continued education

To Teach or Not To Teach

Today was my second full day of teaching and probably the last for awhile, given that my classroom teacher returns on Monday. The day went all right. I was ahead of schedule at a couple points and filled up the time with a read aloud (no complaint here). I think read alouds may be one of my favorite parts of the day. Perhaps this is because I love books so so much. Due to an assembly the day got a little more difficult towards the end and I got a whole lot less patient.
I feel like this teaching thing is so inconsistent. Days flip flop back and forth between great and terrible. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Either lessons were a success of a failure. In all fairness this judgment is based on only a small amount of experience. (On a side note, I just found paint in my hair from the art project today. Gotta love first grade.) A friend at home community, who used to teach, gave me some consolation. She told me not to judge teaching until about the second year. She said student teaching is hard because you’re expected to make a class run efficiently in someone else’s structure and the first year is hard because there’s a lot of starting from scratch. I think I’ll take this advice to heart. I’ll give teaching at least two years. Perhaps it’s a little dramatic to consider quitting at this juncture. When I feel like a failure, I want to quit, and teaching is so so full of failing. It has been very helpful to hear of other’s experiences, both the good and the bad.
Working in this classroom has led me to reflect on what grade I would like to teach. I still remember the first week of entering the teaching program at school. it seemed as though half the class knew what grade they wanted to teach. I had no idea and hated it when teachers would ask me. Part of me doesn’t care. I haven’t taught yet, so how should I know what grade I like to teach??? The list of pros and cons to each grade are fairly even to me. After working in a two-year old’s classroom this summer, I was pretty sure I wanted to teach first grade. Now I am not entirely sure. Here are my pros and cons for first grade:

PROS:

  • The children are delightful. I love interacting with them and listening to their uninhibited imaginations.
  • Read Alouds. Read alouds with picture books are so much fun. The pictures add a sense of wonder to the story. I can also be theatrical and goofy while reading the story and the kids gobble it up.

CONS:

  • The emotional state of the children. I am too easily frustrated by the students’ emotional breakdowns. Now, I don’t mind when they are upset and somewhat reasonable. I’ve talked to many kids who come in upset from a bad morning. I empathize with their story and encourage them to do something to take their mind off the issue, such as read a book or color. I really don’t mind these situations. It’s more of the complete meltdowns over not getting their way that just push me over the edge.
  • The social awareness of the children. The whole me-first, tattle-tale, bugging each-otherness also gets on my nerves.
  • The difficulty level of the material. Sometimes I get bored or impatient with the material being taught. This might be a bad quality for a teacher at any grade. I get bored or impatient teaching phonics and addition over and over because I learned it so long ago that it’s second nature to me. I do think that this could change drastically when I am doing all the teaching.

Okay, so those are my reflections thus far on teaching first grade. I really can’t decide if I want to teach it or not. I am interested in seeing what second and third grade are like.
As much as I go back and forth wondering if I want to be a teacher, I am so fascinated by education. I spend so much of my free time looking at education websites and reading books about education. I feel like this passion has to have some sort of a direction. It seems strange to be fascinated by education only to end up not doing anything in education.
I have developed some ideas for what I might do with my life if I do not become a teacher. Most of these involve living in a cardboard box and eating beans out of a trashcan. I love art, literacy and saving the world, so something in one of those areas would probably suffice.

Book Review Time

The Gingerbread Girl
This is one of the stories I read aloud in class today. It’s a fun one to get into when reading because of the sing-song repetition. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of media that portrays one gender as better than another. It seems to me that if men are wrong to claim gender superiority, then wouldn’t women be wrong for doing the same thing? There’s my soapbox. Overall, I did enjoy the book. The story captivated the first graders, the pictures are beautiful and heck, if there’s a gingerbread boy, why shouldn’t there be a gingerbread girl.

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
So far I love this book (I’m about half way through it). I read Rafe Esquith’s other book, There Are No Shortcuts, a few months ago and enjoyed it. There Are No Shortcuts, however left me wishing for some more practical ways to apply Rafe’s teaching methods. I get so frustrated with books that are all passion and no practicality. How do people expect to change things when they spend so much time pointing out what is wrong and so little time explaining how these wrongs can be changed. Where’s the applicability? Now, there were many applicable lessons in No Shortcuts, but I definitely craved more. So far Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire has been a solution to this problem. This book is almost 100% practical. It’s filled with specific lessons and resources. I can hear the choir singing now. Beyond the practical resources for each content area, Rafe also provides a model for classroom management, that teaches the reason for behavior, a personal code of moral behavior.

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