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Entry date: 11-23-2022 - Tuesday at the Salt Mine - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I had a really fun day with my students. The pressure was off in a couple of ways. I decided that it was going to be a mellow day and there were also five students who were absent. It’s amazing the difference between managing 25 people and 30 people. You just have a little bit more control and less to worry about when you are missing 1/6th of your class.

The kids were ready for a mellow day, too. We had a trip to the library during what is usually science class and then did a math competition after they got done with art. Typically students love opportunities to compete with each other, but my kids are woefully behind in math. It was a great learning experience for me to see their skills and challenges, but it was tough for them to struggle on what I thought would be easy questions for them to answer.

Fourth graders should be locked in on addition and subtraction up to four digits. When it comes to multiplication and division, they will have varying degrees of expertise and, to be honest, the new methods of doing math are lost on me. I am old school when it comes to math, and I need to ditch that way of thinking. Together we will figure it out this year.

I need to work in as much review and basics as possible before we get too far behind the other fourth graders. One way I can do this is to talk with my fellow teachers on my team and see how my kids stack up. Perhaps they all need more practice on the basics. We shall see next week after our Thanksgiving break.

Reading was fun, too. I have a different group of kids for reading than my homeroom. My group is the lowest functioning reading group. Many of my students are ELL (English Language Learners) and reading well below grade level right now. We spent the day working on word families and looking at words that end in similarly and making a contest of it. The winning team got some candy that I was given as a welcome gift from the school.

I don’t eat candy, so it was nice of the school to give me treats to share with my students. This isn’t because I don’t like candy. I don’t eat it because there is not enough of it if I start. I can put away a whole bag of candy no problem if I allow myself. Luckily, I have broken the hold that sugar can have on me.

It was worth it to the kids, too. They battled hard and came up with some great words. We built our team a bit and they learned that it can be fun to stretch out the ol’ brain a bit. Next time, though, I will do it a bit differently and have each team make sure and get input from all the kids. I had a few that were not participating today.

After lunch we had a social studies quiz. My students don’t know jack shit about the country they live in, so we have been learning about the different states in the Union. I promised them a quiz today and even let them use the notes they were taking last week on it. It didn’t go well. I think the language barrier for some of my students will require me to make sure my instructions are spot on every time we do an activity. Even though I repeated myself a few times, I had a couple that did not do what was asked of them.

Some of this is the students not listening, sure, and some is that they don’t understand. This was not part of how my class was described to me when I was interviewing for the job. This is on me for not asking more questions. I’ve also got to realize that no matter what I am told in the education world, it is going to be sugarcoated quite a bit in the hiring process. I can see why their original teacher might have dipped on them. It’s not easy group to teach.

After they were humbled in social studies, we worked on some phonics in the afternoon and had another competition. I wanted to give out some more Kit Kats, so we ratcheted up the competition and got the whole class involved. One thing I can say for my homeroom is that they have a better grasp of phonics than the reading group does. I was impressed, actually, by the way attacked the different letter and vowel sounds we were working on.

In the end, the kids were ready for a five-day break as was I, and they even did a nice job of getting the classroom straightened up after I told them, “No one leaves until all the paper is picked up off the floor.” It’s a dirty trick, I know, but it works. They wanted to get out of the classroom, and I wanted them out, but I also want to take it easy on the nice ladies who clean the rooms at night.

After seven days on the job, it is easy to see the work I have cut out for me. It’s also easy to see where I can build upon some of the wonderful strengths that exist in my room. I get to work on building confidence in my kids and there aren’t too many things better than that. Even in the days when I was working with adults, I loved helping my co-workers or staff learn to believe in themselves.

Too much of our world is about tearing each other down. Too much of our time is spent worrying about what we can’t do or have been told we can’t do. The real trick is helping lift each other up and realizing that when we do that, it lifts up as well. I get to do that all day long. Sometimes it is a tough sell and maybe that's why I love it.

See you tomorrow.

Some of the jobs available in the classroom each week.

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1 Comment

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts
Nov 23, 2022

Play "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash for them. After hearing those lyrics, learning state & capitols will seem easy.

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