Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unexpected Blessings

Yesterday marked the end of the first six weeks grading period at my school. As teachers know, getting everything up and running at the beginning of the school year is rather hectic. You get new students that you have to learn what their needs are as quickly as possible. It's a busy time, an exciting time, you are getting to know your students, they are getting to know you and beginning to understand your expectations for them for the school year.

As this school year began, I was a bit overwhelmed by the expectations that were put on me. I looked at the broad range of different students I would be teaching and wondered how I was going to be able to do it all. As a literature and writing teacher, I feel the responsibility to make sure my students do well because reading and writing is a life skill. My students need these skills not only for their other classes, but for the rest of their lives. How well they are able to read and write will have a great bearing on their future. It's a responsibility I carry in my mind and heart every day.

I decided the best way to face the new challenges was to buckle down and charge in head first! I was overly organized, had clean and purged my classroom from the previous year, and made goals and promises to myself that I knew would be more work for me,...but would make my daily lessons flow better for my students. I've kept those goals and promises in front of me on days when I've been exhausted. I know I'm doing what is best for my students. What I didn't know was what a blessing I was going to receive from this broad range of students!

You see, my passion has always been for the struggling readers. I worry most about students who enter the sixth grade and can't read on a sixth grade level. It hinders all their academics. I have always volunteered to only teach the strugglers. Does this mean my standardized scores don't look like the teachers' scores who teach the Pre-AP or advanced classes? Of course,...but I don't teach for standardized scores. I teach to help children learn how to read and write well. I meet them at their level and work to help them catch-up with their peers.

This year, though, I have students on all levels, including two classes of Pre-AP students. I am enjoying learning things I could never have learned before because I focused solely on struggling readers. Every day, every lesson, is like a puzzle,...and I love puzzles. It's very interesting to take a lesson and see how many ways you can change it to meet the needs of the students. It's incredible to watch the different levels take different things from each lesson. Do the best answers or work always come from my Pre-AP students? No, actually, they don't. Sometimes they do, but they also come from my special education students and from my strugglers when they bridge a gap and come up with a deep connection to the text.

And you know what? No matter what type of learner makes that deep connection, I am amazed. Absolutely amazed! I love watching all their minds work as they reach to get to another level in their learning. For some of my students, they are reaching for a third grade level in a sixth grade class. For others, they are reaching for an eleventh grade level in a sixth grade class. I have to be able to see the level they are on and challenge them to go higher. It's exhilarating! Yes, it's exhausting, too,...but I go to bed every night with a smile on my face thinking about all my students.

I thought this year was going to be my most difficult, and I am finding that it is one of the greatest unexpected blessings I've ever received. I'm learning and growing with my students every day, and I love it! The more I learn, the harder I want to work. The harder I work for them, the harder I see them working for me. It's an incredible thing to experience on so many different levels.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I have the very best job in the world!

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