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Entry date: 12-22-2022 - Turtles and such - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

It’s fun to see the students so excited about their break and spending time with family during the holidays. I notice that some of them are more boisterous than others and some have even said that they don’t want school to end. This is heartbreaking.

For many of these kids, there might not be a lot to look forward to over the break. Over ⅔ of my class eats breakfast in my classroom. This might not mean anything or it might mean that there is just not a lot of food at home. It makes me wonder how many of my kids will be hungry at some point during the 17 day break from school.

I wonder how many of them will not receive a gift. Out of 31 students, I’m guessing there will be a few that don’t receive anything or anything they will be talking about when we get back to class. I don’t see my class being the type to brag about their gifts, anyway, which is nice, but we shall see.

Yesterday morning I had to stop and get some sugarcubes for a science experiment we are doing today. I also picked up some lined paper for their work and another 60 pencils. These won’t last very long after the start of the second semester and even though it is only a few dollars, it adds up. I’ve probably spent several hundred dollars this calendar year providing things for my classroom.

It’s not a huge deal and I’m not looking to win any medals, but it is sad. We can spend almost a trillion dollars on defense but fuck education. Keep’em dumb and subservient, I suppose. That’s the American way.

It’s not that I am un-patriotic. I say the Pledge every day with the kids. Some of them say it with me and some just stare. Many don’t know whether to use their left or right hand. I suppose I need to teach them where their heart is located first. I’m adding it to my list for things to teach in the new year.

The good thing is that I’ve grown to really love these little people. They have such interesting personalities. I have my quiet ones who are quite stoic and just take everything in that’s going on around them. A few of these are clearly deep thinkers and their responses to my daily morning work, which is a “thought for the day” type of question, express a real thoughtfulness about the world around them. .

One of these students is still figuring out English so I am stoked to see how these thoughts evolve as the year goes on. I like to joke with him a bit during the day and it’s fun to see what he picks up on quickly and what makes him sit for a second and think. I think challenging him to think is a good thing for both of us as it keeps us on our toes.

I have my group who seem like they are impervious to caring about anything, too. It’s like they have just given up on the world already. My challenge for the rest of the year is to put a few small cracks in the armor, at least. Time and attention are pretty useful tools to get these cracks going. I had a few like that last year, too, and all they really needed was to know I cared and would listen when they were ready to share.

This year’s stoics are a bit older and have had some more experience with this type of thing, so my approach has to be more subtle. I have one who is coming around, but I can’t be too obvious about trying to get her to loosen up and smile once in a while. She’s painfully shy, too, on top of being a true skeptic of the world, so my work is cut out for me.

Another mission for 2023: Get little Miss M to come out of her shell a bit more. It can happen. I just have to help her believe in herself a bit more. If I can get her to do that, I’ll be happy, and she’ll be better at protecting herself. She’s the type that will have people looking to take advantage of her if she doesn’t learn to stand up for herself a lot more.

Yesterday I had to have “the talk” with a student, too. Not a sex talk, of course, but the talk about taking a stand and doing what is best for yourself. He’s super smart but terribly lazy. When he puts effort in, his work is excellent, but when it seems like it might be hard, he just turns into a turtle and hides in his shell. He’d rather take a bad grade than put himself out there and it kills me.

I’ve got to start scaffolding better to make things accessible to the different levels of skill, ability, and self-esteem in my class. I wonder what research has been done on scaffolding lessons to help children who have the ability build confidence. I’m sure it exists. We know, for example, that students who are exposed to effective social and emotional learning courses do better academically. This would suggest that there is something to scaffolding lessons to help them build confidence.

I have my work cut out for me in 2023. I like it.

We all do, though, don’t we? Life isn’t getting any easier for anyone, it seems. Everyone I know seems to be adding more and more to their plates. Much of this is good because growth is important. I love seeing the people I care about growing and building themselves up to being the person they want to be, but it’s hard, too. I know it is a struggle for a lot of us to stay up for the challenges that life brings.

I wish I had better words of wisdom, but like I told my little underachiever today. It’s okay to use that shell for protection, but eventually you have to stick your neck out there and see what’s going on. They you can put your legs out and get going.

See you tomorrow.

A couple of years ago we were tasked with building a schedule. It was not fun.

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