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Entry date: 12-10-2022 - Certifiably Alarmed - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Happy Saturday.

As the week came to a close, I was both relieved and petrified.

Relief, I think, comes in many forms. There is something about looking at the week and realizing you have done a lot of work that is very satisfying. My students were busy little beavers this past week and we all felt some relief yesterday around 3pm.

They worked hard on a project for social studies where they are exploring different states. It will culminate during the last few days before our winter break with some presentations and a bit of writing about the states they have been researching all week.

For many of my students, it was difficult for them to have a bit of autonomy on what they were learning about their states. I didn't give them a set group of questions they had to answer, but a wide ranging guide of the types of information they could learn. Many of the students embraced this power over what they were researching, but a few were clearly befuddled by it.

This is what petrifies me. My students struggle with thinking critically about information. I know I have written about this a few times before during this year, but it is truly scary how we are not teaching our young people to think for themselves and look at life with a questioning eye. My kids often accept what I tell them as fact and then immediately dismiss it if it is not of importance to them.

I keep hearing the same excuse from fellow educators that the pandemic has set the kids way back and I should not be as shocked as I am about the lack of skills my fourth graders possess. What's worse, though, is that there is no expectation of accountability with so many of these kids and their parents.

To be honest, I don't look forward to the conversations I will have in January about why little Johnny and little Debbie are failing. They don't do any work, so they don't get the grades. Participation trophies are not a part of the curriculum and half of these kids who don't do anything don't even try to participate. They are just a bump on a log that talks.

I am not bitter, though. I am hopeful. I'm tough on them, but they will thank me later. Maybe they won't thank me for a few years, or ever, but that's okay. They will learn to think this year and learn that when they put effort in, it will end up better than when they do not.

Another reason I am hopeful is that my class is full of very creative little minds. One of my students told me the other day that I couldn’t call home because their parents only spoke Japanese. This made me chuckle. We had talked, as I mentioned, about the history of the Pearl Harbor attack earlier that day. If we have been talking about some other incident with another country, I wonder if that would be the language they spoke at her home.

On the same day, one of my students told me I couldn’t call their home because their mom only spoke Spanish. They know, by now, that my Spanish is pretty limited, so I think she thought this would discourage me. She was wrong and her mom and I had a really nice conversation. Mom was really happy to know that she didn’t speak English, too. I bet there was an interesting exchange later that day in that particular home.

I realize that some of the calls could result in my students being abused. I was sweating it out during the week before this one because I had to make a call home and then I didn’t see the student for the rest of the week. He assured me when he came back that he had been ill, but I was worried that my call may have resulted in a bruise he couldn’t cover.

These are the types of things I think about when I share bad news with parents. From what I have seen so far, there are indications I have a good group of parents. It’s a good thing to have them on your side, as you can imagine. I only had one nightmare parent last year and I think I wrote about her. She should have been an attorney.

We start all over again on Monday, though. It will be a new week with new challenges. We don’t have testing to complete this week, so that will make it more of a regular schedule. This means more planning for me and I’m good with that. The basic skills are calling and the overall plan for our grade is to do a lot of review.

I learned yesterday, for example, that about half a dozen of my kids (by their own admission) don’t know how to read a clock and are unaware of what the big and little hands mean. They didn’t understand my joke about knowing when it was time for bed at Michael Jackson’s house. I’m kidding, of course. I would never tell a joke like that to children, but still. They are almost ten years old and don’t know how to read a clock.

I have to stop comparing the kids to my 2nd graders last year, but I don’t know how to stop doing that. When you spend all day with them, it is hard not to look at where I had my kids last year by May and wear these kids are halfway through to the fifth grade. I know that my teacher friends can commiserate.

I’m done talking about work on a Saturday, though. I hope the weekend is amazing for everyone and I plan on taking it easy today if I can. It would be nice. I have a bit of writing to do and that’s that.

Hopefully the Suns won last night, too, but I doubt they did. I’ll be happy if I have to eat some crow about that last sentence. That would make my Friday night, for sure…well that, and some quality time with friends and family.

See you tomorrow.

Lunch time yesterday.

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