Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Feeling Thankful

First of all, I can't believe it is already Thanksgiving break.  My, how time flies!  This Thanksgiving, I am feeling especially thankful for my life and my profession.  Here are a few reasons why:

Thankful Reason #1: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...but I am glad it is over.  

    At this time last year I was feeling down in the dumps.  I had a nearly impossible teaching situation and students who were cruel to me and ruined every opportunity for fun in the classroom.  I felt awful for the other students who had to put up with this situation and I felt awful for myself.  In my K-8 school, we had been devastated by budget cuts and we lost 10 teachers from our building.  When all was said and done, we just couldn't keep the two classes that were coming into 8th grade separate as smaller classes so we had one HUGE 8th grade class.  I was the teacher for this class and I thought I was up to the task of looping with the students to teach them 8th grade.  My class list had 38 students.  We crammed ourselves into a classroom that was built for elementary school grades and we got down to the business of learning...kind of.  I did my best to use engaging strategies and involve my students in their learning, but let's face it, this was a daunting task.  Add on top of this the fact that I was the only teacher at that grade level and the one responsible for teaching ALL subjects (reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, art, spanish, technology and health) and the task became impossible.  I am so thankful that I survived that school year relatively unscathed.  I actually have had multiple students come to visit this year so it seems that not all of them have negative feelings about their experience and I am thankful that they know I care about them.

Thankful Reason #2: These are a few of my favorite things...

     This year is so different from last year.  I have a great group of students who recognize the merits of treating people respectfully.  The school year got off to a great vibe and at this point I am so happy about the way things are going.  Reading workshop is humming along and all of my students have finished multiple books at this point.  All of my students also reported that they have started to like reading (if they didn't already) thankful for that.  The best present of all for me this year is that this is the first year since I moved up to middle school grades that I have heard students talking about enjoying my class.  I am so happy to hear this again.  That is the thing I had missed the most from working with fourth and fifth graders and I am so thankful to have it back.  I am not sure what is different except for the fact that this is the first year that students didn't have me as their teacher already in fourth or fifth grade.  My students that I have for Language Arts say that I am their favorite teacher.  I know it shouldn't matter and that middle school students are fickle, but it is nice to hear that.  I am excited about what we will be able to accomplish with this much positive momentum.

Thankful Reason #3: Connections 

     Whatever impetus made me decide to pay more attention to my Twitter account was a godsend.  Without it, I would not have seen the information about TeachersWrite this summer.  Without that group, I would not have connected with so many passionate educators on Twitter.  I am so thankful for my PLN--they keep me energized and enthusiastic about teaching.  I have spent thirteen years teaching without finding other teachers who have the same passion for reading and spreading the reading love.  When I found the Nerdy Book Club blog, I was so excited.  Finally, I am able to talk to other people who are just as book obsessed as I am (and maybe more so in some cases).  This has truly been an inspirational change in my life and I am truly thankful for the great people I talk to on Twitter and the amazing authors that I have met as a result.

Thankful Reason #4: NaNoWriMo--Are we crazy?

     Although I may not be winning because I am so far behind my goal, many of my students will be meeting their goals for the month of November.  It is amazing to be able to see the whole classroom of students diligently typing away during my ELA classes.  These students are so very creative.  They have excellent plot ideas and I have been impressed by what I have seen so far.  The best thing that came out of this experience was summed up by one student who said that she was figuring out that the more she wrote the easier it became and the faster her ideas flowed.  I know that will not always be the case, but from students who were asking at the beginning of the year how many paragraphs their writing pieces had to be--and gasping if I said they should probably have at least a page--this flow of writing is awesome.

Thankful Reason #5: Sunshine and Snow Write

     I am also thankful for collaboration.  Mrs. Jennifer Fountain and I have started an Edmodo group with our 8th grade students so that they can collaborate.  What is awesome about this is that my classes are in Wisconsin and her classes are in Texas.  It is so fun to bring common lessons to the students and to ask them to interact with each other online in this way.  So far, the students have enjoyed figuring out that they are very similar and have similar tastes.  We will be doing more collaboration throughout the year and I am so thankful that I can provide my students with this cool opportunity.

There are many more reasons for feeling thankful in my life.  I hope to meet more of the people I have talked to on Twitter in the future.  I am looking forward to the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference in February where I hope to be able to connect with a few authors and fellow educators.  I also am thankful for my husband who is so patient with me.  I am so happy that he is studying to become a teacher because I know he will be an excellent one.

Happy Thanksgiving!  What are you thankful for?  Please share in the comments :)

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