Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thank goodness for mid-winter break

What would school be like without vacations? I desperately needed this break (despite the fact that I already sort of had a break grading the ELA a few weeks ago). Lately I've been feeling really down about school without really knowing why. I know the constant rearranging of my schedule has been getting to me, especially because I've been working really hard to make sure my students get all they can out of our non-fiction unit and a lot of my hard work gets thrown out the window when I'm not there. I know I've been starting to worry a lot more about where my students are headed in third grade and beyond. A lot of them just aren't progressing the way they need to be, and they don't seem to share the sense of urgency about it that I do, which means that they will always be behind.

It's past the famous 100th day of school, which means it's more than halfway through second grade, and I still have kids aimlessly spinning around in the meeting area during my mini lesson, or staring blankly into space, or tearing holes in their book baggies. It's getting to be that point in the year where my patience starts to wear thin when they come to the meeting area without a pencil despite the fact that every day I patiently announce three times that we need to bring pencils to the meeting area, or when kids are carrying around two sad-looking books because they've ripped or lost their book baggies for the umpteenth time this year.

And then there's William, who receives so much of my time and care and patience, who treated me with unacceptable disrespect last week ("I read that already," he snarled as I innocently approached him with a book, ordering me to "get another one") and to whom I fear I will never get through. On the Friday before this vacation, I gave him a ridiculous speech during which I actually said things like, "I know you don't like reading, and I know you don't care about reading right now, but you're going to need to know how to read in order to live your life, and when you grow up and you can't read, you will say, 'I wish I had listened to Miss Brave in second grade!'" Uh...yeah, because prognosticating the future failures of an eight-year-old is always a successful motivator! I have definitely seen too many teacher movies in which, at the climax, William would fight his way to becoming an M reader and then thank me for believing in him all along (which, by the way, I do, but try telling William that as he puts his hands over his ears and turns his back on me).

I am already dreading my return to school and the long, dreary, spirit-killing month of March, which is punctuated only by running records and parent-teacher conferences (more gloomy reminders of how far below grade level my poor students still remain). I don't mean this to sound like I'm giving up on my students, because I'm not, but I am feeling a little depressed about their odds: If it's the middle of second grade, and you're almost nine years old because you've already been held over, and you are completely stymied by the fact that your pencil is not sharp enough to write with, and you need an incredulous teacher to remind you that there are ways to solve your pencil problem, such as (a) sharpening your broken pencil, (b) finding another pencil, (c) asking a neighbor for a pencil or (d) using a pen, then something in the system that is supposed to be teaching you to be a functional human being has failed, and I don't know whose fault it is.


Anonymous said...

The system that creates literate adults is called the school system. The system that creates functional adults is called the family. It's sad when either one fails a child.

miss brave said...

That's an interesting point, Anonymous. I've always felt that one of my duties as a teacher is to help my students become functional members of society in the social sense -- to make sure that not only are they literate, but they have basic problem-solving skills in social and school situations. Unfortunately, our school system is moving away from this belief (in my opinion).

I've never thought that it's solely the job of my students' families to help them grow socially, just as I would hope that they don't believe that it's solely MY responsibility as the teacher to help their children become literate. "It takes a village to raise a child," and all that. But what with the expectations for collecting data and so on, I often feel like my students' social and emotional needs fall by the wayside as I concentrate on their academic needs. But if their social and emotional needs aren't being met at home, can I expect them to meet their academic needs at school? It's an age-old conundrum.

peace in the classroom said...

I'm having the same anxiety about returning to school. This vacation was sooooo needed. I was also completely without patience the last week before we went on break. I'm tired of the same things. Working so hard and being confronted with the same destructive behaviors day after day and such limited improvement among my students. March is always the hardest month. If we can get through March in one piece, we can get through the year.

ms.w said...

It's true, we can't provide everything for our students, as much as we may want to. It's hard!