After a week of testing, three visits with and from family, and receiving my contract for year two, I’m finally starting to see the light that has been masked by the densest gray haze for what has seemed like forever. Let’s recap.
State testing has proven to be the most stressful experience of my first year of teaching. For a week straight, eleven of my 6-3 baby dragons attempted to sit quietly, sit still, and get the job done for two hours a day. Those poor kids; as a teacher who once had the worst testing anxiety imaginable, I feel for them. The best I could do – something I hoped I had achieved – was create a welcoming environment for them, smiling whenever they looked up at me with panic filled eyes, moonwalk through the aisles, and exaggerate when the booklet read “pause” during the directions for a section. They worked their butts off, and I’m really proud of them. I’m thankful that I finished my first year irregularity report-free. Although it was unnerving having so many people staring through my windows, as if waiting for my first mishap to occur (which, okay, it did occur), I did it. We did it, and now, that dumb test is in the past.. until next year.
During the week prior to testing, I spent my class periods focusing on test prep for 25-30 minutes and having the students work on their choice board activities for the remaining 20-25. To my own surprise, this method was extremely successful.. for most. In addition to having these wicked cool projects to show me the students’ understandings, I had a plethora of creations to show off during our open house.
Unique to our school (or so I think), open house occurs every spring for teachers to have an opportunity to show off student work to the parents, who typically haven’t been in since the fall for parent-teacher conferences. I can’t lie – it was pretty daunting to me to think that all of these parents are coming in to critique me and my room right after midterms went out. This could either go extremely well or horribly wrong.
In an effort to make this the most pleasant night I could, I turned on the acoustic guitar station on Pandora and welcomed parents and family members into “the gallery” of student work.
I couldn’t be happier with the reactions of the parents. They loved the chill atmosphere, and it was pretty darn cool watching every student frantically searching for their work, only to proudly shout,” I found it!”. We had a great turn out, too, which made the event even better.
To deport or not to deport? That is the question.
For my fellow teachers out there, you know how fried the students are post-testing. I wanted to do something to ease them back into course work rather than jump head first into our next novel (one that they’ve probably read before, but what the hell). So, I went the non-fiction route. I found a fantastic article in Scholastic Scope (a reading teacher’s best friend) regarding the debate of whether or not Justin Bieber should be deported for his recent actions. Can you say jackpot?! We started off with a discussion about deportation. At first, I was uneasy approaching the issue because of the number of immigrant students and ELLs that I teach daily; however, by coming from the angle of “kicking people out who do wrong and aren’t from here originally,” the conversation took a much more light hearted approach. Plus, I was able to bring in some Sandra Bullock from “The Proposal,” which is always a win.
From our open discussion regarding law – citing the United States Immigration and Citizenship Authority (so fancy) – we then read two articles on the topic, one article per stance. Upon completion of the articles, the students then identified their stances. Should we give Biebs the boot, or are we overreacting? The next day, the students took those prewriting bullet points, joined a group, and weighed the pros and cons of kicking Bieber out. What benefits are there? What deterrents are present when making this decision? The third day of Bieb week brought us to our class debate, probably the most anticipated day, and, most ironically, hump day. I love my class debates. We’ve only done a few during the year, the most impressive being whether or not we should incarcerate teen bullies as adult criminals for what their bullying can cause. They did an outstanding job with the debate. Ideas were documented both on paper and on the board, and it was really impressive to see the students trying to craft counter-arguments for their teammates while the opposing team was presenting. All of this work with Bieber brought the students to the inevitable persuasive essay regarding if we should or should not give him the boot. The benefit, though, was that they had already completed the hard work during the week. They had done the prewriting, established their stance, weighed the pros and cons, and identified the counter arguments. It was a relief to see so many have that lightbulb go off; the essay shouldn’t be as bad as they think. Shouldn’t being the key word.
As Ms. Bohemian had mentioned earlier today, there are twenty-four instructional days left in our first year of teaching. Knowing that we’re both contracted for next year makes the end so much sweeter; we can now switch gears and get back into college mode, planning units, hunting down supplemental texts, and, lord, finding ways to catalogue and organize our rooms.
Even though we’re not done just yet, it’s safe to say that it’s been an eventful year. I’m so fortunate to have been able to share it with all of my kids – old, new, and the seventh grade gems I’ve met along the way. Not many experience a first year like mine, surrounded by so much love and support from not only teachers but the students as well. It’s a gift I tend to overlook.
Here’s to the last twenty-four and the continuation of this great adventure.
– Ms. Sincerely Satisfied