life on the rollercoaster

Anyone reading this who is already a teacher (I know I have some fledgling teachers reading this blog, as well as some non-teachers) knows what teaching is like.  Teachers are well-acquainted with the experiences of being bombarded by stimuli all day, of needing to think of 100 things at a time, and having to make decisions constantly. 

So teachers, you can skip today’s post.  You’ve been there, done that.  This is for the non-teachers.

Today was a better day, because David was not there, and Max had had a long talk about his behavior with his parents, and was determined to do better.  But it was still hard, so here, in list form, are just some of the things that I was juggling this morning:

  • Driving into parking lot, see school psychologist driving out.  Stop and roll down window.  Ask him if he heard about what happened yesterday.  He says no, so I tell him, and then he says he is working on finding a different placement for David.  I park my car with sense of relief that I am being taken seriously.
  • Go to yet another meeting before school, this time for the mentoring leadership team’s weekly gathering.  I have become the unofficial timekeeper, and as such, try to steer discussions back on track, to keep us moving through the agenda, and to help find conclusions and consensus on each item.  I am praised for that by a colleague, which I really appreciate, although I admit to him, “I know that what this really means is that I’m bossy!”
  • Find kindergarten teacher whose room I’m supposed to visit during my prep, and ask her if I can bow out, even though I have just seen note from her asking me to read a story to class when I arrive as she has laryngitis.  Bow and scrape and apologize for not coming.  She is very nice about it, and sympathetic to my description of my room being “in freefall.”  Listen to her scratchy voice.  Feel guilty.
  • Return to the classroom to find both Nan and Miss Nelson, and a stranger (Miss Nelson’s mentor).  Introduce myself to stranger, who is sitting at my desk, using my computer, so I cannot.  Damn, can’t check email.  Very little time to talk to them or get the room ready before I opening the door to the children.
  • Greet two more new students (that’s three this week, and four since last week), both girls, only one of whom speaks English.  Beg the social worker to help, but she can’t, so her intern comes into the room to help children sign in and move their nametags.
  • Oops, nametags in the wrong place!  Rush over and move them.
  • Note that sign-in line is not moving.  See that Boy A is standing there with pencil hovering over sign-in book, frozen.  Intern does not know what to do.  Tell Boy A to make a mark, any mark, which he does, and usher him to move his nametag to “Who’s Here?”
  • Find pencil to get next child in line to sign in.
  • Take new girls to hall to find their cubbies.  See that only one has a cubby.
  • Go into room to get new cubby sign, write new girl’s name on it, help her find cubby and tape her sign in place.
  • Note that we have two minutes to get to Gym.  Turn off lights, say, “One, Two, Three, Freeze!” and explain to new girls how to freeze, cross arms, and look at me for directions.  Tell class it’s time to go.
  • Turn on lights, line up children alphabetically, finding spaces for new girls.
  • Downstairs meet gym teacher in cafeteria (gym is next to cafeteria), so warn him that there are new students, hand over class, and take one new girl to talk to Spanish-speaking teacher who is helping out with breakfast.  Ask, “could you ask her how to pronounce her name?”  Answer is inconclusive.
  • Drop girl off in gym and go upstairs with Nan, who says she can help during prep.
  • Sit down at desk (yay, she’s gone!) and feel unfamiliar sense of calm descend.  Am alone in room with Nan, my friend, who asks, “what can I do?”  Give Nan many many things to do. 
  • Hour passes in a flash.  Cannot remember single thing that happens during prep.
  • Pick up class in gym.  Find out that new girl says her name is Lola.  We already have a Lola!  Turns out her first name is name I was given, but family at home calls her Lola, her middle name.  Make mental note to find Spanish-speaking employee to call home to find out what we should call her at school.
  • Back in room, children finish journals, but wander aimlessly when done.  Repeatedly give instructions to “find a book and sit down in your chair!”  Note that I never labeled the books on the shelf now that they are all books about color.  Wonder when I am going to find time to do that.
  • Start writing morning message.  Get interrupted several times. 
  • “Teacher, the bug is back!”  Go over to terrarium to see one sowbug.  Notice that he is not moving, and hope that he is alive but just resting.  Try to write morning message.  Give up halfway through.
  • Start cleanup time.  Get frustrated with children visiting the sowbug instead of cleaning up and coming to sit down.
  • Boy B and Boy C, who were fighting over Superhero ABC earlier, are now fighting over Knuffle Bunny.
  • Horrible tearing sound as Knuffle Bunny gets torn in two.
  • Feel like crying or yelling.  Do neither, but cannot help sounding mad.  Boy C starts to wail.  Send both boys into hall with Nan to discuss situation.  Make note to self ask Spanish speaker to call Boy B’s mother to tell her what happened and ask for $2 to help cover cost.  Make note to self to call Boy C’s mother and tell her same thing.  Make note to self to order new copy of Knuffle Bunny from Scholastic book order.  Which reminds me I haven’t sent in payment for September order, so make note to self to do that.  Soon.
  • Start morning meeting without being ready.
  • Find out during playing of song about colors (from math curriculum) that boom box is dying.  Instead of loving the song, everyone cringes with weird noises cd player makes.  Make note to self to buy new boom box.  Or try to play cd on computer.  Remember time last year when I tried to do that and computer would not eject cd.  Give up train of thought and move on to next thing.

I think I’ll stop there, although that recounting does not include Max’s anger at having to go with the physical therapist and how he picked up a brick in a threatening way, or how he knocked over a bunch of stuff when sent to time out later on, or what happened during centers time, or story time, or dismissal, or how I made it to the office with a list of three Spanish-speaking families to call for different reasons.

I will say this.  I dug out My Friend is Sad, by my buddy Mo Willems, and read it at story time with great enthusiasm.  So we did end on a happy note.  The children laughed, and I smiled, and then I sent them home.


10 thoughts on “life on the rollercoaster

  1. I hate to always be a Wendy Whiner when I comment, but imagine everything you just wrote about, and more, happening to you with absolutely NO HELP! I have no assistant, no sped teacher that pushes in, our school has no social worker or psychologist, most of our parents don’t give working phone numbers, or they change them once a week, our gym teacher would NEVER come down from the 4th floor to meet me at the cafeteria and take my class, I could go on and on. I usually love reading other teachers’ blogs because it makes me feel better about what I deal with all day, but sometimes, it just makes me feel worse 😦 I spent my prep today trying to get in touch with parents for three different boys who all were in the dog house this morning (1. punching several other kids for no apparent reason 2. pushing about 6 boys down on the stairs 3. sticking his tongue out at two other teachers when asked to stop banging on the door!) and I only was able to get in touch with one! I just hope tomorrow is a better day for both of us!

  2. I am a senior at Auburn University and my major is Elementary Education. Reading this blog was very interesting. I feel like I was with you all throughout your day. I think your blog was very interesting and it opended my eyes to many problems I may face one day. I hope your problems get better soon. I really like how you were very detailed in describing your day.

  3. I do recall many days like this when I was teaching and now I occasionally have them in my own home with only 2 children and a husband! I would swear I make about that many decisions each day even without being in the classroom. I am feeling for you, my dear, and hoping it gets better…it sounds like it is!! Big hugs to you…

  4. Teaching is insane, isn’t it? LOL!

    It’s a good thing I have the attention span of gnat, because I only spend a second or two at most on each task throughout the day. 😀

    Great documentation. I should try it someday.

  5. see, i think about having my own classroom with so many kids needing so many things all at once, with no other adults there to help me–and then i remember why i do not actually want to be teaching elementary school in the first place. even though i’m in a kindergarten classroom for my student teaching this year, it is all about preschool for me. preschool with lots of grownups around and very small student-teacher ratios. please.

  6. wow! that’s pretty much the mental pace and gymnastics of teaching in a nutshell. you summed that up so well. i don’t think i could write out my day that well.

  7. Lisa, well, at least you made ME feel better! I know I’m lucky because I do have support.

    prettyhowtown, what you really want is what I’ve got — preschool in a public elementary school. If I taught regular preschool I’d be making a fourth of my current paycheck. Find preK!

    Anne and Mrs. V., my friends, thank you so much for your support. I’m feeling much calmer.

  8. That was an interesting account of your day, and although it was dismal for you, I laughed out loud several times. What we all have to concentrate on is the good outweighs the bad and there are more wonderful days than horrible ones. At the heart of it all is children who need us and look up to us, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. On a sidenote to prettyhowtown, I started out with GA Lottery pre-K through a private daycare and was paid about $20,000 per year, with no benefits. I suggest you be careful about pursuing preschool. The kids are great but the pay is poverty level. Goo luck to all of you!

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