And That's Why We Teach

Summer school felt like a grind this year. My job was to implement intensive small group literacy instruction with struggling kindergarten students.  I worked with seven groups of three kids, back-to-back, for 3 ½ hours. I pushed myself hard to fully prepare each lesson so that sessions would click along quickly and transitions between each group would take only a minute or two.  All that prep required many extra hours. As much as I enjoyed the children, I felt burned out. I began to regret spending most of my summer working.

Yesterday I started formally evaluating students.  One little boy, Jacob, began the summer refusing to even point at a word and he said things like, “I don’t want to read. I don’t like it.” When I assessed Jacob on Monday he said, “I can really read now!” and “I think my reading muscles grew!”  I needed to hear him say those words as he smiled and looked like he could climb a mountain. I needed to see that candle flicker in his eyes as he sat tall in his chair.  I needed to watch him skip down the hallway in his flip flops announcing to every passerby, “Hey, I got smarter!”  

A-tisket A-tasket

I have 3 older siblings. I’m eight years younger than the oldest sister, seven years younger than the next sister, and six years younger than my brother. When I was in second grade, they were all teenagers. I had to go to bed early, while they stayed up late. As I tried to fall asleep, I could hear my sisters talking on the extension phone in the hallway, just outside the door of my bedroom. Sometimes I could hear one of my sisters finishing up her daily flute practice. The drawers in the bathroom opened and closed. Bedroom doors also opened and closed and periodically slammed. At times, the voices and laughter were hushed. Other times, the voices were more high-pitched and whiny when they accused each other of something.

None of the noise really bothered me. It was familiar. And . . . I used to sing myself to sleep. Actually, I rolled my head back-and-forth, side-to-side, on my pillow, singing “A-tisket a-tasket, a green and yellow basket.” Only I changed the words to “I love my Mommy, I love my Daddy.” On more difficult days, my voice got louder and the words changed to “I hate my Mommy. Mommy, Mommy, I hate my Mommy.”  All that vigorous singing and head-rolling put me to sleep. On most mornings, I awoke with my hair tangled in a significant rat’s nest in the back of my head. Mom started yanking the brush through my hair as I ate my Cheerios. She knew I didn’t hate her. In fact, if I weren’t singing so loudly, I probably could have heard my family laughing. They always knew how my day had been depending on the name I inserted into my nightly song.  Nowadays, a kid rhythmically rolling their head at night singing about hating their mother might be seen as a symptom of ADHD or something else requiring medication. I suppose it is possible. I think mostly I was just trying to drown out the noise and rock myself to sleep.

My Most Recent List of Excuses

I’ve been thinking about what to write about since last Wednesday. Although I wasn’t dreading  coming up with a writing idea, I was avoiding. I didn’t want to narrow exactly what I wanted to write about. How is it that I could find the time and motivation to write daily for a month, and during the school year mind you, but struggle so much to write weekly in the summer? Pretty pathetic. And here comes the list of excuses:  

ü  I’ve been teaching summer school.

ü  I’ve been sitting on my front porch and reading. Right now I’m reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

ü  I’ve been going to bible study with my mom and sisters.

ü  I’ve been taking trips to my brother’s lake house. He just got a pontoon boat that I need to spend time reading on.

ü  I’ve been going to Wednesday study group with the teachers at my school (we’re reading Café and The  Daily 5).

ü  I’ve been staying up late and waiting for a text from my 19-year-old assuring me she made it to play practice in a nearby city.

ü  I’ve been forcing my 14-year-old to take the responsibility to ask his friend, who lives a stone’s throw away, if he can snag a ride home after football practice. Arguing with teenagers Fostering independence in kids takes a lot of energy.  

ü  I’ve been cleaning my neglected house.

ü  I’ve been watching back-to-back episodes of Lie to Me with my son while eating an embarrassing amount of junk food.

I’m sure there is other stuff that I am forgetting. All in all, I’ve been pretty busy avoiding writing.

Actual Books

“What have you been doing all day?”
“Reading.  In fact, I just finished Little Women. I never read it and thought that I should.”
Little Women! You mean it was an actual book before it was a musical?”
I looked at my daughter with a wide smile. I didn’t smirk or make her feel silly that she didn’t know that Little Women was an actual book. How would she know? She never saw me reading it before now. The book wasn’t on a bookshelf at home and she never read it in school. With genuine interest, she picked up the book and flipped through the pages.
“So, did you decide to read this because I’m in the musical?”
“Uh, huh. I’m interested to see what parts they include in the musical. Remember how different Wicked was from the actual book?
“Wow, this is thick. Show me the part about Meg.”
“Do you want to read about Meg after she got married?”
“Yeah, put a sticky note on it and I’ll read it later. I felt kinda bad when I didn’t get Jo but I really like Meg. I think I would be a better Meg anyway.  She’s older and more like motherly.”
“And pretty,” I added.
“Moooooom, come on.”
“I’m allowed to say that, I’m your mom.”
"What is that book? Are you reading that next?"
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Remember Tom Sawyer? Same author."
"Yeah, wasn’t Tom Sawyer the musical Mitch was in when he was like in 3rd grade? Isn’t it weird how so many musicals start out as old books?"
My wide smile returned and I nodded my head in agreement.
The "actual" book and one of Meg's songs from the musical.

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