Posts Tagged ‘random’

Sapping my strength

What do you do when you have one child who simply saps every bit of your energy?

One child who demands your constant attention, whose burning need to be special and different pulls you away from every other child all day long?

What do you do when you are faced with a vulnerable, needy, lost child whose parents have allowed her to think that she has the right and the power to control the actions, words, thoughts and opinions of every other child in your class?

I don’t know.

But I know that I am becoming increasingly angry and frustrated with this situation, and I know that my frustration and anger are fueling this child’s need to continually seek my assurance that she is, in fact, more special and deserving than anyone else in our community.

I am caught in a vicious cycle.  And I truly don’t know how to get out.

This little girl is so desperate for validation and attention that, quite literally, every time I call on her, she coughs/chokes/swallows her gum/trips on a word so that we are all left waiting for her to finally speak.  Every eye is trained on her, every ear is waiting for her words.

This girl manufactures injuries so that we can hold the door for her, get her some ice, ask if she is OK, dote on her. She drums up conflicts so that we can all process the differences of opinion.

She is the last to line up, pausing to tie her shoes and making the rest of the class wait for her. She asks if she can eat her lunch in the classroom because her head hurts. (“No, honey. You can go to the nurse, but you can’t stay in the classroom because I won’t be here the whole time to supervise you.”)

The entire grade is told that they must either choose one of the band instruments to play, or join the grade level chorus.

This child tells me that she plays the guitar, so she should be able to skip both band and chorus.  I repeat the school rules, and she answers, “Yes, but I play the guitar, so its different for me.”

I don’t mean to be harsh. I don’t mean to be heartless.  But every time this child finds a way to drain off my attention and my energy, I want to scream at her (and her equally entitled parents), “This class has a child with autism. It has a child from a third world country who has witnessed terrorism and war.  One of your classmates has a mental illness. One has witnessed violence in his own family.  You are so incredibly and overwhelmingly NOT special.  Not the way you want to be special.”   I resent the way she drains me. I resent the way that she tries to control every interaction in our classroom so that she is always cast in the very best light.

I resent her parents, and the time that they demand from me.

What do you do when one family just doesn’t understand that they are only one teeny tiny piece of the complex puzzle that makes up a school community?



Open House….sigh….

It’s 5 AM and I am awake.

The sky is still dark, the dogs are still snoring, my husband is firmly in dreamland.

But I am awake.

Why, you ask, can’t I sleep this morning?

Tonight is Open House!

Tonight I get to meet and welcome all of the parents of the kids I have come to love in the past three weeks. Tonight I will have the chance to tell them what I hope and plan for the year. I will share my philosophy about homework (Please don’t correct it! Please don’t do it with your child! Please don’t let them work for more than an hour!) and my philosophy about discipline (No, I will NOT keep him inside for recess.)  I will show them the curriculum map, talk about the portfolios, encourage them to stay in touch via email.

At Open House tonight, I will point out the beautiful watercolors of the pond, share the funny caricatures that the kids have created, smile as they admire the miniature pond ecosystems in the science center.

I will tell them how much I enjoy their child; how funny, how sweet, how smart, how endearing he/she is.  And I will mean every single word!

I will somehow accomplish all of this while trying to remember their names, fending off questions that really belong in a parent/teacher conference and tactfully asking them not to pick up and read the items on my desk.  After an hour and a half, I will gently guide the last few of them toward the door and shake their hands.  I’ll unplug and pack up my computer while the stragglers tell me one more little funny story, and no doubt I’ll walk at least one couple to their car.

All of this, of course, will happen after I have taught a full day, had a team meeting and scored the spelling assessments.  It will come after I have sent the kids home, made the copies of tomorrow’s test, cleaned the classroom and returned emails.  It will all happen after I have wolfed down a sandwich, brushed my teeth and changed my shirt.

And before I get up to do it all again tomorrow.

This would have been a REALLY good day to sleep in.

Why do we do it?

Why do we teach?

We could probably get jobs where the prestige is greater.  I hear that there are jobs where secretaries and support people make copies, staple things, collate them, even recycle stuff.  Some people work in places with gourmet lunch kitchens. I know people who get big bonuses twice a year. In dollars.

We could work in places where you don’t have to sit on the floor, referee touch football games in 85 degree heat, wipe noses, put on bandaids or hold the bucket when children throw up their chicken nuggets.

Why do we teach?

Sometimes the ever changing curriculum packets, new programs, revamped tests, local laws, state laws, federal laws, and lack of funding make us want to run away and join the circus, but we still come back every morning and we do it again.

So, why?

I’ll tell you why.

This was the first week of school, and my students filled out questionnaires and left me notes in my mailbox.  Here is a sample of some of their comments.

“Please complete these sentences.  I hope Karen will……”

I hope Karen will stay nice, like she is.  I hope she won’t get mad.

I hope Karen will be a friendly teacher.

I hope Karen won’t leave Room 303.

“I am worried about…..”

I’m worried about math; I’m not so good at it.

I’m worried about making friends.

I’m worried that Karen will get meaner.

“I want to learn more about….”

How to avoid being roughed up by bullies. It doesn’t hurt to take precautions!


Baking; I love cake.


And I got these unsolicited notes, accompanied by a lot of giggles.

Dear Karen, you look kinda strict and crabby, but you’re not!  I’m glad!

Dear Karen, my Mother says she loves you because you think kids should play and not just do homework. (By the way, I agree.)

Dear Karen, I love how you walk. It makes me joyful.

Dear Karen, you are awesome! You don’t seem like you would yell a lot.

Dear Karen, I love that we can write you notes.  And I can’t believe you read them!

I don’t know what some of them are trying to say, exactly, but they make it perfectly clear that all they need to make them happy is someone who doesn’t yell at them, scare them or make them feel bad about themselves.  They want someone who laughs.

They want someone who listens.

That’s why we teach!

Dear Nervous Children,


It’s the last weekend of summer, and I know what you are doing. You’re looking at the clock and trying to count how many hours of freedom you have left.  I am, too.

It’s the last weekend of summer, and I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “How did that go so fast? What happened to all the weeks of vacation that were spread out in front of me in June?”   Yeah, I’m thinking that, too.

I know how you feel when you look toward next week and think about the first day of the new school year.   Oh, yes, I know!

You feel excited, because you’ll get to see your friends again. Me, too! I miss everyone.

But you feel a little worried, too. You’ve heard how hard the math is in fifth grade, and its scary! Will you REALLY have to divide decimals?  Hey, I’m worried about having to teach all the new things that the government has decided to add to our list, so I know how you feel!

And you’re worried a little bit about me, too.  You feel those little pinches of anxiety when you think about having homework every night. Well….guess what? I feel little pinches of anxiety when I think about having to correct all that work every night!

You hope that I’ll be “nice”, which means that you hope I won’t yell at you.  I hope I won’t yell, too.  I hope that I’ll be as patient as you deserve.

You hope that I will be friendly, and funny, and you hope that I will really listen to you when you talk to me.  Most of all, you hope that I will like you.

Guess what?  I hope every one of those things about you, too!

See you in a few days!

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