18 November 2010

Lessons in Patience

So I mentioned a post or two ago that I had begun substitute teaching in one of the elementary schools here on post. Since then, I have been called almost non-stop! This week I had a class everyday; 2nd grade Monday and Tuesday, 3rd on Wednesday, and kindergarten today. I have learned quite a few lessons...

A) I am not cut out for elementary school. The insane organization included (more so in the lower grades) as well as walking the line between nuture/discipline is so difficult! I know this will be a line I'll walk even in secondary classrooms, but it's a little easier to me to discipline a sassy 16 year-old than a doe-eyed child who is just rambunctious!

B) I get frustrated giving directions 14 times...in a row. One of the teachers assigned an hour long math assignment in the book; I thought once I explained it to a quiet classroom they would all begin to work diligently. Well, turns out they don't know what diligently means, much less how to follow initial directions...I think every child asked me this question: "What are we doing?" I took a lot of deep breaths yesterday.

C) Kids learn to lie very early on! They are so devious! You learn quickly which ones are trustworthy and the ones who want to just leave class and "go to the library"...

D) Praying for patience means you will get opportunities to practice it. Literally, this morning I was reflecting on how I needed to see this subbing opportunity as a chance to love on these kids as the Lord loves them, and that I need to have more patience with them in general. So, I put on a cute teacher outfit, complete with hose (sorry, it's November and cold and I can only think about my grandmother admonishing me if I didn't wear it! ha!), a black skirt, my little black flats, and a cute cardigan. I then walked into the office, expecting to get put with 4th or 5th graders, since this has yet to happen...and then my biggest fear came true: the word kindergarten came out of the receptionist's mouth. I laughed. Out loud. Oh but this gets better.

So the kindergarten/specials (music, art, etc) hallway is getting new furniture, so all the classes had to be vacated and the teachers had to move out all of their supplies-this is a large order for them! So instead of being in their normal classroom, my class and another kindergarten class were combined in the gym. By the way, the gym is separated by a cloth curtain and the cafeteria is on the other side...this became a problem at lunch time...

In all reality, the day went way better than I ever intended! Having the other class there actually helped out, and I did have an aid. The real teachers were in the school building moving their classrooms, so they came down periodically to check in on us. I had two problem kids that were difficult to deal with, but they improved over the day! One hilarious thing: one of the kids had his jeans on backwards--and they were zipped and buttoned! We made him turn them around in case he really really needed to go to the bathroom and was stuck in his pants! Considering the craziness of the day, this kids did pretty well, especially when I said "1, 2, 3, eyes on me!" and they countered: "1, 2 eyes on you!". We worked all day on kindergarten things, like practicing our R's and N's, coloring, and doing various centers that worked with fine motor skills and thinking strategies. All in all, kindergartners turned out not to be as scary to teach as I thought!

Each class has two PIE partners (Partner in Education) who are soldiers who partner with the class for the entire year. Well, today was "Incredibly Terrific Kid Day". The soldiers brought in this huge package and handed out letters to each of the kids. We split up into groups and the kids could choose one letter for one of the adults to read. The letters were from their parents, daycare workers, the teacher, the principal, grandparents, and other important adults in their lives. The first one I read was from a dad...terrible idea. I was crying as I read the letter--it was absolutely the sweetest letter I have ever read. It talked about what a great kid he was, how he was proud of him for not giving up in soccer when many of his teammates quit, how he was such a supportive brother, and how much he loved him--does that not make you want to just bawl? The others were just as sweet--thankfully, all the other teachers were tearing up too! I'm sure we did this in elementary school but oh, it was the sweetest thing-I'm tearing up now as I think about it! And these kids were so excited about the letters--it was such a surprise for them! Their smiles were so big as they heard all these positive things about themselves! It was really neat to get to be a part of something like that.

Moral of the Story: praying for patience (or any other spiritual discipline...) leads to practical application. (Duh, I know, but it was sooner than I expected! :) )

And how perfect was it that Glee was about a substitute teacher this week?? :)

I have tomorrow off and can I say that I am estactic about that? This week has worn me out! Each day except today I have had something after school. On Monday and Wednesday, I rushed out of school after the bell rang, jumped in my car, drove to Auburn, sat through class, and came back...those were long days. Tuesday night we had a Thanksgiving dinner with all of the ESL students, which was so much fun! We had over 100 people come and some amazing food. I only ate Hispanic food...ha! One of my students is going to teach me how to make some authentic Salvodoranian (spelling?) food and I'm pumped about it!

We are headed to Starkville this weekend for one last hoorah, and we are so excited! All of Brian's old roommates as well as a lot of friends are going to be in town, and it's going to be a great weekend!

07 November 2010

New Additions!

New additions to my life, that is. And no, I'm not referring to babies, so get your mind out of la-la land :)

This past week has had a lot of new additions for us! Last weekend Brian and I trekked over to Starkville because Clay PROPOSED! And is now ENGAGED! Lindsay said yes-whew ;) AC and I hosted the after-party at her house and we had such a great time catching up and doing what we do best: entertaining, "cooking", and laughing a lot! We got to see a lot of people including Emily, who drove in from Clemson, Erin, the brothers, Paige, and a lot of old friends! We even had time to visit my the Sherrards and their precious boys, which meant playing various games of baseball/tennis/soccer/football/trains. So addition #1: New sister-in-law! I have to admit it is sort of strange to think my little brother is getting married; I think most older siblings (or at least big sisters...) can agree that while it is totally fine for me to grow up, my little brother and sister must remain as I remember them...always living at home, cute as a button (they still are :), and not becoming adults! It is so weird to watch/experience...it still surprises me every time either Clay or Emily moves into adulthood a little more; it's like I don't expect it to happen, even though I was doing the same things at their age!
Pictures of the entire engagement night are on Facebook!

Onto new addition #2: Brian started Stryker Leader Course this week! A Stryker is a troop vehicle that is sort of like a tank on tires instead of tracks. Brian could potentially be in a unit one day that uses these, so we're glad he's getting the training! He's out on the range today learning how to manuever and direct them as well as use their firepower...something he loves doing.

Addition #3 to my life: I started my stint as a substitute teacher this past Friday. There is no high school on post, so my only options are either the one middle school or six or seven elementary schools. Take a guess at which one called me first...the elementary school. Now, I love darling, precious, small children. But I cannot, I repeat cannot, teach/manage/spend 8 hours with them continously. If they were my own children, I think I'd be ok. But I'm never going to have 23 children all of the same age at the same time...Let me just recap the day for you and show you exactly why I am not cut out to be an elementary school teacher--they have just become my heroes.
I got there around 8 (school starts at 8:45!) and got into my cute 1st grade classroom and read the super-detailed notes the teacher left me. (Which I totally appreciated). I quickly texted Lydia, one of my best friends from high school who teaches 4th grade, and frantically asked her what a number sentence was...yes, I had a brain failure...I remembered a few minutes later it was things such as 2 +3 =5... The teacher's outline was broken down to the minute, such as this example: 11:23, line up for lunch. Have "teacher's assistant" (a student) pass out lunch boxes. Have the "hand sanitizer" (a student) give everyone some Germ-x. 11:28-walk students to cafeteria.

One awesome thing: they have lunchroom supervisory staff, so I got to eat in my classroom! No teacher's table for me!

The kids started off behaving pretty well, but let's be honest--I'm a sub, there are 23 of them, and 4 of them I can already tell I have no patience for...At the end of the day, I think I had 5 different students cry (all for pretty random, unseen reasons, such as "my leg hurts right here...") and one of those students was a repeat offender. I had a boy get stuck in the bathroom (the door doesn't lock, but it does stick a little), twice...I also had a few "injuries" that I just told the kids to put a wet paper towel on, one girl told me she felt like throwing up (?!?!), and the class was overall pretty rowdy...I learned this lesson for about the ump-teenth time: I must be firmer from the start. I struggle with asserting firmness in the beginning of the class because I want the students to know that I care about them and that I'm a generally nice person (unless you have an inability to stay in your seat, as one of the students did...). But, this is a very, very, very fine line to walk. Because if you're too sugary sweet, you lose them--I teetered on this edge on Friday. I also have a very hard time making those kids pull keys...partly because I'm afraid they'll burst into tears and I'll never get them to regain composure. Again, I am not cut out for 1st graders.

I had some serious trouble with a few of them, and it was a little difficult to discipline them because their names were so crazy, I couldn't remember them/pronounce them without some trouble! I of all people should be able to pronounce names...it's not like I have a degree in language with a personal interest in phonetics...Thankfully some of the kids clued me into some of the ways that the teacher gets and keeps their attention...praise the Lord for sweet kids who have mercy on a floundering substitute!

I spent a lot of my day sorting through their folders, making sure I got their homework and lunch money out and putting announcements in them for them to take home. Thankfully my neighboring teacher came to check in on me and I quickly asked her the best classroom management techniques for 1st graders...she simply said to be firm and make them pull a key...it only sort of helped me!

I basically survived the day thanks to encouraging texts from Lydia and Paige, Eric's girlfriend, who has been subbing constantly this semester! While I am going to enjoy this small little sub-paycheck when it hits the bank account, I am constantly being reminded that I am not cut out to be an elementary school teacher! Give me high schoolers with their drama, drugs, pregnancies and love triangles...this is the world that I understand--not the highly-routinized world of 1st graders! They often reminded me that I was not doing it the way the teacher did...sorry, kiddos...the notes weren't that detailed. If they were, it probably would've been 10 pages long!Onto this week...this Friday I have 2nd graders...

Probably the funniest thing of the day happened in the beginning. Only some of you will get this, simply because it's Army-related...so we did the Pledge of Allegiance and the kids informed me that I needed to turn the TV on. So I did. We missed one song, but we made it in time for the last song...it was definitely the Army song, and the kids had motions. They marched in place for the entire song, and during the line "and the Army/goes rolling...along", the kids rolled their arms and they saluted! It was hilarious--it took all self-control to not burst out laughing!

Well, that's the end of my additions for the week! Unrelated to additions, me and 3 of my friends here went to FDR's state park yesterday and went hiking! The park is about 40 minutes away and we had a great time! We took 2 of the girls' dogs and hiked for about 6 miles. The weather was chilly but once you got on the trails it was perfect. The leaves have finally begun to change so it was beautiful to walk through the woods. Pictures to come!