Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wooden Apples and Overhead Transparencies

I used to think that being a teacher was mostly about wearing wooden apple necklaces and writing on overhead transparencies. I don't know if times have changed or what, but my school doesn't really use overheads anymore and I have yet to purchase wooden jewelery.

I now worry about kids who might fail, drop out, get pregnant, run away, get kidnapped, or do drugs. Lately, teaching has been weighing heavy on my heart. The other day I made a list of kids I'm worried about on a Word document entitled "My Babies", and I came up with 20 kids (out of 75). I'm worried about them for a variety of reasons: academic, social, emotional, family. I think about them, spend extra time with them in class, sometimes cry about them on the way home, make action plans for them, tutor them, give them second chances, have conversations with them, meet with other teachers about them, and get up every morning so I can help them. Basically, they consume a whole lot of my life.

I truly feel like for some of them, this is the end of the line. If we don't help them, they will turn 16, drop out, and then who knows what. I know it's not all on my shoulders because we have a great team, but I gotta admit that it's kind of scary to have the weight of so many troubled kids even partially on me. It's sometimes hard to smile and be patient when the very kids you are trying to help become defiant and disrespectful. Today I found out that one of my "babies" told another teacher, "Mrs. Norwood doesn't like me." I don't like you?? Are you serious?? That just crushed me, and I cried right there in my classroom.

But... sometimes... I get a reassurance that I'm doing something good. This week I got a wonderful letter from a student that I thought I'd share with you. Every two weeks, the kids write a letter to me about their reading. I then respond to each of their letters. It's enough to put me in the mental institution, but I think it's one of the best things I do as a teacher. The kids almost knock each other over to grab their notebooks and read what I have written back to them. Here is the letter (I took away the name). Even though I'm an English teacher and it pains me, I left the spelling and grammatical mistakes in all their glory because I think it adds an authentic charm. Things like this keep me going another day!

Dear Mrs. Norwood,

This is my first letter to you. I’m so excited to tell you about my book Flush, but what I think is beast is to tell you about the book Standing In the Light a book I didn’t finish.

I didn’t finish Standing In the Light because I felt that it was not a J.R.B. (Just Right Book) for me. The way I found out it wasn’t J.R. was I started seeing my reading log that every single night I read leas and leas every day. On the homework of reading and posted notes I coden’t remember what I had read and if you could see my post its it was only questions that the book answered. I wonder if I could read this book by the end of the year and it will be J.R. for me?

Mrs. Norwood, I would like to tell you thank you for not forsing me to read but helping me to love reading. What I mean is that the teachers last year only told me to read. What I like about that you give us for homework is that you make us do post its. Pleas don’t tell my teacher last year that I had fake read in her class because I was force to love reading but you helped me love it for real.


1 comment:

N.Garcia said...

Katie Bear,

You are a phenomenal teacher. Sometimes, I don't know if you give yourself enough credit, but you are one of the BEST teachers I know. And, I know A LOT of teachers.

One day, when I go back to the classroom, I hope to be only a pinky fingernail as good as you.

I love you!

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