Who I am Today

Who I am Today

Sometimes a better question to ask me of my disposition, I think who more than how. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gathered a couple a dozen little personas almost every year. Some years less than others.

Today I felt a little bit like Superhero and just your run of the mill folk, if there is such a thing. I was at one of my favorite elementary schools, right down the road from my house. I didn’t know what grade, so I was looking forward to the surprise. I had had these kiddos before; they remembered my chirp. They all do. Sometimes they call me the bird lady. My internal parakeet didn’t have to chirp that often today, but these amazing third graders listened; they had to be reminded a lot, but even adults have a hard time not talking out or side-talking.

I felt like a superhero a couple of times when I was able to combat tears of frustration. I wished my superhero power was  stretching.  Beyond flexibility. Being so elastic that I would be able to work with the  slowest student and the fastest and all the others that fit along that scale.

If I had my own school, I’d have curriculum that fit  each student. One size doesn’t fit all in the classroom, but I’ve seen it work.

Believe it or not, but my favorite teaching experience was at the Willamette Leadership Academy. Yes, this is where I was abruptly fired, but I did mend the bridge. I think.

When I walked through the WLA doors in Veneta, I had no clue what kind of world I was walking into. I was a new teacher and classroom discipline was my weak suit. Military-style school and undisciplined are not likely dance partners, but the cool part about the school is that they have a sergeant in the room who’s job is  all about discipline. Having two adults in the classroom is really the only way to go. I learned so much about what worked and what didn’t from those five years.

I learned, almost immediately after watching an out of control class, that curriculum is the backbone to hold everything together and prevent classroom misbehavior in the first place.  If everyone not only has something to do, but if it’s interesting, problems will almost disappear completely. I’d like to think that the perfect curriculum can create a hundred percent productive room.

My first year at WLA, I was shocked when I found out that I had to create a curriculum from scratch for a wide range of high school classes. My life outside of teaching dissolved as all of my waking hours were spent planning and grading. But I fell in love with the style of the school and how a few pushups can interrupt patterns of bad behavior. Mostly having an amazing sergeant, Paul. I miss you Paul! We worked together so well that we must have won all the awards for most if not all cycles.

I also fell in love with curriculum planning. A lot of trial and error. As I became a proficient  teacher, at least faster in prepping, I was able to cut down to a 60 to 80 hour work week, but my problem is that I was always mixing up my lessons, trying to figure out what worked best.

I thought that independent work mixed in with group projects worked. Bringing in small computers was the very best thing I was able to do. Finding a non-profit credit  recovery program was extremely beneficial for Language arts. For some kids, they work well in group-reading; they enjoy talking about the book. But for others, they want to read on their own and answer the questions on their own.

I wanted to see what would happen if half the class did their work on the computer and the other half worked with a textbook. It just happened that my textbooks matched the online credit classes. Worked, didn’t work, and didn’t make any difference for the class. But there was one freshman that was doing so well with the English nine class, I was having a hard time keeping up with him. I was taking the classes along with all the other kids to look for errors and to know what they were doing!

Some schools don’t like change. Word got out that I was using the online program for students outside of credit-recovery as the school desperately needed to reduce their number of super seniors and increase the low graduation rates. I had to shut it down with the freshmen. Once we were back in our books and working at a much slower pace, the cadet was back to distracting behaviors. He was probably painfully bored. Maybe I could relate with him. I don’t do boredom well at all. Makes time go so slow, which is odd since most of the time I wish it would move so slow, especially during the summer days.

Since I’m in my happy place, I might as well continue by saying if I had my own school, there would be more people in the classroom, especially in grade school. There are too many needs not being met.

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