The Moment You Realize You're In Over Your Head

...or the moment you realize that no matter how hard you try, you just don't have what a student needs.  I'm not talking about learning. I'm not talking about instruction or curriculum. I'm definitely not talking about teaching my students how to take a test. I'm talking about needs, and life, and food and bathing and caring. I'm talking about what my students really need.  

Sure, there are some who go home to a full house, warm bed, and complete dinner.  Then I have a few in which go home to nothing and no one, and fix themselves food. And nap. And wait for someone to come home.  The ones who hate everything we do in class, yet are the first ones there and the last ones to leave.  And the ones who give you a hug, even after you send them to the office.  

In the past few weeks my heart has been committed to these few students in my class.  I have exhausted myself giving them choices and flexibility and, well, space.  With each of these students I have one single moment that I can recall the thought "They need more than this, and I can't give it to them."  More experiences teachers have told me that I have to let it go, that I just can't touch them.  

Today I had a moment.  The past few weeks with this particular student has been rough.  Throughout the year the student has been making huge strides, and it seemed as though my flexibility and differentiated activities have been working.  Then, suddenly, everything started going downhill.  Wandering around the classroom, general combativeness and disregard.  This student hasn't legitimately participated in any classroom activity in weeks.  The last few days I have been feeling the stress, and feeling my fuse being cut shorter and shorter.  Yesterday, the student huddled in a corner, covering the entire upper body in a huge book basket.  AP had to come down and sit on the floor, and ended up taking the student back to the office for dismissal.  Then today, student again started "rolling" around the room - literally pacing back and forth while I was instructing the class.  We tried having the student call the parents as soon as the behavior started (a decision made by myself and my fab co-teachers as the "next level").  Student refused, leaving co-teacher to do it. (She left messages).  

Then we attempted to send the student to the office.  I walked her about halfway, which involves going outside.  Once outside the student collapsed on the ground, sobbing.  I flagged down some help, and the Principal took over.  

So. This student wound up calling mom from the office, and mom came to pick up.  

Tomorrow I'm hoping for my fuse to be longer, and for me to listen to my own advice. 

"Tomorrow is a new day. Let's start over tomorrow." 



...on posts. I have been gone far too long.  This time of year I am feeling the pressure for the standardized assessments looming - we start next week! ACK! 

During the year we take practice tests (2) - one in the fall and one in the early spring.  Because of the latest results of this testing, we entered what I lovingly refer to as "MathGate 2009."  Only one of my students passed the math practice test, and my class results stood true for almost every other fourth grade class at my school.  Panic ensued, meetings after meetings discussing "WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE GOING TO DO?" My answer? Teach.  Let's teach. Stop taking me out of the classroom to discuss what can be done, when what needs to happen is for me to stay in my room and teach my students.  

One of the tasks I decided to take on was an afterschool math club.  I have about 16 students who stay afterschool 2 days a week to get an extra hour of math practice.  Sometimes we do games, and other times we just discuss and practice.  That hour goes by quickly, but I am able to remodel and reteach lessons, concepts, etc... that I have already gone through in class.  Goodness me, these students need it.  

I decided today that I'm going to pump up the students for the test. I am going to make it a party, and we are all going to rock it.  These students need to be built up. They need to know that I believe in them, and I truly do.  I believe that their ability will shine if they allow it to do so.  So come on, little ones... show us what you've got!!

Plus... If I don't party it up with them, I'm going to go insane.  I believe in them, and I believe in me. I will survive my first SOLs.