just stumble over something life-changing! For me this year, my new adventure this year was incorporating Whole Brain Teaching strategies into my classroom management. They work! To be honest, I am a little worried that the first time the 3rd grade teacher says "oh class" my kiddos will respond with a surprising, energetic "oh yes." I wish I could be there to see that! "Teach, ok!" was also a total hit with my class of performers this year.
With the whole situation with the parents, because, while I knew in my head that their concern and frustration had nothing to do with me, I decided to "bend over backward" to make them happy. I had explained to the parents from the beginning that the curriculum in the beginning was designed to review material from 1st grade to "catch up" those who might not have caught everything the first time around, but that things would get much harder. But since I'm such a people-pleaser, I just wanted everyone to be happy so I was constantly copying extra, harder worksheets for the kids whose parents wanted them to be challenged more. At times, I felt like a crazy person teaching my class and working with them on activities and then trying to challenge some of the kids with extra work at the same time, while my aide was working with those who needed lots of extra help.
Lesson 3 learned: You can't cater to every whim and wish of a parent. While our job as teachers is to serve our students and their parents as best as we can, catering to them is not the best way. You have to do what is best for the whole class not but sometimes it is impossible to do what is absolutely best for every single child.
After reading this, you may think that I had an awful school year but in the grand scheme of things... that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, it was hard and I was stretched beyond what I thought was possible, but I grew tremendously as a teacher and as a person. God showed me so many areas that I can improve in and blessed me with the opportunity to minister to so many kids this last year. His grace truly was and is sufficient for me. While it was difficult and did not begin, progress, and even end the way I had expected, it was truly rewarding.
And now I can cry because I miss my loud, excited kiddos, who are now 3rd graders.