Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reflections and Butt Loads

I just walked out of my parent conference tonight. It was around 6:30. It went very well. I was able to speak to the parents about things that they could do to support their student's learning now and throughout the summer. I also used this time to reflect over the year. As I was speaking, the memories of the classroom flooded my mind. I realized that I would only have around 8 more weeks with this awesome crew. Every year, at the end of the school year, I grow teary eyed. I know this year will not be any different. This has truly been one of the best years of my teaching career.

I have had many ups and downs this year. The ups were too numerous to count. I loved seeing my students recite my poetry. I enjoyed seeing them fall in love with blogging, reading, and writing. The conversations that we had were funny, insightful, and always engaging. I cherish them all.

We have three and a half weeks until the STAAR Math and Reading test. I am doing my best to prepare them. Everyday I work with small groups. Working in small groups is so rewarding. You really get to see where they are, what they are thinking, and appreciate their personalities and quirks. One of my students got me laughing hysterically this week. This is what I needed after a very intense weekend at Abydos. When I returned to work on Monday, I was dragging. Every ounce of energy was zapped by the weekend. When I saw my students line up next to my door, their look of disappointed and frustration got me thinking. What happened with the sub?  They always give scathing reviews of my substitutes. I haven't been blessed with a decent replacement lately. They let me have it. One proceeded to tell me that they didn't appreciate the sub one bit because they didn't follow the plans. How they knew that was beyond me. I smiled and said, "Now don't you appreciate me the more?"  They said, "Yes, but Ms. Ucles. The sub was horrible." At this moment, all my stress and tiredness left me. "I am home, " I thought. "Home sweet home."

The day progressed and I was working in my Math group. One of my girls, who always can get me to laugh, said pepindicular. I told her it was perpendicular. She saw a smile come across my face. When I first wrote the word perpendicular in front of her, I spelled it incorrectly as pependicular. I immediately put a strike though it with my marker and then spelled it correctly. From that moment she kept saying pepindicular. I had to bite my lip and try not to smile  because she would continue making me laugh. She said it again and I burst out laughing. I told them, "I am trying to be very serious here."  One boy asked, "Why are you laughing?" He started to chuckle too. I said, " I will tell you later. We need to get through this."  So I put on my bravest poker face and continued. I told her after class that she has a way of making me laugh.  These moments are the reason why I left my teacher trainer position and have come back to the classroom. These moments are priceless.  And I have a thousand of them between the testing, benchmarking, testing, and benchmarking.

What I don't want to happen is to let the stress of upcoming testing to steal my joy. I know that I need to keep my eyes on the prize and cherish every moment that I have. I know that I am not perfect, and I will do my best. I also know that there are scores that are expected. My thought is this: I have prepared my students for life.My students are truly wild readers, writers, and analyzers of text. I hope that is it enough. I have prepared them to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I have done everything that I could have and then some. I worked Saturdays planning and teaching them. I worked Saturdays and spring break eating breakfast at the Egg while planning with my good friend and colleague Noemi Leon. I spent endless hours prepping and adding comments on a thousand stickies or so. I have worked tirelessly to provide the best for the best. Twenty years from now, what will I remember and appreciate?  Not the STAAR Reading and Math scores. Nope. I will remember pepindicular and one student saying that he had a butt load of books to read. I told him that it was a boat load. "A butt can't really hold too much, but a boat... " I told him, "think about it." His eyes got really big and he said, "Yeah, that makes sense." Another boy said, "I don't even want to visualize the butt load."  "Yep," I said, " A boat load is easier on the eyes to visualize." I want to remember a student saying, "Ms. Ucles, you forgot a comma in the number you wrote. Remember, punctuation saves lives." I replied, "Yes, it certainly does. Just add the comma on your paper." I don't want to forget the time that my students tried out the 11 Minute Essay. I welled up with pride hearing them share their writing. It was magical, surreal.

Now, I have 3 1/2 weeks until the STAAR tests. What do I want to make of this time? I would like it to be other worldly. It may not seem exciting or something to write home about, but I would like it to be a time to see all of their learning come to fruition. I am going to enjoy the ride and watch them shine. Welling up with pride? I am guilty as charged! The test isn't the most important thing. No, not by a long shot. All I want to do is do my best, work with my students in small groups, and enjoy the last 8 weeks of school. My goal will be to not let the testing of STAAR and other district assessments steal the moments away from me and my students. I will keep hope alive and have a butt load of fun doing it!

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