Dear Teach, a word of encouragement for you

maria

You know you’ve been grading papers too long in one setting when you have to stop yourself from writing sarcastic comments on your students’ papers as feedback. #guilty

What I wanted to write on one kid’s fiction analysis in my reading class: “What in the world?!?! Did we even read the same story?”

What I actually wrote: What was the main problem the character had to fix?

Other times I masked my true feelings…

What I wanted to write: Is this in English?

What I actually wrote: Use your Frequently Misspelled Words list.

What I wanted to write: For the love! You might as well start copying your partner. You’re never going to make it in this class!

What I actually wrote:  Tutorials are every Monday and Tuesday after school. Please make arrangements to come next week.

When I reach this stage of paper grading, I know it’s time to hop up and take a break for a bit. Bye Felicia! I’ll be back when I can record grades without choking back mouth vomit.

We’re about a month into school now; we’re settling into routines. We’re identifying struggling students, setting goals, making adjustments, probably clicking along at a pretty steady pace. As we begin to settle into fall and the first round of assessments are administered, we sometimes begin to fully realize the pressure put upon us as teachers. For me, it’s usually about this time of year when I begin to feel overwhelmed… by a myriad of things: getting students to be successful in the classroom and having data to prove it, balancing work life/family life, beating down the to-do lists faster than they can grow, wondering if I’ll ever get a few minutes of peace to myself before bedtime without accidentally falling asleep… just a number of things that make me feel uptight. Inevitably, when I feel stressed out, I have to deal with self-doubt. This leads to more negative self-talk than I care to admit.

Anticipating this natural shift in the year, I’m being more intentional this time in dealing with my feelings. This year, I have a battle plan in place. (Because, yes, I’m one of the many who contributed to the $11.4 million dollar success of the film War Room.“The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”) This year I’m choosing to take a pro-active approach to stress and self-doubt. I’m on the offensive now, and through much prayer I’ve identified my battle cry: 2 Timothy 1:7.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

A timid person is one who shies away from confrontation. A timid person feels unconfident in the face of strife. This is the chick who wishes things were better but never figures out how to actually make it happen. This is Elle Woods, when who we really need is G.I. Jane.

According to this verse (advice Paul offered to his BFF Timothy while being imprisoned for his beliefs), Jesus has equipped us with a spirit that is ready to take the offensive. In the face of self-doubt, he empowers us to stand up for ourselves and to protect our well-being. He provides us with the emotional, mental, and spiritual power to claim his truths instead of the lies the enemy would lead us to believe. We should not let Stress tell us that we are a poor teacher or an inattentive mother this year. Let’s ignore the voice that makes us question if our struggling students will be successful or if our family would be better off with a wife/mom who, like, cooks and stuff.

When we feel maxed out, isn’t it super easy to be irritable and snarky to the people around us? Through the grace of Jesus, we are provided with a spirit that continues to communicate in love. Therefore, this year I’m more equipped to approach my students, my colleagues, and my own family with patience and kindness.

Lastly, I am so thankful for the self-discipline to stay the course even when I am so exhausted I can’t even stay awake through a whole episode of Grey’s Anatomy. When we feel worn out, know that the enemy will want to strike us when we’re weak. In these moments, we’re more likely to lash out or give up. But, hopefully, this year will be different. As we begin to feel overwhelmed, pray this verse. Refuse to let self-doubt creep in and cause undue damage.  Let’s claim our right as a child of God saved through grace, to a mindset of power, love, and steady self-discipline.

Are you ready for battle?

Confessions of a Teacher: Learnt

I wouldn’t say I’m a racist. That’s always been an ugly word, especially now. I think it’s okay to admit I suffered from a certifiable case of culture shock.

I’m thinking of the year I was hired to teach in what some might label a stereotypical “inner city” middle school, though the students there are not near as hardened as you might be imagining. Nonetheless, I had my first taste of this culture shock that summer before school started. The gentleman who happened to be on campus that July day and kindly escorted me through the halls sheepishly led me past a glaring, three-foot tall blue penis spray-painted on the window outside my new classroom. One of the first things I noticed about my new room when I crossed the threshold for the first time was a smaller, equally offensive version of the same blue genitals on the window behind my desk (The term blue balls suddenly took on a whole new meaning. At least there was that to laugh about.) Also, lining the back of my classroom where I expected a wall to be was an accordion-style folding partition. Not exactly my dream job of teaching, I could tell that much. The first few minutes I was in my new room, I cried. It was not even my first day of actual teaching for that district, and already I was replaying scenes from Dangerous Minds in my head. Should I make room in the lesson plans for Michelle Pfieffer’s Dylan-Dylan contest? How many Snickers bars would I need to buy? Would my new anthem become my favorite song from that movie, “Gangsta’s Paradise”?

I am a white, approaching middle-age woman; most of the students I taught the four years I was at that middle school were not white. They were largely made up of Hispanics and African-Americans. To be candid, to be authentic, I felt like a fish out of water.

My culture was not their culture.

My values were not their values.

And this created problems.

I did have a problem with many of my students… I had a problem with EXTREME apathy toward learning, despite my best and most innovative efforts to win my students over. I had a problem with families who offered no classroom support and made no effort to give their kids the impression that school is important. I had a problem with kids thinking the streets are cool, preparing for the future and being smart is not. I had a problem with families who gloated in generational welfare. I had a problem with three of our 8th grade students being pregnant during the year. I had a problem with a lot of things. I experienced a complete clash of our cultures.

I spent four years of my teaching career feeling like a failure because I struggled to merge the cultures and values of many of my students with my own. My numbers were no different; my data was comparable to other teachers on campus, even better than some in areas of student growth. But, in the year I’ve been out of that school district, I’ve endured an incessant, gnawing feeling. Why couldn’t I be successful? How should I have overcome paralyzing culture shock?

How did I fail?

I use to be a good teacher. Best practices, collaborative learning, differentiated instruction, engaging lessons, all of these teacher-y things were second language to me. Not a blessed one worked in my new school.

Which leads me to this: Edward M. Baldwin’s book, LearntLearnt

I plucked it from the overcrowded shelf at the public library because of this jacket synopsis: “Kenny Houston is a white teenager with problems… and he’s being shipped to Lincoln High, a predominantly black alternative school in a week. …Tony Avery is a black man with problems too. He’s Lincoln High’s new English teacher, but he’s not very popular. Portraying an authentic African-American dialect, Learnt tells the story of a discouraged teacher and a troubled student learning the most valuable lessons of their lives in one of Duval County’s worst high schools. A tale that speaks out to teachers, parents, and anyone who has ever set foot in a high school classroom.”

Wow.

I buried myself in the world of “Kenny Houston” and “Tony Avery” this past week, wondering how much of myself I might be lucky enough to discover among its pages. A “discouraged teacher and a troubled student learning the most valuable lessons of their lives”? A clash of cultures. With a happy ending.

The book did not disappoint. I kept asking myself, Why doesn’t Avery just quit? (He asks himself the same question repeatedly, especially after trying days when he rushes home feeling defeated and ready to lick his wounds.) He never does though. He is determined to keep at it. Throughout his journey in surviving his first year of teaching, proving administration and the community wrong, and finding his own teaching niche in which to settle, Avery’s heart spirals back to the same fundamental principle: there are students who need him.

Above all else, the novice teacher treasures relationship. He allows room in his heart for any kind of relationship his students are willing to offer. Some students come to adore him and relinquish enough to become compliant, well-behaved students for him. Some maintain their “old ways,” the same behaviors that scared off two other teachers before Avery. They at least respect him enough to let him teach without too much disruption, even if they never actually become ardent learners themselves. Others actually fall into a fairytale ending when they truly enjoy learning for the first time and make great academic strides. They were capable all along. They just needed the right key to unlock their potential.

Avery doesn’t always understand his students. He can’t always relate to them. They predictably grumble when he assigns homework. He makes home visits and is surprised to find he’s not welcome by some of their parents. But it always comes back to the same idea: relationships. Avery achieved what I feel like I ultimately let become a struggle for me: Relationships trump everything else. Relationships especially trump cultures that clash.

I’ve known it all along: Teachers are in the business of people, not education. Teachers should protect those people at all cost: by accepting them and every pound of baggage they’re forced to drag behind them, by not giving up on them as individuals despite how many of them collectively hold morals or values that are different from our own, and by, above all else, loving them for who they could be and not who they may be today.

What an awesome responsibility I took on in becoming a teacher! I am accountable for those things, as I should be. As Baldwin concedes about the unsung hero of his story:

“If they [his students] fail, he’s partly to blame. But even though the blame wouldn’t be entirely his, he knows his part in their failure would be the most pronounced. …Besides, students and parents don’t claim to have majored in their position, or graduated with a three-point-seven-two grade point average while studying to be a student or a parent. Students and parents haven’t gone through workshops and internships, bent on honing their techniques and skills before being awarded with the title of ‘student’ or ‘parent.’ They don’t wield a diploma that claims they know what they are doing. They are not really expected to be professional or even the slightest bit good at what they do, and they can’t successfully argue that what they do deserves a paycheck.”

But we educators do. It is our challenge to take the blame for our students who fail. We have spent years perfecting our craft. Students are just students; parents are just parents. But relationships… relationships will bridge most gaps and, I want to believe, eventually settle the conflict of clashing cultures.

5 Teacher Stereotypes: Are you one of these?

Can you identify yourself or any of your colleagues?

1. The “Cool” Teacher

This teacher is easy to spot. He’s stylishly dressed, and he’s the one getting fist bumps from every student who passes him in the hallway. You can’t hold a conversation with this guy because of all the kids interjecting with “Hey, Mr. Battle!” as you walk together to the lounge to check your mailbox. Even his name is cool. All the other teachers secretly want to be his friend too. But he’s already taken. His bestie is The Coach.

2. The Coach

Commonly referred to as The Group Work Teacher, this one runs his classroom just like he runs his team. A few examples:

With his team #1: No athlete will speak during practice unless spoken to. Don’t even attempt a response without direct eye contact and a response that ends in “Yes sir!”

In the classroom: No student will speak during class unless spoken to. Don’t even attempt a response without direct eye contact and a response that ends in “Yes sir!”

With his team #2: Players are expected to review the weekly scouting report. They are told to pair up with a teammate in the like position and quiz each other on their roles for the next game.

In the classroom: Students read the weekly chapter from the textbook. They are told to work in groups; complete the study guide at the end of the chapter.

With his team #3: Team gathers in locker room to watch and discuss game film.

In the classroom: Class watches a film after every test. “Wait! There’s a movie for that!”

3. The Newbie

This poor soul is readily identifiable by the permanent deer-in-the-headlight look on her face. Brace yourself if you teach in the classroom next to hers. She needs you this year. She will have A MILLION plus one questions, and it is your duty to teach her. She’s just now figuring out that she didn’t sign-up for the typical 9-5 job. She’s learning to juggle her home time with lesson planning and paper grading. Monday mornings are a special kind of struggle for her because she’s still young and holding on to occasional old, weekend-party habits. Hey, YOLO, right? Oh, and she remembers saying “YOLO!” while in college (because, come on! That was only last year.) while tossing back one more shot that will surely doom any hope of getting up before, say noon, on Sunday.

4. The Veteran

image

This educator is a true professional. She has spent a great number of years perfecting her craft. Perhaps she has crossed that line where more years have been spent in teaching than in all the other phases of her life. She is often called The Lecturer because she’s been using the same lesson plans since 1976. But she never takes a sick day, manages to keep even the rowdiest of kids quiet, and is predictable and consistent to a fault, so no one messes with her. She has earned her seniority. That little calendar next to her desk counts down the days until retirement. It’s hard not to be jealous of her sometimes, isn’t it?

5. The Question-Asker

Every faculty has a token question-asker. This is the one educator who really likes to dig in to deep academic conversation during professional development. Unfortunately for the rest of the 150 faculty members, the group meeting will run 30 minutes longer than the time allotted on the agenda due to her incessant questioning.

“Yes, but what would Schlechty say about that?”

“I heard Kylene Beers speak last year. How can we implement some of those close reading strategies?”

Someone cut her off already! Find a new literacy article to distract her with so the rest of us can go to lunch!

Just in case I’m not the only one who struggles with leaving my family to tend to my job

Y’all, summer is officially over!

And I wasn’t ready to say good-bye!

We teachers are going back to work, busily preparing to meet all of our new favorite students, and wrapping up our last family hoorahs until next summer.

Every year, I have a really (and I mean REALLY) hard time saying goodbye to my time with my family. As much as I love teaching, my first profession of choice would be stay-at-home mom. I don’t know why I’m surprised every year when this time rolls around, and I panic inside at the thought of giving up this SAHM stint for another school year. So what if the thought of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar one more time to my toddler leads to a strong bout of nausea? So what if my older boys’ incessant bickering make me censor a stream of expletives creeping to the tip of my tongue? So what if after two months of summer practice, my husband still doesn’t understand that his role during dinner-making hour is to entertain the kids and keep them out of the blessed kitchen? These are my people. And I love to take care of them! True to my nature, I’m presently in the woes of leaving behind my favorite profession and switching roles to the one that pays the bills. Luckily, I enjoy my teaching career and want to be successful at it, but still…

This week, I’ve allowed my grief to become bigger than it should. As a result, I felt more stressed out and less excited than I should be.

Prayerfully, my attitude is starting to look up. I’ve been blessed this school year already, and I want to keep my focus on the Big Picture. I’m re-posting part of one of my previous blogs, mostly because I need time to study it again… Life is 10% what happens to us, 90% how we react to it. I don’t need to let things boil to the point they have this week because the God I serve defies human timelines. He does not freak out and overreact in different situations. He is constant. He cares about me. And it will all be OKAY.

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[from The 90/10 Rule]

They say life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

You know what I love about scripture? It’s that when I become aware of my shortcomings, I can always find someone in the Bible who’s already been there, done that. The precedent has already been set. Thank goodness for me, my only personal downfalls that appear in print are the ones I’ve chosen to post myself! Ever read parts of the Bible and thought, “Oh man! How embarrassing!” At the least, my blunders aren’t in print for, like, eternity in, like, the best-selling book of all time.

Think about Jesus’ good friends Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus learns that his buddy Lazarus is seriously ill, and his reaction to his friend’s imminent death is one that has been studied by scholars and theologians ever since. Instead of rushing to Lazarus’ side in Bethany to heal him with divine authority (which he can totally do!), Jesus hangs out where he is for two more days before beginning the journey (which is totally unpredictable! No way Mary and Martha see that one coming).

*** This story is found in John 11, and on a side note this is one of my favorite chapters of all scripture. It’s basically oozing with divine sarcasm. It’s hilarious!***

Naturally, when he finally arrives, Jesus is greeted by the two frustrated sisters who expected him to come quickly and save their brother before he kicked the can. “Lord,” Martha says. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). To which Jesus firmly reminds her (I like to picture him rolling his eyes): “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11: 40).

And though Lazarus has been dead in the tomb for four days, Jesus calls to him to come out. And out walks a living, breathing Lazarus, still wrapped in his grave cloths.

When Mary and Martha sent for Jesus, they were stuck focusing on the situation directly in front of them. Their brother was dying! They could easily justify the urgency to reach Jesus. Nonetheless, they made the mistake of acting situationally. Mary’s and Martha’s actions were driven by their response to what was happening in that one moment. They didn’t yet understand the big picture the Lord was trying to teach them, that in Christ death does not ultimately consume us. As Rick Warren wrote, “Jesus waited until the situation was humanly impossible and then He brought the miracle.”

I don’t want to forget that God sees the Big Picture. Time isn’t really a thing with God. My dear mother-in-law has reminded me on occasion that He doesn’t follow a linear timeline. He is the God who Is, and Was, and Is To Come.  He’s in the past, holding up our present, and controlling the future all at once. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

Thank goodness God isn’t situational! He is constant and consistent. He never just sees us where we are. He sees how He made us and where we’re headed. We don’t have to be caught up in our present, creating unnecessary stress for ourselves. No matter how busy or jumbled or messed up we feel like we’ve made things, our God still sees the Big Picture for us.

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School is starting soon. I’m going to miss my time with my “babies.” But God knows what He’s doing. He’s brought me to this place, to this profession, with these students and colleagues, with purpose in mind. I’m going to choose to trust His Big Picture. He’ll tend to my heart, leaving me to tend to His work in such a time as this.

32nd & P

school pic

I look across my desk at the students in my classroom, at the tops of their heads really, their faces lowered as if in reverence. They pore over their standardized test. Maybe some of them should take a moment of reverent prayer; they’re taking a re-test after all. This is their second attempt at passing the Reading test, and at this point, I say we leave no stone unturned.

Since all we teachers can do during these tests is actively monitor (gone are the good ole days of knocking out a set of research papers and finalizing grades), I’ve been busy keeping myself busy. My students would be horrified to know I’ve spent the last five minutes figuring out which animal each of them most closely resembles.

You’ll be glad to know that representing my room today are a baboon, a koala bear (his nose though!), a mouse, a cheetah (cute kid, lots of freckles), and a raccoon (it’s safe to say, he didn’t win that fight last week).

All in a day’s work at this campus on the corner of 32nd and Avenue P.

We’ve worked really hard this year to get to this point. The kids don’t need to know I’m totally freaking out inside—USE YOUR STRATEGIES! READ THE PAIRED PASSAGES FIRST! OPEN THE DADGUM DICTIONARY RESTING RIGHT BESIDE YOU OR I MAY BE TEMPTED TO BEAT YOU WITH IT AFTER THE TEST! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL MANKIND, DON’T YOU DARE PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN ON YOUR DESK AND CLOSE YOUR EYES!—but I’m totally freaking out inside. Because a ton of them are SO CLOSE to passing. Some of them are THIS CLOSE to being successful.

And that’s the thing. The students on our campus are finally starting to come around to the idea that education is valuable, and what’s more, some of them are starting to believe that they can be good at it. The adults here are hard at work affecting a positive change. We are undergoing a cultural shift here at 32nd and P.  And you should take notice. We know that if our families and our immediate neighborhoods will begin to show that they value what’s happening at school, then we’ll be successful in teaching our kids.

We’re not there yet—dear goodness! How many times this year have I joked with my partner teacher to get my bail bond money ready after particularly grueling days? I’ve spent many days this year feeling frustrated or discouraged. But this campus is SO CLOSE to reaching the point where we can turn the corner.

Our teachers are in the trenches every day, working their hearts out to affect change. Lessons are innovative and engaging; a literacy movement is pushed and supported by every discipline on campus—even in classes like P.E. and Orchestra. Our teachers are “best practicing” LIKE A BOSS.

Now, the downside is: the numbers will betray us. The numbers don’t know how far we’ve come and where we’re headed. There is a vision though, and eventually it will be fulfilled.

But that takes time. And the TEA and numbers are incredulously impatient. But our campus will forge on, wisely recognizing the progress being made and the time needed to bring change to fruition.

So, what are the keys our little campus on 32nd and P will need in order to turn the corner?

1. Keep HOPE strong. Scripture says “never grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). I’m guilty of losing that vision myself. Many days may make you want to lose your mind and take up heavy drinking, but hang in there. Keep an eye on the Big Picture. Change the “neighborhood”; change the school.

2. Be positive.

Attitudes are contagious. Positivity yields positivity. Negativity yields negativity.

3. Continue to teach that school is different from home/the streets.

Let’s convey the idea that education is important; knowing the answers is cool. And both teachers and students alike will be professionals.

And our kids can be successful.

They’re not there yet, but eventually they will be.

Keep an eye out for this school in the next 5 to 10 years. With the right leadership and a sustained vision, you’re going to wonder what those people are doing down there at 32nd and P. You’ll be learning from them.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: My Life as a Teacher, Summarized in fb Posts

As my time as an 8th grade Reading teacher on my current campus comes to a close, I find myself spending more and more time reflecting on the last four years. As our principal often quips, “It takes a special person to work at 32nd and P. This job isn’t just a job; it has to be a calling.” I perused my facebook history to see how my mindset and approach to teaching has changed over the last several years.

My experience as a public school teacher for the last four years, summarized by facebook posts:

 

15. “What a great time to be a Knight…here we go!! Have a great day!! We’re ALL IN!!”
–rose colored classes that is the usual attire for the beginning of every school year

 

14. “O.L. kids working hard the day before a holiday break. Makes this teacher-mama proud!”
students

— The “hey, I just might change the world!” optimism of the first holiday break

 

13. Student quote of the day: “oh, him? That’s just my cousin. On both sides. He be from my mom and dad’s family.”
I’m 99% sure she wasn’t kidding.
Happy Friday, family!

— She wasn’t.

 

12. “Taking Camden on a walk. Passed a pencil lying in the grass. Why is my first instinct to pick it up?” #teacherlife

 

11. 7. That’s how many of my 8th grade students were sent to the office today while I was home with a sick baby. Pray for their little souls tonight, because tomorrow is judgment day. “I’m comin’. And hell’s comin’ with me.”

— Affirmation for a job well done is making a 14-year-old boy tear up with remorse.

 

10. “Hey teachers….It’s a new day, new lesson….we got this!!! Have a great day!”

— The beauty of teaching is that there’s a fresh start every day.

 

9. “Forget jeans day on Friday– what I really get excited about is Tennis Shoe Friday!”

— My feet on Monday= Iron Man. My feet by Friday= a cranky toddler.

 

8. I love it when students urgently care about their grades the last week of the semester.
–Said No Teacher Ever

— Explains the onslaught of students begging for tutoring the last week of every grading period and semester

 

7. “Oh good gravy! I dropped this twice this week already, both times referring to my 8th grade students.” -with Allison, my (bail bond) buddy
jail time

 

6. {December 12, 2012. Trying to make sense of the Newton, CT tragedy} “Ran home for a sec during my conference period and my house is a wreck, littered with evidence of a rushed morning with my boys. But how dare I take one second or one mess for granted. At least mine are coming home tonight. As a parent, I can’t even comprehend. As an educator I’m enraged at the awesome responsibility we’ve come to obtain.”

 

5. “Today, school is optional on our campus. It’s a student holiday, but with STAAR tests the next couple of days, many students have chosen to come anyway to attend our STAAR Camp. My heart is SO HAPPY with the hard work that I’m seeing. I needed that– to see even some “hard” kids, wanting to learn. Good luck with testing this week & Go Knights!”

— Ahh, there it is. The reason I became a teacher in the first place.

 

4.

standardized test

 

3.

dos equis

 

2. “Today is National Nut Day, which should obviously be a national holiday for middle school teachers! These kids are NUTS!!!”

 

1. The most profound statement I’ve heard in a looooong while, and written by one of my 8th graders nonetheless: “Don’t let the weight on your shoulders keep you from getting up. Let the weight make your legs stronger so you can never get knocked down.” Awesome insight from a kid without parents, who’s covered in tattoos and shows the kind of maturity that comes from being forced to grow up too fast!

— … And the reason I am still teaching today.

 

And one story to grow on:

A few years back, one eighth grade boy was clearly having a bad day. A co-worker of mine pulled him aside and talked to him privately, hoping he would open up about what was so obviously bothering him. “Miss [the generic term for all female teachers, apparently in the entire universe], my girlfriend said she’s pregnant.” I’m sure a look of concern passed over my caring colleague’s face as she tried to figure out what to say next… but he spoke up before she could respond. “But she can’t be. I took one of those pregnancy tests– I peed on that little stick and it said ‘negative.'”
Oh, well, good. In that case, crisis averted.
You can’t make this stuff up.

Elementary sho’ aint easy!

beer and school

I miss the good ole’ days.

Half-day kindergarten. “Pirate Special” served in the cafeteria on Fridays. (Ooh-wee the best part of that steak finger plate was the buttery roll!) The legendary book fair. The annual Halloween carnival. Your favorite teacher was all of your elementary teachers who hugged kids instead of standing in the hall with crossed arms and a scowl.

I’m almost 34, but just like you, I easily remember my first teachers. Ms. Shipp in kindergarten who wore a short, black bob; Mrs. Lawson in first grade, who still attends my parents’ church and still makes a point to speak to me when I visit, Mrs. Benton in second grade who gave me licks, which was apparently a first for both of us (another story for another day, albeit a funny one.)

Those days seemed easy and slow.

Nothing like the impression elementary school leaves me with now.

And I don’t like it.

I trudged to Open House with my second grader tonight. Thankfully the teachers seemed to have adopted the frozen smile by the time I finally got close enough to shake their hands because the block we walked to get to the school’s entrance in this Texas evening heat already had me dabbing my upper lip, the whole while I’m saying silent prayers that my mascara wouldn’t arrive before I did. And I won’t even go into detail about all the other places that were dripping by the time we walked the gauntlet called Everyone-in-the-entire-district-is-in-this-hallway-at-this-exact-moment. “Brennan?  … Brennan? … BRENNAN? Do I have mascara on my cheeks?”

“Scared? You’re scared?”

“No, ma.scar.a.”

“What’s your scara?”

“Oh. Nevermind then!”

Brennan proudly led the way into his “Homeroom” Teacher’s room. I’m air-quoting that phrase, Homeroom Teacher. More on that in a minute.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries; Brennan went through the usual routine of finding his desk, locker, etc. I signed the usual papers, accepted the usual parent letters that I promised I’d look over when we got home. No big deal.

Until I got home and looked over the parent letters.

Big deal.

Included was Brennan’s schedule. Sure, it was printed on colored paper with a big, fun looking font something akin to RAVIE. But I’ve taught both middle school and high school and my second grader’s paper was nothing shy of a child-friendly version of a Schedule, like the ones teenagers use.

His classes weren’t labeled as 1st period, 2nd period, and so forth. But every 42 minutes, his class is apparently going to rotate to a different teacher. In the course of a typical day (admittedly including PE), he will spend time in 7 different rooms. FAMILY, hear me on this. Ole’ boy will have SEVEN teachers in ONE day. Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing and Spelling, PE, and an elective (music, or art, or computer lab, or library day). If they’re trying to use the time-out method– one minute for every year– one teacher for every year– I think they missed the boat.

He just turned seven this week.

He’s only been tying his shoes one summer.

And to be honest, he still sucks at it.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit much?

Have you met my child?

Maybe he’s not really ADD; maybe he’s just having a harder time molding to seven different personalities in a day and trying to please all of them.

Which brings me back to the air-quoted Homeroom Teacher. Really, his HT is his first period Reading teacher. He spends no more time with her in his day than he does with any other teacher and he doesn’t even end his day in her room. Seems like that’s a loose-fitting crown to claim.

All summer long I’ve been praying for Brennan’s HT. I’ve pleaded for someone who will care about him first, understand him second, and be able to guide us as parents down this second grade path last. I’ve prayed that his teacher was enjoying her summer and refilling her love tank with her own family. As teachers began reporting back to campuses in the last few weeks, I’ve prayed that our teacher was growing excited about the kids coming into her room and that she was genuinely looking forward to teaching a roomful of new faces and that she was feeling more and more prepared to do so. I even prayed over her today, knowing these are the last few days teachers will cram to get everything perfect and ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning when school starts.

I had a slight moment of panic when I realized all this time I kind of was praying for the wrong thing. Essentially, I was praying for a Ms. Shipp or Mrs. Lawson or Mrs. Benton experience for my son. I so want him to bond with a teacher he loves.

Can he do that with 7 teachers?

I remember my second grade teacher. When he’s my age, will Brennan be able to remember his?