Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Hiatus + Announcements

I know that few people read this blog (and all who do are adequately informed about my personal life), but I haven’t been updating as much. Hopefully the following story illustrates my preoccupation in recent months…

I love teaching for many reasons. Today just happens to eloquently illustrate why I choose to teach eight-year-olds. They humble you & elevate you, all within the space of minutes. Not only was today my birthday, but I also announced my pregnancy to my class.

During morning announcements, our mischievous office manager wished me a “Happy 40th birthday!” (I just turned 32.) Not being age-conscious (or so I thought), I just laughed it off. One of my students, in an effort to make sure my feelings weren’t hurt, earnestly consoled me by saying, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Burchett. You don’t look a day over 35.”

I had thought of a clever way to announce my pregnancy to my students. At the end of the day, I gave them each a Dixie cup full of “baby-sized items” (baby Tootsie Roll, mini M&Ms, miniature marshmallows & a baby candy bar). I said that it was my birthday, but that I had a special message hidden in the candy for them & they’d have to use the comparing skills we’d worked on to figure out what all the items have in common to guess my secret message.

“They’re all candy.”

“They all have sugar in them.”

“You could put them in cookies to make the cookies even better.”

“They’re all foods you can’t eat until after you clear your plate.”

“They’re things you only get to eat when it’s Halloween time.”

“Every one of them is an ‘ask your mom first’ food.”

They continued on in that vein for several minutes. As it was getting close to the end of the day, I had to explain that they were all good answers, but I was looking for similarities specifically in size. We narrowed down that they were all small candies & I asked why I would have given them small, or indeed baby-sized candy.

“That’s all that would fit in the Dixie cup.”

“We’re small kids, so we should only get small candies.”

“You couldn’t afford the bigger candy bars.”

Finally, I stopped them & said, “Not only are these candies baby-sized, but something else is as well.” I pointed to my belly & looked out at the class. 5 seconds… 10… 15… At last, a girl in the back of the classroom stood up, fully outstretched her arm & pointing at me, declared (in her loudest voice), “Well, YOU. ARE. PREGNANT!” Relieved (there were, at this point, only about 30 seconds left in the school day), I smiled & admitted that yes, I was.

Now, I’ve announced my pregnancy to friends, family & colleagues, and with one notable exception, I got the best reaction from the kids. In unison, their faces filled with awe, they all started clapping & cheering – like I had just done the best magic trick & they were so proud & impressed by me.

I highly recommend making announcements like this to eight-year-olds. I do not recommend trying to be cute / subtle & asking them to infer your meaning.

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I’m Fairly Certain…

No one combines exhaustion & excitement like an elementary school teacher the night before summer break.

Pet Peeve

Pet peeve – students who cry for ridiculous reasons

I want to say, “Listen, you are in THIRD GRADE. None of your peers cry. It is no longer socially acceptable for you to cry & your peers are judging you. Not to be harsh, but it’s true. Additionally, you are crying because you got crayon on your desk. Really? REALLY? That is ridiculous. Man up!”

Ugh.

Rainy Day Schedule

I live in Central California. Although people think of beaches & movie stars when they think of my state, I do not live at the beach & the only movie star credit we can claim right here is that George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) went to the same junior high, high school, and junior college that I attended (although, admittedly several decades apart). It is farmland where I live, acres & acres of farms surround our cities. This rain that we have been having is wonderful for all the crops & after years where there have been droughts, honestly, this rain is applauded by the residents of our area.

However, I am not a farmer, cheering because I’ll have moist soil in which to plant. I am an elementary school teacher & rainy days = rainy day schedule. Let me break it down for you, as I assume it’s been awhile since you’ve been in elementary school.

At our school, students are allowed to come on campus at 8am. That means, from 8:00-8:30am, they’re sitting in the cafeteria, talking with other students, and wishing they were on the playground. Two teachers get that yard duty, and it involves keeping the roar to a mild din & the natives from becoming too restless. At 8:30, school begins. The kids head to their classrooms where they sit through the morning (8:30-10:45). They get a 20-minute recess as a morning break, but they cannot go outside. They have to stay in the classroom. Even if they’re playing Heads Up, Seven Up or Four Corners, they’re still mostly stationary. And so, recess passes in a fashion that is not as relaxing / not as much of a break as it was intended to be (10:45-11:05). We teach until lunchtime, but lunch won’t start as it normally would because there’s no place for the kids to go to recess. That means they stay in the classroom for an extra 15 minutes. We take them to the cafeteria at 12:30 & pick them up at 1:00. Then we teach from 1:00-3:00.

If you’re counting, if you have morning yard duty (which I do, each week), you’re enclosed in a room with 25+ kids for 7 hours with less than 30 minutes of a break. It seems absolutely inhumane. I love teaching, but I need a second of quiet to decompress at recess. I can only go so many days where my lunchtime is taken up with copies & helping kids & phone calls & oops, no lunch… before I break.

I’m absolutely thrilled it’s Friday, if you hadn’t guessed.

The worst part though, is that I’m an adult (allegedly, at least). It’s about 10 times harder to be a kid & sit still for that long. I completely understand how terrible it is for them not to get up & run around, but my hands are tied & that is why I proclaim:

Rainy Day Schedule sucks.

Dear World,

If you have a teacher in your life, please read this post.

If you have a teacher in your life who does not do a good job for you or your child, I am so sorry. Please know that there are those of us out there just waiting to get you / your child in our classrooms & make a connection with you.

If you have a teacher in your life who goes above & beyond / makes you or your child want to go to school / does the extra things that make school memorable, say thanks. A sincere note of appreciation makes all the extra hours worth it. It validates coming in on a sick day to show The Polar Express to third graders after school & staying up late to make a calendar for off track months so you can find free / affordable activities to do in our area & laminating writing late at night because we’re so proud of what the kids have done.

Gift cards are thoughtful. Teacher-themed gifts are (please) unnecessary. Truly though, that note that says, “Listen, I see the amount of time you put in. It goes above and beyond what you need to do, and we appreciate you.” That note is worth more than any gift you could give.

“Thank you” is always in good taste.

That said, I try to write a letter each year to a former teacher who made a difference in my life – Miss Anna, my second grade teacher who hand-lettered everything & let me read what I wanted, Mr. McKinney, my fifth grade teacher who always pushed me to research & write & read more and whose patience in taking our class to the county library each week will never be forgotten, Mrs. Klopf, my seventh grade English teacher who wrote encouraging notes on my poetry & let me call her by her first name (which was the same as mine), Mr. Haydock, my high school speech coach who gave so generously of himself at such a young age (less than 10 years older than me), and Mr. Madison, my twelfth grade English teacher who turned the classroom into his stage & held us captive.

Those notes are treasured more than a mug or gift card could ever be.

Thank you in advance!

Large Groups of Kids

So, here’s the thing. It is difficult to control a group of several hundred kids (500? 600?). I get that. However, egging them on for 30 minutes with off-topic, slapstick mascots just makes my job that much harder & ensures they will not be listening to what you’re saying (not even a little bit). What a waste of an hour. I wish we had stayed in & taken our math test (or painted or read or even ran laps). Grr.

The Bird – It Cannot Fly

I have yard duty on Wednesday mornings & truly, it is one of my least favorite duties. Although I adore talking with my past & current students – singing our favorite songs, catching up & discussing current events – I stress for the last 10-15 minutes of the morning (my duty is from 8:00-8:30am). There are only two teachers on the yard & we have approximately 400 students on the playground for the last 10 minutes or so. I feel stretched too thin & always worry about what would happen if someone truly got hurt (aside from it taking me 1-5 minutes to notice & get there & call for help). This morning, I was put to the test.

As soon as we got out on the yard, I noticed a couple of boys hanging out underneath the play structure (climbing, slide, jungle gym type thing). These boys are the ones that I normally have to remind not to run or push, so I was pleased that they were being calm. I kept an eye on them while I chatted with a couple of my previous students (now fourth graders) & watched one of my girls run through her current cheering routines.

Approximately 5 minutes later, a panicked first grader came up to me with fear in his eyes. He was out of breath from booking it across the playground. “He’s… He’s… (pant pant) …hurt!” My heart skipped a beat. I asked him who was hurt as I started rushing toward the play structure (where he had been before). With tears in his voice, he swallowed manly & replied, “The… BIRD!”

The red thing in the bottom corner is the pole it must've hit on our schoolyard play structure.

The red thing in the bottom corner is the pole it must've hit on our schoolyard play structure.

Sure enough, as I got there, the group had grown. Respectfully, they had surrounded the injured animal but weren’t touching it while they waited for me to get there & decide what to do. I thought the bird had died (it was the wind ruffling its wings & they thought it was trying to fly), but its eye kept opening & closing and its foot moved slightly. I tried to use our emergency radio to call the office, but it didn’t work, so I used my cell phone.

I explained the situation to our school secretary & told her the bird was injured and that I wasn’t sure of the animal rescue number to call. She said she’d take care of it & have our school custodian come to get the bird so the kids didn’t touch it, etc. The custodian came out with a broom and dirt-covered dustpan. We all felt that was an inappropriate way to pick up the bird (our group was about 20 strong at this time). I asked if she was calling the animal rescue or if the secretary was, and she winked at me. Confused, I quirked my eyebrow.

As she scooped the bird into her dustpan & walked away, I heard her tell the kids she was going to let it lie in the sun in the dumpster so it could wake up & fly away. Stunned at her callous behavior, not one student followed her. We all just stood, mouths agape, at her extremely transparent lie.

The tearful first grader (not yet 6 years old) turned to me and said scathingly, “I hope she doesn’t think we believe her. That was terrible.” I could only agree. Not even we were that naive.