ONE MORE DAY.....One more day, and I am done with my first Benchmark week as a teacher. I had good intentions of blogging over Easter weekend to sum up my "countdown to Benchmark" experience. I'll be honest. The "countdown to Benchmark" experience can be summed up in about five words. Stress. Tired. Tension. Anxiety. Tired. I put tired twice because I have quickly found that dealing with middle school behavior in the height of spring fever makes me tired, and middle school students in the height of spring fever are tired of hearing me preach about the value of main ideas and making inferences. Needless to say, if I can sum up a whole potential blog post in five words, it does not need to be a blog post at all.
Instead, I went into this week with a smile and a positive attitude, determined to keep the kids as pumped up as possible as they faced hours of silent concentration each morning. I just knew that something wonderful would strike me this week as a little piece of wisdom from my favorite middle schoolers. That, in fact, did happen today as soon as the first bell rang. I never name students in my blog, for confidentiality reasons, but the student who gave me this little piece of wisdom is a student I have mentioned before. I spent most of the first semester thinking she was going to punch me in the face if I made any serious attempts to teach her something. During third quarter, I moved her to the front row. A little over a month ago, I started working with her during Benchmark Academy after school, and three weeks ago she became my unofficial student aide during homeroom. This is a kid who spends a lot of time in the office, and who burned some serious bridges with her teachers last year, but the thing is, I really like this kid. She has a serious wall built up, and she is tough as nails, but deep down she's just looking for attention like every other human being in the world.
Anyway, this morning this student comes running in my room asking to borrow pencils. Our post-benchmark activity this afternoon was to go to a play. The alternative to the play was two hours of silent reading at school. As I was handing her some sharpened pencils, I asked this student if she was going to the play. She replied no, that she didn't have a dollar to go to the play. I then told her that the alternative was to read a book. She looked at me like I was crazy. This child was not about to read for two hours. I still can't get her to read much longer than two minutes. I gave her the pencils and a dollar in quarters and asked her what she was going to do on her essay today during testing. She said was going to write five paragraphs and take up two pages and reread her work. She finished her statement by saying, " just like you told me to do, Ms. Herring."
Later, as I was walking around the room during testing, I looked over at the "Benchmark Promises" that I had my students write on the last day before testing. I put them on the wall this week to cover up all my posters. As I looked over it, I found this child's promise:
I promise to do my very best and check my work because you helped me in class and at Benchmark Camp. Thank you for helping me :)
The combination of our morning exchange and this promise on my wall made my day. I'm no child whisperer. I can't get to the root of every child's deep-rooted problems in my classroom, and I have plenty of students who I am sure cannot wait to never hear me preach the importance of the parts of speech ever, ever again. I'm learning everyday, and my students are my teachers. One of the most important lessons I have learned this year is that my job is not to be a buddy. My job is to set a boundary and an expectation, to support my students until they get there, and then to help them surpass my expectations. Not every student will do that, but I can sure help them try. The thanks that this student displayed made me thankful. I'm thankful for all 135 of my "student teachers" that I get to see everyday. They teach me so, so much. They teach me humility. They teach me patience. They teach me gratitude. They teach me tolerance. I can't believe that in six short weeks they'll move on. I couldn't have asked for a better group of kids as my very first group, and I can think of quite a few of them that I'll never forget. But for today, I am thankful. I am especially thankful for small words and smiles of thanks from my students. They mean more than those kids will ever know.