First Time for Everything

Da Dum.

Da Dum.

Da Dum.

Da Dum.

If you can’t tell by my spectacular written form of this instrument, this is the sound of a drum.

What drum am I speaking of, exactly?

THE drum. The sound of the school year (rapidly) approaching.

Oh, and the school dreams have appeared like clockwork.  I AM NOT EVEN JOKING when I say in my dream the other night, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education was with me all day in my classroom.

If that’s not a nightmare, I don’t know what is.

(I’m sure he didn’t appear in my dreams because of his wonderful education legislation he’s impeded all summer long. No, that can’t be it).

Nausea-inducing dreams aside, I am so, so excited for the new year. Change will be the theme and as Sheryl Crow says, “A change can do ya good…”

Time for a musical interlude, class.

I am teaching first grade for the first time this year and I’ll be the first one to say, I’m stoked!

Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching second grade. They are such a fun age group, as that is the age where students are more independent, but still voluntarily give their teacher a hug on their way to the bus or car line.  (By the way, my first class ever are now fifth graders and will be leaving for the middle school at the end of the year.  Just mop me up on 5th grade graduation day).

First grade is special, though.  That is the grade where those six and seven year-old boys and girls learn to escape through the wonderful world of books. As my first-grade-teaching-mama-says, “Those babies learn to read.” I am completely aware it will be more challenging, but I’m up for it. Plus, I have a fabulous team, friends, and mama to help me along the way.

Our sweet school is also undergoing a much-needed, major face-lift (she was beginning to show her 50+ years of age) and it has been so fun to watch the expansion as the year has progressed.  I would be lying if I said I haven’t been a tad bit jealous of teacher friends at other schools who have been spent a few summer days in their classrooms arranging desks, putting up bulletin boards, and transforming that boring classroom door into a work of art, but all of that will come.

If anything, it’s been a timely reminder for me. Sure, all of that is important, and you can bet I’ll be sprucing up the place as soon as I can. But it’s not the reason I’m there.

I attended a fabulous inservice a few days ago (yes, they do exist).  The gist of it was how to help students from low-income areas thrive at school. And you know what the number one way is for these students (and all students) to succeed?

It wasn’t specific reading strategies.

It wasn’t how to implement Common Core.

It wasn’t differentiating instruction.

It wasn’t practicing bubbling in bubbles for a test.

It wasn’t preaching test-taking strategies.

It wasn’t even achieving a high score on a test.

Are those important? Sure. But none of it will have any impact on the student if I don’t build a relationship with him or her.  I’m there for those students who need me. Listen to them. Find out their interests.  Ask something specific about their weekend. Tell them something about myself.

It’s not like this was breaking news to me. I’ve always known that and I hope all of my students and families I’ve been blessed to have over the past three years knew that was my top priority.

However, it’s so easy to lose sight of it. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in test scores, evaluations, deadlines, benchmarks, emails, etc. It’s so easy to let your mind wander when you hear more and more bad news about education on the 10 o’clock news every night.

Guilty as charged.

When really? All of that is not why I chose teaching as my profession. I believe in the importance of collecting data, but it’s not why I chose teaching. I believe in creating a learning environment, but it’s not why I chose teaching.  I believe in learning the best instructional strategies there are for the benefit of my students, but it’s not why I chose teaching.

I chose teaching because I love children. I don’t want to be their friend;  I want to be a role model in their life when they may not have one.  I want them to see the potential I see in each of one of them in their own selves. I want them to see why education is so important and how nobody can take that away from them. I want to create a safe, happy place where they feel loved and valued.

Really, I believe children are our future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way.

(I’m sorry, it was getting a little heavy in here).

So long story longer, this is my mindset as I start the year.  I am going to focus on building that relationship and trust with my kids. Believe it or not, us teachers need that reminder more than ever.

Teacher Confession...this is so true!!  They become mine....

After all, that’s the first step in getting those babies to read.

Just remind me of this when it feels like August 53rd.

Happy School Year to all of my educator friends!

Maybe I Should Join the Summer Reading Program

Well, we are in the double-digits of July.

Officially two more weeks of Summer Break (at least for us teachers). It is now completely appropriate for all education professionals to wear black.

(Although, several of us are still attending inservices and preparing upcoming lessons, and creating a a Happy and Safe Learning Enviroment if said environment isn’t under construction).

(You know us teachers, we have to point this out to everyone who says, “But you get three months off!”)

(I can now continue with a clear conscience).

Summer 2013 will be known as the season in which I returned to reading.

Wait a second, I’m a teacher, what do you mean return?  Oh, you’re right, I do read children’s books, articles, textbooks, various important pieces of educational issues (of course).

Let me rephrase.

Summer 2013 will be known as the season in which I READ FOR PURE, LITERARY ENJOYMENT.

I kind of forgot how much I enjoy reading a book that I can’t put down.  I haven’t read all that much, but enough to consistently visit the library every other week and use my library card with my rad 4th grade signature, no less.

I’ve already been told I should get a Kindle or a Nook, and they’re probably right. However, I become my Mama when I said I love the feel of a REAL BOOK. I stare at a screen too much as it is, so I like reading from real pages and then admiring my accomplishment of how much I read while rockin’ on the front porch until dark.

You gotta count those small victories, friends. And sometimes getting through that chapter with no(!) dialogue is it.

Here are my Top 3 so far. I’d LOVE to hear yours.

1.  A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

I don’t remember how or when exactly, but a few years ago I stumbled upon Sophie Hudson’s blog, BooMama. I’ve been one of her “tens of readers” since. Simply put, she can make me laugh or reflect unlike just about any writer.  This is her first book and it’s in my Top 5 of EVER (that’s high marks, my friends).  Each chapter is a short story about her (very Southern) family, and I don’t care if you live in Tennessee or New York (bless your heart), you will relate.  Read it! I’ll be happy to let you borrow.

2. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

My Mama has been mentioning this book to me for a few years, and I put it off.  Well, I read it in the course of two days on the beach.  My tan (really! I really got one this year!) thanks it for keeping me on the beach because I couldn’t put it down. It’s the story of a young girl with a tough life, who moves to Savannah, GA to start over.  Funny characters, addictive plot… so good.

3. The Secret Life of Bees

I posted on Facebook after I finished CeeCee, and one of my friends recommended this one. Loved it! If you enjoyed CeeCee, you’d like this one. Although, it’ll give you a hankerin’ for some honey. You’ve been warned.

I just started Yankee Doodle Dixie (do you sense I enjoy a Southern novel?) and Redeeming Love is next on my list.

I’d love to hear which books should be next on my list. (By the way, I did sneak Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen the past couple of years. Adore is not a strong enough word).

What’s my number one favorite book of all time? Charlotte’s Web? No, you heathen!

The Bible.

I think a Jesus Juke is always a great way to wrap up a blog.