We aren’t in Elementary School Anymore…

Another year of teaching has come and gone. I have different  ideas, and definitely varied perspectives of education, and its faults, fallacies, and good intentions.

The year before last, I taught gifted, advanced math, and was an instructional coach. I changed schools to be closer to home, and I taught 4th grade. This year, I am an IRR teacher for 9th grade lit. A colleague asked me why I keep changing what I teach. I want to avoid becoming a complacent educator. The changes have been uncomfortable, but that discomfort fired off some stagnant synapses.

I chose to move on to high school. It is closer to home, and I love the content. I took the Special Ed and English GACE. So here I am. I’m humbled, again. The learning curve has become the rainbow colored spinning wheel when the computer is thinking..and thinking….and thinking.

I never understood the work and tenacity that writing  an IEP requires. My mentors are very kind and patient. They make corrections on the IEPs with multi-colored sticky notes. I give myself a grade on the IEP; it all depends on the sticky notes. Five or fewer, is around a C. I made an A one time, but it  was an anomaly.

It’s a big high school. It took me months to figure out which direction to head. There was the block schedule which took me a while to remember. The kids from the wrong periods showed up in my class; they were just as confused. I’ve noticed a few differences between teaching elementary school and high school:

  • I have TWO planning periods. TWO of them…not one, but TWO. 
  • They have phones. For the love…
  • I don’t need to walk  them ANYWHERE, even though I probably should.
  • They skip a lot…they aren’t very good at it. I wasn’t either, so I understand.
  • They don’t like me sometimes.
  • Some have given up.

There are a few similarities:

  • Calling parents still works.
  • They argue like kindergarteners.
  • They stall and avoid work with anecdotal stories of their lives.
  • They are awed and amazed by snow. They aren’t awed and amazed by the online learning days.

Going from 4th to 9th has been interesting. My students have struggled with literacy for as  long as they can remember. When working with elementary aged students, it seems there is more hope for them. I do get frustrated, because I know I can help, but some don’t want it. It’s too overwhelming for them, and they’ve ‘gotten by’. This year, I tried to engage students in good conversations. I tried to help them find their motivation that faded into the walls of a former classroom where failure blanketed them. They remember the struggles.  I tried to help them succeed. For some success is a making it to the end of the day. This year, students told me they weren’t smart, things are too difficult, and people gave up on them. 

We did get to some good places. We did learn to trust each other. I believe I started teaching without trying to gain trust. That was a big mistake. If they don’t trust me, then they won’t take risks; I get that.

My biggest struggle was the phones and earbuds. They asked if they completed their work if they could play on their phones. Um…no. I told them the first week of school that I teach bell to bell. There won’t be ‘down time’. They responded with looks of shock and confusion. I did use this as  an opportunity to teach situational irony. A good example would be if they came to class without earbuds and phones.

The EOCs and final exams came and went.   I watched as they faded into their usual oblivion, where tests they don’t understand don’t exist.

Next year, I’ll be teaching 11th grade American Lit.  If I expect my students to do something different to learn and grow, then I should too.