Monday, October 26, 2009


On top of the move and all the changes it has implied, from a more demanding schedule to a lonelier space to a lot of extra work, I am mourning my old class, and having a hard time adjusting to my new one. I had the joy of teaching the same 21 students for the past two years, from the time they were brand-new first graders until they were ready for 3rd grade. They were a group like few others. Sure, they made me want to tear my hair out on a regular basis, and yes, I am romanticizing them now. But oh, how I miss them. I miss how well we knew each other, how we could make each other laugh just with a glance, how we had so many shared stories. I miss how much autonomy I could give them, because they knew what I expected and were mature enough to do it. I miss the fact that, as I used to say, if you sliced some of them open right through the middle, you would find only goodness all the way to the very core.

This year’s class is a whole new ballgame. I have always hated the beginning of the school year, the part where you have to teach all the routines and your expectations and break them in. It makes me feel like a drill sergeant. Last year, it was with great joy that I realized that my students already knew all of that, and I already knew them, and their families felt like old friends. This year, it is back to the beginning, and more so. My students are a tough bunch. They are more like mid-first graders than second-graders, academically, socially, and emotionally. It is very lucky that I taught first grade for 7 years, because I am calling on all those skills this year.

I am teaching them how to line up – oh, how often I am teaching them how to line up. (Every day when it is time to line up, I sigh a deep sigh and give myself a pep talk.) I am teaching small lessons, most days, on how to be nice to your partner, how to solve conflicts, how to help your classmates remember the rules without shouting across the room, “Malik, STOP it!” or running to the teacher to announce, with a whine, “Kalia just hit me!” when all she did was bump you by mistake.

Not only that, but I am teaching lessons on what the short vowels are, tens and ones, and how to sound out very basic words, skills I did not have to teach in second grade last year. This makes me anxious as I think about what these students are supposed to be able to do by the end of this year.

We are making progress. Once in a while, I like one or two of these kids. Once in a while, we have fun as a class, or they are mesmerized by a story, or excited by geology. Not like last year – it is much harder to engage them in a lesson than it was with last year’s class. They are less academic. But they are getting better at learning, they are practicing kind words, and they are looking more like a cohesive group. I am good at this job, and I know what to do with a group like this. It feels good to be a pro, and to see my skills paying off.

Now, if only my heart were in it.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting how our hearts wax and wane over time. I have been in the position of being good at something but not having my heart in it.

    Then I found a new source of inspiration. New learnings, new ways of thinking, new ways of relating. Over time, I regained my energy, and went beyond where I had been.

    I don't have any idea if this will happen to you. It was just my experience.

    Good luck!