Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.
“You’ve got the job,” Mr. Reed said. “You start in February.”
My first teaching job! Fifth grade, my dream grade! I had just graduated in December and couldn’t believe my luck getting a job mid year. I would be finishing the year for a teacher who was having a baby and she did not want to return.
All the memories came flooding back as I walked into my first school a few weeks ago. I’m back working where my career started. This time I’m working with teachers, not students.
The building I taught in had been torn down. Additions sprouted from the original school. I recognized nothing in the school, but the street had not changed. I wandered down long halls looking for remnants of the previous building, but found nothing familiar. However, I did find something to make me smile as I explored.
Harold and his purple crayon
Tacky, the penguin
Charlotte, Wilbur, Templeton, and Olivia
The very hungry caterpillar and the cat and mice from Mouse Paint
What a delight to find these friends! The art teacher (who just retired) and his students were responsible for these perfect replications. Maybe he will come back and add some more.
Who says you can’t go home again? I’m right back where it all began for me.
This week, the gusting winds pushed me every time I stepped outside. I watched the trees in the yard shake, bend, but yet remain intact, no broken limbs. The howling winds and gray skies make me want to hibernate just a bit longer, even though I am surrounded by the pop of color blooming. The cold I caught two weeks ago, still hung on zapping my energy level. I’m ready to shake it off (as Taylor Swift says). If only the winds could blow it away! But this is not the day for wallowing in misery, this is the day to reflect on the week to find the blatant or hidden celebrations.
I celebrate the school I’ve been working with for the last two years. This week we had our final meeting days. Last year our focus was on reading. We spent this year developing writer’s workshop in the K-4 classrooms. A few weeks ago, I was able to observe every class for the entire writing workshop period. The teachers work at developing writer’s workshop, and they are noticing changes in their students. Is it perfect in every class? Not yet, but their willingness to try is something to celebrate.
This school promotes learning. Several grades are having a change in their staff. The new teachers were invited to our final meeting to get a glimpse of the work we have been doing. I was able to give the teachers some professional books to read over the summer. They want to know and learn best practices. Their quest for information is something to celebrate.
Since these were my last days in a school, I declare I am starting my summer break. 🙂 (This is the joy of retirement.) I do have a few professional development days popping up. I am so looking forward to Ruth coming to work with me and my fellow trainers in my town. Then of course, there is the All Write conference in June, too. I celebrate the anticipation of those days of learning.
A busy week approached: make-up days in a school, birthday celebrations, tickets to Wicked all crammed into a few days. Each event was falling into place, and there was still a bit of breathing space between events. That’s what I thought . . .
Lunch prepared, heading to the office to collect my supplies for the day when my phone dinged, signaling a message. It’s the principal of the school. “Just checking to see if you got the email with the schedule.” I respond, “I hope you mean the one where I am working in your building today.” She responds with, “Yes, but we have a half day today.”
Oh no! is my reaction. I had checked the Google doc, but it didn’t indicate what grades on what days. We usually do half days on Wednesday/, this was Tuesday. My whole scheduled crumbled.
In my perfect world, I would would work all day with two grades, go to see Wicked in the evening. Sleep in the next day, but still have time to take my mother out to breakfast for her birthday before returning to school for a half day. Finish the week out with another full day of working with teachers. This schedule did not happen. Instead . . .
I spent the morning reading/commenting on slices before leaving for my half day of school. Thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Wicked that evening. Pulled my tired self out of bed the following morning to work all day. Barely made it to eight o’clock before falling asleep. Another early morning, but at least I was more rested. Finished my make up days. Friday was a day to step back and take life slower.
It wasn’t the week I mentally planned, but it all turned out in the end. Wonder what surprises are waiting for me this week. 🙂
Sometime in the spring, I create a schedule for the days I will work in the next school year. Usually by the time school rolls around there might need to be a change or two. That makes me nervous. I worry that I might mix up dates. So far, I have not had a problem.
This week is one of the weeks changed. Originally I was scheduled for full days Wednesday and Thursday, and half a day Friday. The calendar was changed to full days Tuesday and Thursday with Wednesday being the half day.
I had just finished making my handout copies at the office when my phone rang. The number was displayed, but I did not know who was calling. The called identified herself and my heart dropped. It was the principal and her next words did not comfort me. “We have a scheduling problem.” Oh, no! Was I supposed to be there right now? Then she said. “Our person who schedules substitutes has subs for us on Wednesday, Thursday, and half day on Friday. Apparently she did not get the schedule change. Would you be able to work those days or should we reschedule?”
Relief flowed through my veins, my heart began to beat at a normal rate. I replied, “No problem, I can do Wednesday, Thursday, and half day on Friday.” She profusely thanked me for being so flexible. I assured her, it was not a problem. I’m just thankful it wasn’t a mistake on my end. Now I will have to make sure she has notified the sub scheduler of our other changes.
She said, “I don’t like this book.” There was a catch in her voice, and I knew she didn’t mean those words. She knew her heart was going to be squeezed tight as I read The Hickory Chair by Lisa Rowe Fraustino to a group of fourth grade teachers.
What I didn’t realize was how difficult it was going to be for me to read this aloud. I’ve read it many times . . . to myself, but never to a group. As I read, I avoided eye contact with the teachers, steeling myself for the emotional journey that was unfolding through the text. I had to take a deep breath before I could complete the final line.
Hands quickly reached for the box of tissues in the center of the table. Eyes filled with tears, noses sniffled as the teachers savored the words of this story.
Another teacher posed the question, “Do you still hate this book?”
Now she says, “How could I hate a book that makes me cry?”
This is the story we will return to over and over as we discuss comprehension strategies.
If you don’t know this book, find it, read it, and savor the beautiful language.
Synopsis: “Lilacs with a whiff of bleach.” Gran’s smell. That “rich molasses voice.” Gran reading stories. By these things, Louis knows his grandmother. And he knows that she loves him. But when Gran passes away and leaves notes hidden in her things for each family member to find, Luis seems to be the only one forgotten. Could it be so?
Saturday rolls around and it is time to reflect on moments of celebrations from the past week. This week I have finished all my work in schools for this school year. (So I guess you could say, my summer vacation has started. 🙂 )
I have been working three years with this one school. As I walked into the school I noticed subtle changes from my last visit in the fall. The walls have the usual art projects and student work, but there was something more.
Papers popped up asking the question What is your favorite book? Why? Because . . . At the bottom there were three teachers’ names. Lift the flap to find out. Under the flap you will find a picture of the teacher holding the book.
You will find signs outside teacher’s doors stating the college they graduated from and the question Where will you go?
The fourth grade just completed a poetry unit, so they had tables displaying their poetry books.
How can you resist this book?
Hot reads were displayed outside the rooms and even in the window of the office.
Literacy is a priority in this school.
I celebrate the literacy journey that these teachers are taking their students on.
At the end of yesterday, I wondered, Am I getting too old for this job?
- I was beat, my energy level was flatter than a pancake rolled over by a steam roller.
- My feet informed me that the shoes that were comfy and fit in the morning, were pinching and squishing every square inch of my feet.
- My back said, “Don’t you dare drop anything, because I will not willing go down to pick it up.”
- My knees are wondering why I’m punishing them.
My spirit, from deep down in my heart told me not to listen to the complainers. They will get over it. Just keep on, you love what you do (most of the time).
I’m going to have to assess what I do and how I do it. Normally, I work with teachers, providing PD during their day. Usually I model a writing lesson or reading lesson with their class, but the bulk of my time is spent with the teachers. This is tiring, but it isn’t physically draining.
This week I am spending four days modeling writing lessons in classrooms and on the fifth day I will be meeting with teachers during their grade level meetings. I have an hour in six classes each day. The classrooms are on the first floor and the third floor. I go to first floor, then third floor, then back to first (you get the picture?) all day long. Now you know why my body parts are complaining.
So I am back to the question, Am I getting too old for this job? My spirit is stronger than all the rest of the complaining parts. She tells the others to just get over it, everything will feel better in the morning. And she’s right, after a night’s sleep, all parts are raring to go and face the world. I’m not too old! (yet 🙂 )