Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Break Means...

10 weeks until school is out for the year.

What? Didn't I just start doing this? Didn't I just have Meet the Teacher Night and nervously thumb through parent forms and sort school supplies while not making any conversation with my students because I wanted them to fear me?

Haha. I've come so far.

But this is what I have been learning this week: yes, I have come so far. But there is still so far to go. I'm excited for what that entails-- that if I feel like I finally have a flow, a sweet rhythm to my every day in the classroom, and it's just my first year...then it's only going to go up from here.

The year up to this point can be summed up in a few words: challenging, difficult, rewarding, joyful. I have enjoyed every single part of it-- the ups, the downs, the week before Christmas break; the days where I've had to step out and circle the school a few times to shed a few tears before returning to the classroom to find my kids doing Daily 5, working independently, engaged in their work, and laughing to myself... Why am I so worried? Why do I put so much pressure on myself? Because my kids-- they are great.

I have taught them how to be independent learners and how to take charge of their own learning. This is a huge success for my students. This is a difficult thing to do for students, to instill in them the love of learning and create intrinsic, self motivation. They are now operating, I would venture to say, 90% of the time on their own. Their dependence on me is slim-- of course they still need me to take care of cuts, scrapes, mean older brothers and the sad times when the cafeteria is out of strawberry milk. They need me to teach them new information, to excite them about school and learning, to be silly with them and name our Smart Board DJ and blame him when things mess up technologically. But all of this aside, they have seriously taken responsibility for themselves as learners, and they tackle it all with finesse. I do not have prouder moments than when I have to leave the room to take care of an accident or borrow paint from another teacher, to return and find my students working as diligently as before, all over the carpet, tools and supplies everywhere, excited over spelling words or writing or math, what have you.

I think the kicker, though, is not that I credit myself for any of this. I have spent many moments crediting myself, only to find the next several days flat on my face. The credit has to be attributed to the one who creates, the one who is mighty to save. He has created me, made me into this teacher, given me the skills and patience and love necessary. He enables me to do all of this, and I can't say that it is me at all.

Spring break has been extremely lazy, relaxing, and full of reading, friends, music writing, and family time. I have enjoyed the time off, of course, and feel refreshed to finish the year out strong. I have 10 weeks left with these precious children who I have come to love as my own. And I am ready to make the most of them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kids Sure Do Love Themselves...

...good thing I love them back!

Preface: Today we had presentations of my class's first major project. They were to create a timeline of their life and bring it to school. Some of the projects I got were taller than me (literally). It was so refreshing to see how much thought and effort these kids put into the timelines of their precious little lives of only 6, 7, or 8 years.

Set-Up: I knew that the presentation time would be hard for 20 kids to sit through-- so I told them each to pick 3 of their favorite things from their timeline to share, and then ask at the end "Any questions?" to their classmates. They were to pick one student to ask 1 question and they could answer it.

Execution: These presentations were the cutest things I have ever seen. Think of your close friends in college or in the business world, preparing for a major presentation and getting antsy and nervous about it. Think of how much thought and time they put into their work. This is what I got today, but on a first grade level. These kids were beyond excited to talk about themselves, their lives, and see one another's timelines. They would not stop asking me all day long when we were going to do our presentations. One child I told him if he asked me one more time, he would pull his color. I know, I'm just terrible.

Here are some brief highlights from the presentations:

Boy Student: "And this is me, getting baptized!"
Students: "What is baptized?" "What does that mean?" "What happens when you are baptism?"
Boy Student: "Well. It means that God blessed me."
Students: "...What?" "What does that mean?"
Boy Student: "It means that God put his love on me. It means that he put love in me and in my heart and he blessed me."
Other boy student: "Yeah, the people at my church, they hold their noses like this and go underwater...(demonstrates the going-underwater-dance-move on the floor)"

Girl Student, who usually is painfully shy and you cannot hear very well, speaks loudly and swiftly: "This is me as a new big sister! And this is me as a baby when I was borned! And this is my first smile! When I was a baby! Any questions??"

Boy Student: "And this was my first trip to Africa, ever."
Other students: "WHOA. You went to Africa?" "Did you see animals? What ones?"
Boy Student: "Yeah, I did, I saw lots of, giraffes, elephants...oh...and LIONS..."
Other boy student: "Are you saying...that you saw AFRICAN elephants?!"
"Yep. African elephants."
Third boy student: "So, like...what did the animals say when they talked?"

Last but not least, one of my students decked out their entire posterboard with "I <3 Miss Leiss" all over it. Even above the pictures of his family or his birth.