Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Breath in the Midst of Teaching

A stack of student papers is sitting by me, waiting to be graded, but for the first time since I started teaching on September 3, I feel like I might have enough time and enough energy to write a blog before I tackle the school work. I'm finally getting my feet back on the ground after reeling through the first few weeks of teaching. I'm beginning to re-discover that a pot of tea drunk all by myself with a book is an incredible delight, and I'm beginning to think about what book I'm going to read next, also an incredible delight. If I have enough time to think those thoughts, I decided I have enough time to write a blog. It's been a loooooooooong time since I've written anything here, though, to the point where I think to myself, Where to start? Where to start? 

We are adjusting to life in an apartment complex, surrounded by people who like loud music. Maybe not surrounded, exactly, but the neighbors below us vibrate our floors with their music on occasion and the neighbors next to us like their speakers too. I'm a woefully light sleeper, so our bedroom has become a white noise factory of late. The fan on overhead creates a pleasant hum. The white noise track Mark created for me sounds like heavy rain or clapping depending on what I'm dreaming about, and the bass track he added to the heavy rain white noise track makes me feel like a train is running by our window all night long. I'm just that neurotic about noises that I need different tones of white noise to effectively dull the various sounds we hear in our bedroom at night.

Teaching the last three weeks has been a roller coaster. I think the next time I blog, I will write a little bit about the personalities of my kids. That's the fun part of teaching so far: getting to know each of the kids and what makes them excited or frustrated, how to calm the impulsive ones down when they make bad choices, how to make them smile. But I'm only just starting to see their personalities. Up until a few kids were switched out of my classroom on Thursday morning, all it felt like I was doing was managing one large, loud, disobedient group.

Here is what my day looked like before my class was brought down to a more manageable size:

4:45am - Wake up before the alarm, worrying about today.
5:05am - Get up, shower. Get ready. Eat breakfast. Read the Bible. Say desperate prayers.
6:05am - Drive to school. Say more desperate prayers.
7:15am - Students arrive. No time for praying. Crowd control.
8:00am - Start lining students up to go to breakfast. Feelings of frustration.
8:35am - Return from breakfast, frazzled by the difficulty of lining students up who are hyped up on sugar from their 'nutritious' breakfast.
9:00am - Math. Technically. In reality, crowd control. Maybe yell a little. Finish about half of the math lesson.
10:05am - Oops. Missed science time due to crowd control and discipline issues. Line students up for lunch. Even more challenging than lining them up for breakfast.
10:35am - Late for lunch. Defeated, leading loud and energetic children down the hall to the lunch room.
10:50am - Take a deep breath. Begin to line up students who are done eating.
11:05am - Return to classroom. Spend a few minutes doing calendar math activities. Spend many more minutes managing the group, giving out consequences and trying to be heard.
11:30am - Reading lesson. Also, crowd control. Also, trying to get kids to work on reading and not get out of their seats.
12:00pm - Arabic or Gym class. If Arabic, leave classroom so Arabic teacher can come in and teach. If Gym, lead kids to bus. Take deep breaths. Cry, maybe. Try to eat. Fail to eat. Organize materials for the rest of the day.
1:00pm - Arabic or Gym finished. If Arabic, students are mentally 'done' and need an active sort of brain break. Try to finish reading lesson. Attempt 'silent' reading. Ha.
1:45pm - Recess time. Most likely miss most of recess time because students are too excited to line up quietly.
2:00pm - Put on 10 minutes of Magic School Bus video for students to watch while they collect their backpacks, homework, and get ready to go out to the buses.
2:15pm - Frantically try to keep track of 29 children in the crush of bodies. Try to get the right kids on the 13 different buses.
2:30pm - Hand last child off to parents. Take a drink of water. (Have I drunk any water yet today? Can't remember.) Head to one of many staff meetings.
3:30pm - Put classroom back in order. Begin to make plans for tomorrow. Maybe cry a little.
5:30 or 6:00pm - Head home. Cry on Mark's shoulder. Try to eat supper. Succeed slightly.
6:30pm - Work on planning lessons. Try to figure out what will work to get class to relax, stop chattering, and listen.
9:00pm - Go to bed, exhausted.
10:30pm - Fall asleep after tossing and turning. Music starts up through the wall. Wake up. Lie there feeling angry and exhausted.
11:30pm - Music stops. Fall asleep for real.

Thankfully, since Thursday, there has been a lot less crying in my day. And since talking to my neighbors, there hasn't been much in the way of loud music at 10:30 at night. And as I mentioned above, things are looking up for my class now that I don't have quite so many students. In my next blog, whenever that is, I will spend some time talking about my students!

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