A blog about all things pertaining to Trent Lott, Leadership and Blogs.

Monday, October 31, 2005

October is the Kindest Month

This is what we were told, but I'll stick with April on that one because October has proven excellent, grade A best month ever.
Maybe it has to do with the magical day when the fabled "new math teacher" arrived and whisked away 59 of my students, leaving me with the eminently manageable load of but 113 malleable souls. I cannot describe this difference, but it's something akin to spending three months with a half ton chevy parked in your living room before being magically towed away by towing elfs one morning. And I refer to the short lived Chevy line of trucks which kicked, screamed and threw wadded paper around the room. And they uh ... are trucks that don't do their homework and ... what's the word for bad extended metaphors going nowhere? Conceit?
Anyways ... I'm out of survival mode, that's for sure. Maybe it's only since I've got so few kids now that it just seems better, but I do believed I learned a great deal in that early epoch of the giant classes and thunder lizards. Like swinging with a weighted bat before going to the plate, my new task seems much lighter. The atmosphere is better, the classes are more relaxed and even somewhat positive at times. The kids are engaged and seem less adversarial.
But at times I look fondly on those survival days when my only job was to keep kids in their seats and hope for an early bell. Because now I look around the room and realize that my job isn't just to duck paper balls but to teach. Suddenly I notice kids that have tuned out since day one, and whom I never had the opportunity to deal with in the survival days. With post-survival comes responsibility. Now I feel bad when a lesson doesn't stick or seems boring to the kids while previously such concerns were furthest from my mind.
Unless I suffer from a discipline relapse, this will be the November challege, to shift the focuse from good management to good instruction. It's much harder, and I certainly still have some management issues to iron out, but for the most part things definitely seem to be moving in the right direction.

Success is Saying Goodbye

People come to teaching for a lot of different reasons, some more altruistic than others. I think that this profession in particular readily creates a facade of self-sacrifice that often covers up somewhat less honorable motives. Some are here for the power, to impose their will upon a group of impressionable young'uns. Others may at times enjoy a little nibble from the banquet of self-righteousness spread before them. After all, what better way to stick it to your consulting firm friends than to remind yourself that you ... you are doing something important ... for society ... to save the world ... Christopher Reeve may have passed on but I'm still here teaching.
For this reason I approach the subject of a success story with no small degree of wariness. Whose success? The personal success, the private glory of a teacher who succeeded in changing a kids life or exposing a young mind to the wonders of social studies or the joy of sitting still in class?
As I've found, sometimes the success of a child and the success of a teacher do not always converge.
Dymond was trouble from day one. I knew this would be the case because she reminded me so much of myself at her age. Gifted, bored and inclined to mischief. She didn't need to pay attention, so why should anyone else.
I was always amazed at her ability in math, and I always graded her tests first to make sure I didn't have any errors in my key. But her behavior was another story. Talking to everyone around her, calling out, making noise, all the things that I once did for which teachers always told me "I hope someday you have kids who act this way to you".
At the end of a detention one afternoon I pulled Dymond aside and gave her the whole "in this world being smart is not enough ..." speech. I asked her if she would be interested in switching to an APAC gifted math class. Her eyes lit up and she eagerly agreed.
With some reservations at losing my best student I made the arrangements with our math coach, contact the APAC coordinator and a week later she was gone from my class. My averages on the district tests will suffer a great deal, and I'll probably miss the satisfaction of working with a truly gifted student. But this is her success, not mine. Just so I don't get too lonely she sometimes pops back into class, calls out to her friends and disrupts our lesson for a little while and reminds me what I'm missing.