14 October 2013

tidbits from school

some days are definitely better than others, but most days i love my job. every day is an adventure.

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i love the kids so so much. i love seeing their different personalities and seeing their beautiful lights shine through. there are a lot of really challenging things about my job, but i truly feel blessed to be a part of these students’ lives and to have have them as a part of mine. they are teaching me so much.

i am in charge of setting out, distributing and monitoring breakfast in the early mornings. i decided a couple of weeks ago that we needed music in the cafeteria during breakfast. i bring my phone and take requests from students to help everyone get revved up for the day with some tunes. the rule is that once you have your food, you have to either be sitting down, on your way out, or dancing.  

a couple weeks ago, i subbed the eighth grade class. the night before i was so worried about how things would go, and i tossed and turned all night imagining those seven hours to be complete chaos. it turned out to be an great day. the kids were definitely not perfectly behaved, but we had a good time and learned some stuff along the way. as i stood in front of those forty (yes, forty in one classroom!) students and surveyed their faces looking up at me, i just melted and said “you guys are awesome” at least ten times.

last friday, i subbed a seventh grade class … and that’s when the nightmares i had about subbing all came to fruition. it was wild. students were antsy because it was friday and there was a special event that several of them attended in the morning, they had a really tough time focusing on anything academic, and they just could not stop chatting over me and acting disrespectful. incentives weren’t working, and at the end of the day i was so sad to have to give quite the smackdown lecture. afterwards, we talked about what the class had done well that day and how much i hated having to be harsh with them because i think they are such cool, fantastic human beings. i’m just glad we all got out of there relatively unscathed! it was exhausting.

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students are gradually learning that my name is actually not “ms. iron.”

i’m learning about the things that are really cool among middle schoolers these days. apparently mustaches are really cool – students have them on notebooks and backpacks and jewelry. after i commented on her mustache earrings, one super-sweet seventh grader brought me a pair! “i have like four sets of mustache earrings,” she said, “you can just have these.” since then, dozens of girls have complimented me on my earrings.

noticing my personal style, some students have said things to me like “you’re a really colorful person” and “you always look like a rainbow” and i love that.

alpha public schools was just approved last week to open another middle school in east san jose! i wasn’t able to attend, but apparently the county department of education meeting went until 11pm! i was so proud of the students who got up in front of the crowd and made statements about why alpha is awesome.

a couple of weeks ago, students took an english language test that determines which of them are designated as english language learners. i got to have little “interviews” with individual students for the speaking portion of the test, which was really fun. for the writing portion of the test, students were prompted to write a paragraph about what they would do if they earned $100. i read through a bunch of the responses - there were typical middle school answers like “go to a one direction concert!” and there were a lot of answers along the lines of “help my parents pay for rent and food.”

some of the things students have shared with me have made me incredibly grateful to come home every day to a clean, safe home and to have a loving family.

last week, the entire school went into lockdown because there was a shooting reported a couple blocks away. we stayed in the dark with doors locked for an hour.

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one huge lesson i have learned in the last three months: it’s important to choose your battles. being surrounded in middle schoolers, many of whom have never been taught how to behave maturely and respectfully, creates a lot of little battles. i’ve learned that sometimes many are not worth the fight, and positive interactions should be much more generously chosen than battles of correction.

another huge lesson i have learned in the past three months: positivity is powerful. it’s hard to be positive with a kid who seems to be constantly testing boundaries and misbehaving, but something positive can always be found. there is one student that has been a big challenge behavior-wise, and i decided to only have positive interactions with him. it’s been amazing to see his smile come out and his demeanor around me to change.

twice a week, every class at our school has an advisory period, where teachers help students discover and learn about social-emotional skills. i think this support and guidance is pretty cool.

a couple weeks ago, in an effort to keep students sitting at their lunchroom table and distract them from breaking lunchtime rules, i challenged a seventh grade boy to an arm wrestle. subsequently, i’ve been challenged by several more boys. i haven’t lost yet, and my confidence and winning streak have caused quite a stir.

our pe coach is awesome. he used to be in the military, and also used to be a professional boxer. he really whips the kids into shape. he’s pretty tough on them as a group, but one-on-one he’s super tender. the students respect and adore him to no end.

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i’ve taken on many different roles in my job, and it’s been challenging to figure out what my priorities should be among all the things i’ve been asked to do. i have become a bathroom monitor, a librarian (a huge undertaking to organize everything), the technology go-to girl (even though i don’t initially know how to solve most tech problems that come to me), the architect of blended learning benchmarks and standards, an expert test administrator, a tutor, a fill-in after-school learning coach, and a breakfast lady. phew!

yes, every day is an adventure.

{all pictures in this post lifted from alpha: blanca alvarado middle school’s facebook page and taken by john glover, alpha public schools founder and ceo}

6 comments :

  1. This post brought back so many memories from my time teaching middle school in the projects in Philly. Those were some of the most rewarding and challenging days of my life to date. Keep your head up- you are doing the work of God and making a tremendous impact on these students lives (though they may never tell you b/c they have to keep up their middle school cool facade. Ha!).

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  2. Is the PE teacher single? Sounds & looks like a pretty awesome guy!

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  3. Yay Charity! YOU are awesome. Also, I second Jenny's comment.

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  4. So great! and I love Ms. Iron! :)

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  5. What an incredible post! Don't know how I missed this! LOVE LOVE LOVE knowing a little more about what is going on at school and seeing these beautiful faces. Those kids are so lucky to have you! Carry on Ms Iron!

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  6. I can't believe that I somehow missed this post! It was so great to get the tour of the school and meet some of these beautiful kids while I was there! This is such an impressionable age and the good you are doing will go farther than you will ever know! Your ability to cope is astonishing!

    Love you!

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