Thursday, September 6, 2007

I like your hair

Whew! Today was my first actual 5-period day: two second grades, a prep, lunch, and then three first grades in a row. And I survived it, so thumbs up for me! (I'm a big "Give me a thumbs up when you're ready" kind of teacher.)

My internal dialogue still sounds like this: "Oh my goodness oh my goodness," like that girl in Annie, and I think I haven't yet developed a good barometer for how the lessons are actually going. During my first period class, I was thinking, "Oy, I don't know about this," and at the end of it, the classroom teacher said to me, "That was a fantastic lesson, have you ever taught before?" (Just now I had the horrible, horrible thought that maybe she was being sarcastic. It really didn't sound like it, though.) But it didn't feel fantastic; I didn't get the rush of teachendorphins I usually feel after a lesson has gone really well.

It occurred to me today that I've never spent a significant amount of time (as an adult) in an elementary school at the beginning of the school year. I keep squirming inside because the other teachers seem really strict, and I feel like I need to lay down the law. I know that I need to keep reinforcing, but when I stop a class in the middle of independent work five times and tell them to be quiet, I start to feel like I'm not doing something right and I get the urge to give up. I'm using to joking around with kids and being less of an authority figure; in the past few days I've actually felt myself consciously trying not to smile. Because, you know, first year teacher -- don't smile until December!

Another reality is starting to settle in: school politics. The teacher I do my 50-minute period with -- let's call her Mrs. Talker -- is a talker, and she likes to talk away to me about how the principal always finds one person to pick on every year and how other teachers were terrified that the math coach would become the new assistant principal and all kinds of other juicy gossip that I feel (a) kind of grateful to be in the loop on and (b) vaguely uncomfortable knowing. Right now I kind of nod and smile and make appropriately surprised noises every few minutes. On the one hand, it's so nice to be talked to by another adult that's not in that singsongy "I know you'll tell me if there are any problems with my students, Miss Brave!" kind of way. On the other hand, there's a kid sitting right next to me who wants my help practicing letters, and perhaps I should devote my attention to him, hmm?

Today during a first-grade lesson I paused to ask if anyone had any questions. In the first row, a boy's hand went up. "I..." Pause. "I like your hair!" he said.

That's not a question, I told him, but I thanked him anyway.

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