Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's Kinda Like that Movie, Wildcats

The kids and I all started back to school yesterday. The little kids had a good day. They came home and reported that they liked their teachers and school. Brooklyn is giddy at the prospect of going to school every day. Ahhh, the innocence and eagerness of kindergartners. The three older kids were less than thrilled with their first day. The schools are big. The kids at their schools are different. They didn’t know where and how to get their books or IDs, or how to request a schedule change.

Austin and Savannah had to catch the bus at 6:15AM. It was still dark out. The street lights were on. That’s just wrong. Another thing that’s just wrong is that 95% of the kids down here wear jeans to school. It’s in the nineties! Jeans! Ninety degree weather, jeans, ninety degree weather, jeans. Back home, 95% of the kids would be wearing shorts and flip flops or sandals. Not here. It’s all jeans and new shoes. I think 99% of the kids had brand new, fancy, expensive shoes. Apparently, it’s all about the shoes down here. All day long, I had that Pumped Up Kicks song running through my head.

How did my first day go? Sigh. Remember that movie Wildcats with Goldie Hawn? Yeah, well I feel like she did her first day. Let me put it this way, I texted the principal last night and said, “Just so you know, I suck. I’m not qualified to do this. I don’t know what to do with the kids. I have an urge to hand out Ritalin to half my classes, my oldest 3 kids hate the schools here, it took me until 7:45 to finish filling out all the paperwork my kids brought home, I haven’t even started dinner, and I’m moving back to Chicago. Who cares about income or insurance.”

The principal, who is not only a friend, but obviously darn good at her job, gave me a pep talk and assured me that I have withitness. She went on to say that people could be taught how to teach and they could be taught the curriculum, but that you can’t teach withitness. You either have it or you don’t. When I finally figured out that she wasn’t making the same typo repeatedly, I decided that I loved that word – With-It-Ness. Some people are “with it” and some are not. I’m delighted that she believes I have withitness.

The thing is, the kids aren’t really bad. Some of them are going to be challenging, to be sure, but it wasn’t the kids that stressed me out. I think it was more the fact that I didn’t feel confident in what I was doing. Mine is not an instructional position. I’m not a teacher. Yet, I still have to teach these kids something. My job will primarily be helping them to get organized, stay on track, complete assignments on time, and support them. However, until they have homework assignments, I’m not sure what to do.

Yesterday, I pretty much just chatted with the kids and played get-to-know-you games. Today, we started reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. We talked about what a paradigm is and how your thoughts lead to actions which lead to habits which often lead to self-fulfilling destinies. I showed them drawings from artist, Julian Beever, who creates amazing chalk drawings on sidewalks that, and when viewed from the right angle, they show hard-to-believe, 3D images. But when you view them from another angle, you see distorted two dimensional drawings. I told them a great story that illustrated how stepping back and shifting your paradigm can make you see things in a whole new light. I gave the kids ideas and asked them for examples from their own lives. We talked about the 7 habits and shared our own good and bad habits.

A couple classes responded well. Two classes of kids stared at me blankly, daring me to teach them anything, trying to prove that they are far too cool to care about school. And yet another class got excited and jumped out of their seats a thousand times. Of course, they also jumped out of their seats a thousand times yesterday when they saw a bird out the window, so take that as you will.

I have a new respect for educators.

The biggest adjustment for me is being at work all day. I’m not used to that. I have to admit that I hate being gone all day, then coming home and having to do everything that used to take me all day to do. I put the youngest three in after school care. They hate it. They hate staying after school for two and a half hours and can’t understand why I’m not home to get them right away. And I’m tired. Oh my gosh, I’m tired. I can’t survive on so little sleep. And on that note, I need to figure out what I’m going to do in class tomorrow and get more than four hours of sleep tonight if possible.


Anonymous said...

The link is not working :-(

Dawn said...

Oops! It's fixed now.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it sounds like you've had great lesson plans so far. Especially with so little to work with at this point in the semester. Teaching isn't easy. Like so many things, you always see your own errors and think everyone else sees them too. The reality is that unless you point out the error in BIG BRIGHT LETTERS no one is going to notice that you were nervous and stuttered a little bit. Or that you were a little less clear on that point than you should have been.

Trust me on this one. I used to teach college classes and was always amazed that no one noticed I was a nervous wreck the first day. Or that my lectures weren't finished until 10 minutes before class started. Or that I was barely more conscious than my students during my 8am class despite guzzling an arhythmia-sized coffee. Ahem.

You're doing great. It will get easier. By next week your kids will have made friends and will get ticked off when you pick them up early from their after school program and cut into friend time.

Michigan teacher said...

Have your students watch The Butterfly Circus and discuss it. It's about 20 min and can be very motivating, if not life-changing. It's on the internet.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're going to be great with your students. You've had all that training with your own six kids!

Amanda said...

Dawn, the first day is always like that. It will get better. At the start of this school year I shifted my two eldest to a new school, and I also started work there full-time. All 3 of us have had heaps of adjustment issues and moments of confidence crisis. This school also happens to not be in the town we live. We have a 40 minute drive each way and I have to be there at 8. My two need to be up early and need to go to before and after school care because they are at school so early and leave later. Meanwhile my 2 year old is in full time care back in our home town. Hubby works full-time in same town, but he has fully booked appointments with patients all day. So if so ethnic goes wrong at day care, I have to collect 2 year old, but have to choose whether to take the other two out of school early or make another round trip later. Managing all that and the usual home chores plus added homework, sport and music practice is mind boggling, but eventually i all comes together. Give it a year and you will all be wondering why you were all so stressed in the beginning.

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