Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Day But Today

Where do we get our motivation? Throughout our lives we learn when to work and when to rest. We learn what our breaking point is and when we need to give more. We discover and determine our own expectations, so that we can feel good about our hard work and comforted that we could do no more. If we fall short, then we evaluate that and hopefully learn from those shortcomings.

But when you are in a classroom where students don't have the expectation of themselves to do well and there is no support at home, then it takes lots of encouragement, energy, conversations, consultations, and frustration to move through the day. It boggles my mind that students hand in a piece of paper that is partially ripped and not complete and feel that it was their best work. NO IT WASN'T!

How can that feeeeel good? But, perhaps they don't know how this "feel good" feels. How do teachers get the opportunity to talk about this and put thorns in the side of each student, without wearing down, themselves? I have 90 minutes every day with 70 students for a week. 70 students are a lot of children to love! And I realize that this number is small compared to most middle school and high school teachers of this era.

These students need to be met where they are developmentally, intellectually, socially, physically, and emotionally and I am attempting to meet them there. Each and every day I try to meet them there. If I affect at least one of them positively, then I try to remember that at the end of the day. But most of the time I think of the moments when I lost my temper, when I heard my name spoken five times within five seconds while teaching or talking to another student and became frustrated (my name echos in my head at night), when a student came up to me needing a pencil ten minutes after class started, or when I just needed some backup from services who are never present in my room.

Three students were sent to ISS today, one from each period, when none have been sent since the beginning of December. This is what I grieve over today. How could I have prevented it? Where did I go wrong? How can I get the opportunity to actually sit down and get to know each student, when there are expectations holding me to a barrier? I feel like a ball and chain.

As I sit here tonight, I don't think about the students who passed the spelling test with flying colors for the first time, or the beautiful poem one student wrote about the image prompt, or the excitement that one student shared with me about what he read in the book I gave him, or how one girl, who is insecure about her writing, is now on her tenth page of a mystery story and it is great! No, I only thought back on these things because of this post. These things weren't in my thoughts over the last few hours of planning, driving home, walking the dogs, or eating dinner.

The song "No Day But Today" comes to my mind, from the musical RENT. While it is important to think about both the pros and the cons of each day, it's also important to remember that today I gave it my all. That's why I am exhausted. That's why I have a headache. That's why I need it to be quiet. In teaching, you have to give all you have for the day. But you have to live each day as if it is the only day. You have to love each child as if it is the only day. You have to show them how much you care THAT day. Putting it off does neither of you any good.

So where do we get our motivation? How can I instill a desire to work hard and produce quality work? How do they begin to expect more of themselves? Those are the questions of the day.

Tomorrow will have it's own problems and highlights. And then there will be "No Day But (that) Today!"

Side Note: Jim's block ends tomorrow! Yay! He's almost done and then he's off to Honduras :)

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