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My reading list grows exponentially. Everytime I read a book, it'll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It's like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.
-A.J. Jacobs

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Defining Success

Writing is not just what I do in my spare time. It's what I do for a living. My job is to teach my 4th graders how to write, which at times can be an extremely difficult thing to do. Next week my students will be taking a standardized test in which they will have to write a personal narrative to a specific prompt that they are given. The week before the test is ALWAYS a disheartening one. The students suddenly turn into zombies and look at me like I am Charlie Brown's teacher speaking to them. "Wah. Wah. Wah." My heart drops and I am ready to raise the white flag, grab a shovel, and dig my grave. I've taught them everything they need to know, yet this week's stress level is too immense for some of them.

We practiced a prompt this week that was: "Write a composition about a time you found something." The responses I recieved were painful.

I do have to say though, that there are times that I feel on top of the world and like the most successful teacher in the world. This is when I receive paragraphs like this on my desk:


Letting my face fall into my pillow, I sighed deeply. My sister gave me a look and then suggested that we go for a walk. We stepped out the front door and watched sprinklers spin as they spat out water. We listened to the birds chirp their songs, their feet clenched around the branches. As the sunshine and cool breeze hit me, I found a happiness inside of me.

See how this is brilliant? A nine year old wrote this! I am proud to be this student's writing teacher in this moment.

However, my success isn't just defined by the gold mine paragraphs that I receive only every so often. They are also defined by the moments where I wonder if I've spoken a different language all year long. Yesterday was one of those days that my students forgot capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure...basically everything. And not just a handful of students. ALL of them!

I had a long "speech" with them about how I was dissapointed in them and how I expected so much more from them. They left my class quiet and I secretly hoped that they were disappointed in themselves as well. Of course, I couldn't know how my speech affected them, even though I would have given anything to jump inside their thoughts for a few minutes. Undoubtedly, they were probably hearing another language, Charlie Brown's teacher, or most likely even thinking about what they were going to be doing after school. Certainly they wouldn't have given much thought to what I said, because most days, they dont. At least I felt better about getting it off of my chest.

That is, until I recieved this on my desk today.
Dear Mrs. Neal,
The story I am going to write on the test day is the Rollercoaster story, and I also apologize for being so dumb that I can't figure out what story I'm supposed to right. Every school morning, I take brain pills, but it looks like there not doing it. So what I'll do is talk to my mom about it so we can work this out.
Sincerely,
Name redacted

And this, my friends, is why I love my job. Aside from the misspelled words here and there (write, ironically misspelled only once), this student's opening, closing, correct comma usage, and word choice had me in tears.

5 brilliant remarks:

Gavin said...

I think it's awesome that you're a teacher and actually like your job. Some teachers aren't very nice at all, but I think your class would be one that I would like if I was a kid.

Chelsea & Nick said...

LOVE IT! I have a gem I'll have to show you after school.

Shelley Sly said...

Aww! I agree with Gavin; you seem like a supportive and encouraging teacher. :)

Catherine Denton said...

Oh my gosh, that letter pulled my heart strings.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I can't believe a 9 yr old wrote that. Wow. I must bow down to you, masterful teacher! ; )