Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Too much?

Something happened today that really made me reflect -- really made me stand back and consider some important factors.

I pride myself in being a rigorous teacher. My classroom expectations are high -- and usually, my students rise to them. People who do not work with kindergartners on a daily basis are always amazed by what they can do!  As I always tell my students' parents, most of the time, if you expect a lot of children, and provide them the support they need, they will rise to your expectations! 

My district is well-known for high standards in academics. Our "kindergarten" is truly like first grade in some places! By the end of the year, my students are readers and writers -- they are problem-solvers -- they are self-motivated for learning. I am so proud of my students everyday. They're daily achievements are milestones in my eyes.

But, today, I had an eye-opening reflection... and it's got me thinking.

I have a challenging class this year. But I love them dearly! I know that this year, they will make me a better teacher with more strategies up my sleeve, and as I always say, "I'll take them how they are!" I accept each of my students for the little people they are, and we "work with what we got!" Each one of them start at a different point, and will progress to a different point. We are all learning, growing, and changing. But, my little ones are a challenge this year. :)

I've had to pull out every trick up my sleeve this year -- every tool in my toolbox. At the end of the day, I am exhausted... to say the least! I love my job and extract endless joy from my career, but it definitely isn't easy.
Well, today, we had a special drill planned for the afternoon. Instead of our intense writing, math, and social studies routine after lunch, our schedule was altered. We would be walking to a nearby park -- and with this being planned for right after lunch, I was a little worried about getting everyone to the bathroom. So, we watched a "story" (animated storybook) right after lunch while everyone had a quick bathroom break. With our remaining 15 minutes before the drill, I read a book and the students decorated folders for their parents to bring home papers from this week's conferences. 

As I was helping a student write her name on her folder, I took quick look around the room. Every single one of my students was concentrated on their folder. Some drew dinosaurs, some drew butterflies, some even wrote "mom," "dad," or "my folder." But, the true surprise was that every one of my students was in their seat, working hard -- and it was nearly effortless. I saw students using their letter knowledge in meaningful and authentic ways. 

It made me think... is this the problem? Are we pushing them too hard? Are we trying to fit too much into one day? We added 30 minutes to the school day this year... how much of that is playing into this challenging year? 

I have no intention of "lowering my standards" or expecting less from my students. Rigor is the foundation to a successful, engaging classroom. We will still be readers, we will still be writers. But, this moment today makes me sit back and think of some ways I can give my kids breaks. Alongside academics... in what ways can I encourage my kids to just be kids? What can I do to help my students be more successful with this exhausting day? If I am exhausted at the end of the day... how are my five-year-olds feeling? And most importantly... sometimes I just need to stop and look around. And reflect.

And that is the best part about being a teacher -- constantly reflecting, changing, and adapting to be the best I can be!

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