My Intermediate rosters keep getting longer and longer. As each new kid enters my room, I try to put myself in his/her shoes and remember that transferring classes or schools is not any easy thing. I try to tell myself that what that kid needs is a warm welcome. I do my best to hide my concern. I hope I’m successful in front of them. 

But on the inside I’m worrying about little things like not having enough copies for the day now and big things like learning their stories. 

This is how I relayed my week to my husband. Saying it out loud made me realize that I’m not crazy for being stressed. 

“Every day in both hours I’ve gotten 1-2 new students. So every day I’ve re-taught domain and range, not knowing what kind of mathematical knowledge the kids are coming in with. So I re-teach. Then I check on the new kids first to make sure they’re getting the hang of it. Half of the new kids have come in with clear attitudes so I know I have to work quickly to get them on my side. Then I check on the kids on IEPs and make sure they didn’t switch definitions in their heads. And then there’s always the kid who needs you to hold her hand through every problem. There’s the other kid that has decided she hates domain and range. By the time I’ve checked on all these students, other students are finishing and need me to check their work [there’s no point in making them do work if they don’t have to correct their mistakes, in my opinion]. Now I’ve got to hone my classroom management skills and keep the more advanced students engaged at best, quiet at worst. And then I have to keep the others motivated to continue even though they’re only done with 25% of the work.”

This job is hard. Have I said that before? 

I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I love it so much. 

On the days I teach with my co-teacher, we rock that classroom. We each check work. We each answer questions. We divide and conquer. All our kids get the attention they need and deserve. 

But on days like today–days I don’t have her with me and every single kid except one is in attendance and new kids keep rolling on that roster–I panic a little. 

So today I asked the first kid who finished  if he’d be willing to use his worksheet as a key and check other students’ work. He quickly accepted and–from what I could tell–did a good job. This allowed me to answer the questions that arose as well as get to know the new students a little. 

During my planning period, I called this student’s mom to tell her how much her son helped me today. I had to leave a voicemail, as I’m sure she was working. 

She called later in the day and left me a voicemail, saying how my message made her day so much brighter. I just listened to it again: “It’s means so much more than you’ll ever know.”

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be. 

But there are typically solutions if we’ll look for them. (Not that today’s solution will work again tomorrow, but that’s why teachers are some of the most relentless people on this earth.)

And while it’s easy to get overwhelmed, it’s also easy to make a phone call. It’s easy to help new students find their next classroom. It’s easy to greet them with a handshake. It’s easy to smile.

Yes. There’s a lot that’s hard. But I believe there are solutions. I believe that education saves lives. And I believe that we–teachers–are a part of both of those pieces. 

This is hard work. There are no quick fixes when it comes to human beings. But this is good and important work. 

The big picture is not domain and range. The big picture is making sure these kids feel safe and wanted at school. 

Let’s go, teachers. We’ve got this semester. 👊🏼 


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