Our week has been crazy! Our babies are slowly losing traction. I see the worry in their eyes and I feel the desperation in their hugs. Students react to the uncertainty of time off at home in many ways. I have seen anger, frustration, giddiness, and tears. None will admit their fears. They tell me they will miss me, but that’s about it. It’s a lot to take and truthfully it’s mentally exhausting.

This is when teachers have to take a breath and realize that although we see their pain, we cannot take their pain away from them. Like a doctor – yes, I’m comparing teachers with doctors. Like a doctor, a teacher must be able to read her students. We must see through the disrespectfulness, the sullenness, and the seemingly endless intervention slips that appear on our desks. We have to recognize their uncertainty and fear in the unknown. We have to know that they are desperately trying to separate from us because they have to. They have to once again rely on themselves.

I believe that as an educator of at-risk students, I have to be there to listen and to make them know that when I have a break, yes I rest, yes I reenergize, and yes, I love spending time with my children, but I still miss them. I tell them that I think about them and that I pray for them. They are my family too. They are a part of me, so when they are worried, so am I. When I tell them this, they relax. They know that I’ll be there bright and early on the morning after break. I am a constant. I can be depended upon. I am there for them.

As educators, we have to be aware of the problems and roadblocks our students are facing, but their tribulations can’t stop us from having high expectations in our students. We have to push them to be their best every single day. A great education may be their only way out of their troubling life situations. Teachers are much more than math and reading lessons. We are important people in our students’ lives. For the time we are given to educate them, we are modeling intelligence, kindness, optimism, responsibility, motivation, and hope. During the time they are with us in school, we are their everything. This is so scary, but true.

So every weekend, winter break, spring break, and summer break, take a deep breath so that you can do it all over again when you return. Teaching is so much more than a paycheck. To some, it’s everything.

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We are 4 days away from Spring Break. The kids are falling apart, the teachers are hanging in there, and the parents are starting to stress out. At our school spring break is not really a time for lavish trips to warm places; it is more of an inconvenience to the families. The children are stuck at home taking care of younger siblings and parents are still working. It is a bitter sweet time for all.

Today there were several tears shed for a young student who needed some TLC from a motherly figure. Luckily, there are many of us who fill that role well. This particular student was struggling with playing and had a bit of an odor to her, so the teacher investigated. Since her shoes were 2-3 sizes too small for her feet, she couldn’t run around at recess like the other kids. Also some of the other students were talking about how she smelled. When the teacher discovered her toes were black and blue because of the ill fitting shoes, she was shocked, but then went into action. Additional staff members cleaned her up, took her clothes home to wash, supplied new fresh clothing, and bought her shoes.  It is only a temporary fix, but it at least helps her to feel better while at school.

Now, this seems logical but what happens to these children is that they do not bring the new clothes back from their homes. They end up wearing old, smelly, stained clothes again. Where do the new ones go? We don’t know. (Yes, we talked to the parent too.)

All we can do is try to make school a safe, happy, place where all students feel loved and valued. It is heart wrenching and it bothers us all. Neglectful parents do not realize the depth of their actions. These children don’t have a carefree childhood; they have stress that should not be there at this young age.

It is sad, but we can only do so much, maybe that is why so many of us stay up late worrying, and thinking about our students while on spring break, and during the summer, their lives are painful and we feel their pain.

Tonight I send up a special prayer for a special girl and her siblings; keep them safe God and let them know we love them, please. (And thanks for the wonderful women I work with who see your face in every child.)

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Relationships, Again

Lori just posted about authentic relationships and why they are so important. Finding the hidden talent of students is less difficult when you know them so well. It is a little easier for us because we often teach the same students in middle school for several years. Additionally, we already taught most of them since we both taught on the intermediate team prior to moving to middle school.

Students are often very surprised when we bring up memories or events from the past that includes them. They are shocked that we remember what they said or did; it makes a true impression on them. They know we both care deeply about them. Finding each student’s hidden strength is so invigorating.

We were both so proud of the students who performed last night, but we were also proud of the wonderful girls who volunteered as servers. They were delighted that we were so interested in the food and would explain what each dish was to us. They ran up and down the steps all evening while acting in a professional manner. They didn’t get picked up until 11:00 and when we left at 10:15 they were trying to get the music on so they could dance.

All of these girls have had many challenges in their lives yet, they were so eager to help. We talked about how some of them are doing in high school and what their GPA’s were. (They all also speak Spanish at home as their first language, and yet they are all doing very well in school.) They talked to us and we discussed life, people, issues, and cute guys, yes, we have created those close, authentic bonds. They are like additional family members.

What a great career, teaching, we love it, and it shows.

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The Hidden Gifts

If you’ve watched our latest van talks, you know that Amy and I have been talking about finding our students’ hidden gifts and talents. We know this takes time, but even more than time, it takes truly getting to know your students. This is a tricky proposition because we have so many things we need to do within the span of a forty minute period. But it can be done.

Last week I wrote about developing authentic relationships with students. This is critical if you want to find their hidden talents. Without trust, your students will never open up and express what truly interests them. But when you find special skills of your students, it is truly wonderful.

We had our annual Blue and White celebration which has been a major fundraiser for about fifteen years. During the evening we give tribute to individuals who have made a difference to our school. Last night my drama students were asked to perform. And they did! I had them perform the classic skit by Abbott and Costello, “Who’s on First.” I made it a four man part by adding the parts of Lopez and Garcia. My students were fantastic! They put so much effort in perfecting the part and let me tell you this; I had twenty students try out for the four parts and there were so many I hated to cut, not because I knew it would hurt their feelings (although that didn’t help), but because they were so good! I had no idea that there was so much acting talent in our school.

This experience reminded me of why teachers need to find their students’ hidden talents in class. This little skit took so much time and effort. I didn’t have a planning period for almost three weeks straight, but it was worth it. During every practice I laughed so many times. I watched my students blossom into actors and become these four characters. They transformed these classic words into a present day comedy scene. I was and am so proud of them. Such joy from work! By letting these students do what they loved, I felt no frustration, no exhaustion, and no anger. I felt excitement, expectation, and enthusiasm. I loved every minute of practice and performance as much as they did.

Just think if we incorporate our students’ talents and interests into our daily classes0905140652[1]. Students can act out anything, even vocabulary words. I’ve done this countless times. I’ve had the kids break up into groups and develop skits in five minutes acting our a major scene in a book or a Bible story. I’ve had them create still form vignettes about bullying. How about art. Amy is a master at this. Our students are so talented and an art class that meets only one class a week is just not enough. You can look up artists and have students recreate their work based on books you are reading. Students can create their very own picture dictionaries. The options are endless and the rewards are priceless.

Now that’s education!

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Guilt has played a very important role in my life. Being brought up in an Italian, Catholic family, guilt was a well known emotion in our house. When I was in middle school, I have to admit that I served my share of detentions. I liked to talk, what can I say. Well, when I got home my mom would greet me with just a slight raising of the eyebrows and a shake of her head. That’s all it took. Guilt would settle deep into my heart, tears would well up in my eyes, and I would immediately confess all and beg forgiveness. The power of guilt.

Maybe it’s not guilt really, maybe it is a feeling deep inside you that appears when there are certain people you just don’t want to let down. Their belief in you means so incredibly much that when you disappoint them the thought is crushing. These people that you hold to such high esteem deserve this power. These are people that have proven their trustworthiness. They have opened their hearts and minds to you. You rely on them for support and acceptance. These people hold a little of your soul in their hands.

As an educator you can earn this place in many of your students’ hearts. It’s not even that difficult. You just have to be there for them. You have to listen to them, acknowledge their importance in your days, and find joy in their presence. You have to talk with them, laugh with them, and share a little of yourself with them. You have to let them know that you value their intelligence and that it is your true belief that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. You have to develop authentic relationships with your students. If you do this, well…..anything is possible. If your students truly trust you and like you (as their teacher, as the adult, as the one in charge) they will work hard for you, smile for you, stand up for you, and confide in you. These children will become your informants, your educational coaches, and your biggest fans.

Working with at-risk students require strong relationships. At-risk students make and educator’s job just a little bit harder. These students have issues that must be addressed in order for them to achieve in the classroom. This takes time and commitment. A teacher of at-risk students has to know what excite them, interest them, and motivate them. Teachers have to look deeper and invest just a little bit more in these children. If you want to teach, then you have to be willing to open your heart to at-risk students because they are filling the classrooms. In order for you to succeed as an educator, they must succeed as students.


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