State of Merin

stateofmerin

It’s been a really long time since I made a post of this nature, but since the end of the year is upon us – and also because I’ve nearly made it through my first semester as a first grade teacher – I felt like now was a good time to revisit this type of post, and let you all know a bit more about what’s been going on with me. Mostly I’m going to be talking about my job, and my students – who are pretty much my focus nowadays – and I apologize in advance if this post is lacking in cohesiveness. I have all these thoughts in my head and am trying to get them flowing in a way that makes sense. My co-teacher jokes that teachers develop ADHD, and I think she may not be too far off; my brain is oftentimes scattered, and I find myself trying to do so many things at one time. Of course, the problem with multitasking is that something tends to slack off; it’s very important that my students not be that thing that slacks off, so I’ve found myself letting other things go. It’s been interesting to find a balance that works for me, and while I’m not positive that I’m actually at that balance, I do think things are getting easier, which is all I could really ask for, at least right now.

winterbreakMy students start their Winter Break on Thursday, so this e-card is particularly apt, especially for 1st graders. My classroom has devolved into its own special brand of crazy, which has been compounded by the fact that we’ve had extremely cold weather the past week or so, which meant that Friday was the only day last week that they got to go outside for recess. Throw in excitement over Santa (including letters that they wrote to Santa and will be getting replies to sometime in the next two days), and just the fact that they’re nearing a two-week break from school, they’ve been overly exuberant, to say the least. I’ve been feeding into this excitement by doing a Christmas Around the World unit, which at least gets my kids reading (I have been giving them two types of reading passages – one they read themselves and one we read together) and (lots of) writing. We did a Winter Writing Prompt which turned out really cute – I need to try to remember to take pictures – and have also been putting together our scrapbook of the different countries we “visit”. Friday we visited France, and while they were at Art, Pere Noel – the French Santa – came by and left them treats in their “shoes” (I wasn’t about to have them take off their actual shoes, so we took shoe cutouts and stapled them on a brown paper lunch bag, which they put out in the hallway above their cubbies). Their excitement when they realized Santa had visited was palpable and put a big giant grin on my face. Even though they’re challenging, it’s exclamations like, “This is the best day EVER!” that make up for all the struggles.

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I started the year off with 22 little ones, and am now down to 19. Let me just say that 19 is a much more manageable amount, and we can at least maneuver around the classroom without running into each other. However, they are still SO chatty. I am constantly having to ask them to whisper, or use an attention getter to redirect them. I have moved them several times now – so when I saw the above graphic I cracked up laughing – and it really just doesn’t help. They are all talkative, so instead I’ve seated them according to who gets along alright with whom, because there are definite personality conflicts between some of them. I don’t know how six year olds can be so argumentative with each other – and in some cases, downright mean – but they are, and I definitely find myself having to manage behaviors, which I have my fair share of – temper tantrums, refusal to complete assignments, general disregard for school rules, etc. However, for the most part I have a really good group that tends to make me smile more often than not. The thing about first graders is that they are still little – they are only six, with a few seven year olds thrown in – so some of the whiny, “babyish” behaviors are to be expected. It’s my hope that I can give them better strategies to solve their problems, or at least make them more aware of others’ feelings.

ilovemyfirstgraders

And they’re starting to read, which – as an avid reader – I absolutely adore. They are so excited when they get a book from the library, or when they can start to read those beginning chapter books. We still do a lot of our reading out loud, with me reading and them repeating, but I’ve been hearing more and more actual legitimate reading of the words during Read to Self, which is every first grade teacher’s goal. I still have some that are struggling – no classroom would be complete without those, unfortunately – but they are definitely making gains, even if they’re not necessarily where they should be at this point in the year. I’m going to be working on Report Cards this week – they’re due Friday to the principal – so that will give me a better idea of where they’re at in each of the main subjects, but I already have a pretty good idea of what they know and need to work on. I’m looking forward to continuing to push them and make them even better learners.

As for me, myself and I, most nights I find myself completely exhausted upon coming home from work. Oftentimes I am at school until 5pm or so – sometimes later – getting copies made or lesson planning. I spend an inordinate amount of time trawling through TeachersPayTeachers.com looking for fun things I can supplement our curriculum with. I am struggling with our new Writing program – which I don’t like, and am not afraid to say it – because it takes a TON of prep and time that I don’t really have, unless I “want” to stay late. It also isn’t terribly structured, and telling six year olds to go write a story for 45 minutes doesn’t really work, or at least, it’s not really working for my class. While I definitely like some of the mini-lessons, it’s just really overwhelming to push onto an already overwhelmed teacher. It seems like just when I feel like I have a handle on something, something new gets added on top. And yes, I know, it’s part of the game and the ever-changing field of education. But it’s still exhausting.

And yet, I don’t mind getting up and going to work each morning (or rather, I don’t mind going to work – I hate getting up, no matter WHAT I’m doing or what time I’m doing it at), and most of the time the smiles I muster up for my students are genuine. While the switch from librarian to first grade teacher wasn’t exactly what I hoped for when I was first hired in July 2012, things are going surprisingly well, with just a few bumps and bruises along the way. Nonetheless, I am definitely counting down the days to my two-week break!

And to conclude this post, I leave you with a video from Kid President – who you should ALL check out, because he’s amazing – in which he gives a pep talk to teachers and students. I am always striving to “be more awesome” and change things up, so wanted to share his wonderful message with anyone stopping by my blog today. I think we can all be a little more awesome, don’t you?

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