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All Over the Place

[Editor's note: Miss Brave is a fourth-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

I’m not sure how to admit this. I’m not sure if you’ll even believe me when I say it. Or perhaps, if you’re a teacher yourself, you’ll nod your head knowingly and say, “I could have told you this would happen.”

Are you ready for it?

I miss my old class.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my new school. I do not miss my old school. I love that the principal knows my students’ names and that I can walk through the always-open door in his office and ask for help with a problem. I love that my super third grade colleagues and I are constantly firing off e-mails to each other about ways to strengthen our teaching. I love that my students get to participate in African dance, and chess, and playwriting, and musical theater, and tons of other opportunities that weren’t available at my old school.

And yet — that’s why I miss them. When a handful of my third graders acted obnoxiously during one of our African dance classes, I couldn’t resist the urge to lecture them about how my former second graders would have cherished the opportunity to participate in something so unique. And thus, not only did my mind wipe itself clean of memories of obnoxious behavior on the part of those very same second graders, but I pulled out one of those “you don’t realize how fortunate you are” speeches that pretty much has zero effect on obnoxious third graders.

This is a school year of firsts: my first year in a new school, my first year teaching third grade, my first year in a CTT classroom. On the latter two, I remain conflicted: I enjoy the independence of my third graders but miss the relative sweetness and innocence of my second graders. I enjoy the collaboration of team teaching, the way my co-teacher challenges my thinking to better ideas and pushes me to be accountable to my ideas, but I miss the freedom of having my own classroom. But this is my fourth year teaching, and every year I’ve switched positions. I’d like something to remain the same for next year, just so I could have the experience of going into a school year already familiar with the curriculum.

Unfortunately, lately I’ve felt a little stuck in a rut — as if I was pinning so many hopes on this new school, as if I could switch schools and magically all my teaching problems would go away. Since the school year started, however, I’ve been realizing that now that I no longer have to worry so intensely about covering my behind and keeping up with absurd paperwork, I have no excuse but to focus on my actual teaching… and in teaching, of course, that work never ends. Especially in our CTT classroom, my co-teacher and I face this constant struggle. Am I scaffolding enough?

Also, while I love the other teachers on my grade, several of them teach gifted and talented classes, and those of us with general ed kids often find ourselves in the awkward position of trying to decide whether a particular unit or lesson will be appropriate for our kids. When I walk down the hallway and peek into the TAG classes, where all the kids have their noses stuck in books or are busily working in hushed whispers, and then I open the door to my own zoo of a classroom, I’m faced with uncomfortable questions. Are the gifted kids better behaved? Is it normal for 27 third-graders to be making this much noise, or are we doing something wrong in here?

Just the other day, though, Mr. Brave commented on what a huge difference it is coming home to me this year. No longer am I crying about the latest out-of-control incident in my classroom, or seething with rage about the latest directive from my principal.

So, that’s where I’m at. And at some point in the (hopefully) near future, I’ll be writing less about my personal conflicts and more about the learning that’s taking place in my classroom.

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