I know it has been a while since I posted about my journey. To be honest, it was difficult because I was on the brink of quitting. Yes, it got so difficult I found it easier to say, “I’m done, I can’t do this” instead of adopting a growth mindset. It took the words of a friend and a colleague to pull me up, a friend who actually shared with me my own words and story. I am back and ready to continue my journey and story.
Teaching at a “high energy”, low-socioeconomic school is one of the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life (outside of raising my children). I am going to keep it real, it is tough. I pulled out all of my books by Eric Jensen, Ruby K. Payne, and Christopher Emdin. Going through the pages, I was trying to find something that can help me. How do I reach these children who are two even three years behind students at other schools? How do I deal with their anger and disrespect towards each other? How do I get them to “want to learn”? Then it hit me when a student asked, “Are you staying, Mrs. Routten?” I replied, “Of course I am. Why do you ask?” He replied, “Because teachers don’t stay here, they leave.” With these words, I realized these children crave stability and trust. I have to build relationships with my students and build trust and respect!
I learned a few things (and continue to learn) this school year. First, my students deserve my best, they deserve what every other student in my district receives. Second, my (our) students CAN do it! Their zip code does not define their capabilities. Finally, I discovered I CAN do it!!!
At the beginning of the year my classroom was “electric”, and I do not mean that in a positive way. When our reading coach came in she said, “I can feel the high energy!” It was normal to break up fights in my classroom at least three times a week. That has changed! That same reading coach came in last week and commented, “Is this the same class?” Huge change!!! I learned to advocate for my students. ALL of my students deserve to feel safe at school, in their own classroom. Separating volatile personalities helped create a calm, safe environment.
Most importantly, I learned our students are capable! They can do what every other student in our district can do. Nothing motivates me more than when someone says, “Those kids can’t do that.” Our fourth grade students have participated in “reciprocal teaching”, accountable talk, inquiry learning in science, Whole Brain Teaching, Kagan structures, etc. The results have been phenomenal. In fact, one of our fourth grade teachers stated, “I’ve never had unit assessment scores this high before!” After conversing with the reading coach at our “sister” school, we had three teachers from that school come watch our students participate in reciprocal teaching. They are now implementing this strategy in their grade level. Now that is what it’s all about! Sharing what works! Also, my students are participating in science inquiry! All I can say is, “WOW!” I’m amazed at the growth and the thinking. They are doing the talking, thinking, and learning!
Finally, I discovered that I CAN do it, WE can do it!!! Yes, it takes patience, chunking the information, and a LOT of modeling (and A LOT of prayer)! Mostly it takes my voice, our voices! I want to advocate for these children. We need to advocate for our children! Our students deserve it!