Thursday, October 10, 2013

Standing by the Edge of the Pond

Standing on the edge of the small pond, looking down the bank. I lean against a strong fallen limb, which seems perfectly placed for that exact purpose. Close by there is an inlet from the river, so there is a current that moves the fallen leaves across the top. We’ve just emerged from a wooded section of the 100 acre park. We’ve walked together under the ancient, huge trees where sometimes the pond peeked through and was sometimes hidden. Cool enough for long sleeves, warm enough that no jacket is required. The sun sometimes shines through a blue sky and sometimes hides behind the clouds blowing by.   

We pause to enjoy the moment of the early autumn afternoon. The sun sparkles on the water top. Precious time spent together. No need to even say to each other what the moment means, though we express it with gratitude just to be sure. Grateful that we both understand the need to be in nature like this without the need to convince or explain why.

I see a sandhill crane. Still as stone on the other side of the pond. At first I don’t see it, but my eye always looks for them at the lake, so I automatically watch now and spot it. Turns its head slowly so that it is obvious it is hunting for a fish in the water or a frog in the reed. The epitome of patience, this crane. Reminding me of days and years I thought I would never have the patience to make it to this very moment.

It is too early in the season yet for many of the leaves to have turned or fallen. There are a few. Watching those few leaves in the water, I am reminded of the flow of the river of life. Riding it gently, taking us right where we belong. I wonder how many times in the past I’ve struggled and struggled, only to allow myself to be overwhelmed by the current below and taken under the water. Miraculously, not to be drowned in the angst of the struggle but saved in order that I can now gently flow in the beauty of this fall afternoon.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dreaded Test Day

My class has been counting down to the ISTEP test since I started working with them in December. As with anything, it seemed so far off then. So many other important things to take care of and consider before the test arrived. Now, the day is here. Yikes!

This class has come so far. Yet I'm concerned. Is it far enough? Have we accomplished enough in this time span?

They've been through a lot this year. The entire school has. We started the year with a new to the school principal and assistant principal. Because we knew who was coming last year, much of the staff bailed to other schools in the district. We lost a lot of good teachers. The principal decided to hire a bunch of new teachers, many of whom were Teach For America teachers. Good thought, I guess. But the reality of teaching in an urban school is not the stuff of TV movies and fairy tails. Most of those teachers simply couldn't hack it and left. The only TFA teachers that now remain are teachers that were trained in the education discipline in college and decided to go with TFA for the perks, etc. The ones that left did damage of trust and lost instructional time to the classes they influenced while here.

Count my class as one of those. The woman who originally had my class just couldn't take it. The students sensed her fear of controlling a classroom. She thought she could reach them by being a friend. Or something. She simply walked out - middle of the day - with certain expletives, just not able to stand another minute. Another teacher took the class sometime in October. From the get-go she was wishy washy about classroom management. I remember going into her class one day, simply because the noise was so loud as I was passing by that I couldn't believe it. I just walked in, said, "Give me five," and the class immediately quieted, shamed to have been caught by me. Many of the students have known me from going into their classes in first & second grade or at least seeing me in the halls and such. Anyway, that woman would call in sick more than she would be present. She walked out sometime in November, again middle of the day with expletives.

Thankfully, the bad first principal of the year left sometime in September. Speculation is all we have, but one Monday afternoon at dismissal time we got an email from him wishing us well, but that he wouldn't be back. No love lost on anyone's part, in my opinion. Thankfully the first thing the next morning our new principal was introduced. Her first assignment as a principal after being an assistant for several years in the district.

Toward the end of November, following a morning staff meeting, the principal said she couldn't keep a sub in the room, no one was picking up the job, and there wasn't a viable candidate for the position in the HR pool. By this point the kiddos had been split into other classes throughout the building for at least a week. She wasn't sure what the result for the class would be. I'd been thinking about them. Remembering, the way they immediately turned off their nonsence when I went into their classroom. So I went to the principal and told her she'd have to find a sped teacher to replace me, but that I would take the class for her. She grabbed me in a hug, said, "Are you sure? You're an answer to a prayer!" So I switched from sped with first & second to being a gen ed teacher in third. Haven't regretted that move for a minute of the year. Even though it has been tremendous work to prepare for them each day.

Pre-data results show an increase in their work from the time I started working with them. Still, this is the real deal today. Hope they got me sleep than me last night!