Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teacher Tales

After yesterday's day out in the cold, I was really tired today. But, as my Mom used to say, "There's no rest for the wicked." I planned the lesson with my energy level in mind, and left the higher energy part for tomorrow. BUT...I opened an email this morning that said I'd have visitors, one district official and one Nationally-known reading guru, in my class this afternoon. So I decided to do tomorrow's lesson this afternoon.

Ten minutes before the suspected hour, I realized I didn't have tomorrow's copies yet, so I raced down three flights of stairs to the dungeon where the fire-breathing copy machine resided and made copies. I was huffing and puffing my way back up the stairs when the first bell rang.

I manage to balance the copies and the rest of my lunch in one arm and get my door opened with my left elbow when kids come racing up, "Mrs. Huerta, aren't we in the library today?"

"No. We are finishing the story today."

"There's a sign on your door that says library," he says pointing to offending sign.

"Oh, that," I respond. "That was for the 5th hour class. We're in the classroom today." With effort I refrain from slapping myself on the forehead.

"But, Mrs. Huerta, half the class is already in the library!"

I assign a girl to go retrieve the stray students and spot my esteemed visitors headed my way. It's less than 30 seconds before the tardy bell and I'm getting the usual, "Can I get a drink of water?" After I wimp out and say yes to the first 3 requests, I have no choice but to authorize the others as well. Now there's a line at the fountain and ..... there goes the tardy bell.

I invited the guru and district official into the room and stand in the doorway and greet students, "My bad. Sorry I didn't take the sign down. Please be seated and get started."

At least inside the room, my TV monitors have the day's journal entry on the screens and my students DO know what to do, although they are not doing it. What can I say? They're still recovering from that mad dash down and then back up the stairs from the library! Did I mention that they're coming from P.E. in the first place. The locker rooms are located in the other half of the dungeon about a mile away from the fire-breathing copy machine. AND they have adrenaline rushing through their veins, sweat pouring from their brows, and have completely oxygen-deprived brains from the physical activity.

One last student raced in, "Mrs. Huerta, my Gym locker lock is gone. Can I go find it?"

I SO want to have everyone sitting down working. But...his gym uniform, shoes and who knows what else he has stashed is now in danger of being stolen. My empathy wins out over the desire to impress with the order in my room. "Yes. Go to the office, and come back as soon as you can."

After a couple of reminders, the other students settle down and get started. My visitors find seats.

I'm Miss cool-calm-and-collected, in spite of the chaos. I have my remoted control in hand which will move my Power Point from screen to screen. I change to the next screen: Turn in Journals today. I had debated that one with visitors, but decided a timely collection was more important. They managed with a minimum of fuss...for 8th graders.

I hand out the papers with the outline of a person and prepared them to pair-share character traits for the story we're reading.

Then I tried the remote again. Now it won't move anything. The next instruction screen might as well be in South Africa. It won't appear. I try to stall with a bit of discussion. All the time discretely pushing the advance button on the device. Still nothing. I did a mental argument: go get a new battery, or just fake it and go switch the screen manually. I decided non-tech was the way to go. Managed to give the directions and do occasional sharing and discussion without the visual with only an occasional punch at the recalcitrant remote, hoping my face isn't showing the frustration. I think this is called multi-tasking.

The intercom in my room interrupts: "Mrs. Huerta did you give John Doe permission to go to P.E.?"

My brain whirls past visitors watching, kids talking, who's on-task, why won't this remote work, etc. "Think fast...P.E. ...permission ....there's a student not here?..."

"Uh..." I respond most eloquently. "Yes," hesitantly. "I gave him permission to go to P.E." I shrug my shoulders and look at students in the room, hoping to remember from watching their faces just what I told John he could do. At least I remembered I had released him. But I couldn't recall what for.

"Well, he was discovered moving about the halls down here for the last 10 minutes or so. He says you told him he could go, but didn't give him a pass."

"That's right." I answered with a grimace and another shrug.

"Okay. We'll send him back to class then."

"Thank You."

To my visitors, "Sorry. This is Middle School."

And that was the first ten minutes of my 8th hour class!!!

Oh yes. Halfway through the next period, when my visitors are safely stalking someone else, I discover an "off" button on the side of the little device. That was after I had changed the battery and hit the advance button another gazillion times. Now I know. The remote has an "off" button!


Sarah said...

Kudos to you!!
I teach 1-3rd graders at our Bible Club on Wed. nights...that hour is TOTALLY exhausting! The endless energy and questions!?! I think I must hear my name said a bazillion times in that hour :) I could NOT do it all day...I would be the "mean and grumpy" teacher. What you do and how you do it is a gift...a spiritual gift! Who cares if its disorganized a little bit?!? You kept your cool, that's what counts :)

ann said...

Oh PJ, I so sympathize with you! But you handled it so well! You didn't lose your cool or act irritated with the kids. I remember when parents would come visit unannounced and the kids knew it was the perfect time to test boundaries and push my buttons. And I remember times where someone would ask me if they could use the bathroom or get a drink, and minutes later I notice they aren't in their seats and I'd forgotten that they'd asked and I'd given permission!

samurai said...

Wow, what a day. I am glad that you made it through. And to think I struggle with just three at a time... you have 30 or so, and it changes every hour!

May God protect your sanity! :)

storyteller said...

Ohmygosh … this brings back memories of my years teaching 8th grade in Middle School! Learning to ‘roll with whatever’ becomes a way of life doesn’t it? Hope you’re having an easier day today.
Hugs and blessings,

WillThink4Wine said...

I think you managed nicely, all things considered! I have a nephew & niece-in-law who both teach 1st-5th grades. I often hear stories I think are hilarious. Them? Not no much.

PJ said...

Willthink, the ability to laugh at myself has kept me sane -- and in the teaching profession for more than 20 years.

And, storyteller, definitely "rolling with whatever" is an absolute necessity.

Ann, I considered myself very "with it" that day that I actually remembered I had sent someone out for Some reason or another. Every now and then a child will come in late and I'll say, "Why are your tardy?" "Mrs. H. YOU sent me to..." wherever. "Oh, I did! Sorry"

Sarah, believe me, I have my "Mean and grumpy" days. I try to give them reading to do those days so I don't demoralize some poor kid just trying to stay afloat in a confusing world. And, you're right, without God's strength, I'd be lost.

There's a sign on my desk that says, "God let each child be more Blessing than Challenge today." When I can remember that, I do okay inspite of the "stalkers" and "lurkers" peering and supervising!!

Mama P said...

You sound like a pro. Your class is so organized and clean. It makes me want to sit in the corner with a good book and take it easy. I hope my son enjoys kindergarten next year with a teacher as dedicated as you are.

Oh, and saw your photos. You are adorable! The freckles... accckk... love freckles. Take care.

Susanne said...

My goodness. I'm stressed out just reading about it. You handled it all so well!

Anonymous said...

totally unrelated...........did you change your classroom around or are you in a different room this year?

PJ said...

Hmmm. I've been in this classroom a few years...can't remember when I moved...4 Years??? My old room (301) was at the North end of the 3rd floor. I'm now in 308 which is more than halfway down the hall from there -- first door on the right after you come up the stairs. But not all the way South where I used to be in 311 :). I just move up and down the third floor hallway!!

His Girl said...

When I was a teacher, I found the craziness of my class events was directly proportionate to the amount/importance of who was observing me :)

sounds like you handled it well!

Kyla said...

LOL! Isn't that the way it always goes?

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