Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Hard Class: The Silver Lining

I wrote this post last week when I thought I had already addressed the Boston situation. It turns out things got even more crazy on Friday, when total chaos happened about 10 minutes away from me, and my students were placed on lock down all day so they could be safe (at home, no school last week because we were on vacation). I'm relieved it's all over, still can't believe it really happened, and pretty nervous about how things will go tomorrow. But unfortunately, tragedy has struck many times since I started teaching and generally hanging out with 22 kindergartners is the best possible way to start to move on. I know that tomorrow when they share the best part of their vacation, there will be lots of stories of trips, play dates, and baseball games. For that, I am very thankful. Instead of going on forever about Boston, I'll just say I'm very thankful that everyone I know is okay and I'm very proud of my city, the emergency personnel has worked tirelessly to keep us safe and for that I will forever be thankful. Over the course of my life, my pride in the USA has wavered at times, but my pride in Boston has never, and will never. And now back to my regularly scheduled post, because what I have learned this week as I have learned so many times before is to keep everything in perspective.

Even if you are not a teacher, you've probably heard that some years we have great classes, and some years we have rough classes. For me, as a rule, my odd number years have been tough and my even number years have been much better. I used to say Year 3 was the hardest, but I'm telling you, Year 7 is really giving them a run for their money. And Year 7 does not like to lose, so I hope they win to avoid meltdown.

The tough classes are the ones where I can't have an off day or they will eat me alive. The tough classes are the ones where I can't do fun, exciting activities because they get too crazy and someone will probably get hurt. The tough classes are the ones where they encourage, support and enjoy each other's behavior issues. The tough classes are the ones where a lesson I have done 3 or 4 times before suddenly seems like the worst lesson ever.

But the tough classes always have a silver lining. They are always filled, overflowing with, personality. They have the wild boys, the mean girls, and absolutely everything in between. As a result, they are always hilarious. If I ever recorded all my funny stories from teaching, I would probably double the amount with a rough class that I do with a delightful class, maybe even triple. I don't know what it is, but hard kids are always funny.

Hard classes also always make progress. They can never get any worse than they are in September, and so as long as I stick to my routines and my rules, they always make progress. I've never made them into a delightful class, and they often lose that progress when the anxiety and excitement of the first grade transition looms in June, but there is progress nonetheless.

Best of all, sometimes they surprise me. This Thursday my class surprised me and had a moment where they were the most delightful of all the classes. Just a moment. Thursday morning we had a Author Signing. We have been working hard on our writing, and writing progress is by far the most amazing part of kindergarten. They go from barely writing letters to full sentences of adorable kid writing in a 10 month period. My kids were ready to show off an amazing collection of narrative writing, nonfiction books and posters and a slideshow of writing I helped them make on my iPad with an app I will never use again because it did not allow me to save or make any changes (yes, I was aware of this before I began and proceeded anyway- rookie move). As we prepared for the parents to arrive, there was a predictable meltdown, the overexcitement and there was my thought of "what was I thinking?" But miraculously, once the parents arrived, all was well in the world and we made it through with only one technology snafu that I fixed before it was noticed. The kids were happy to show off their writing and sign autographs and the parents were impressed with their child's writing. I was patting myself on the back that we had made it through without losing a kid, having anyone cry, or the most likely wrestling match showdown.

Once the parents had left and it was time for snack, one of my little girl's raised her hand. "Thank you for doing that," she said sweetly, tilting her head of beautiful red curls to the side. "Doing what?" I replied, assuming in true kindergarten form she was talking about something completely random that may or may not have occurred months earlier and was just being remembered or mentioned now. "Having the Writing Celebration!" she exclaimed. "Oh! That's so nice and polite of you to say," I responded, genuinely shocked that a child would recognize that I put any effort in at all and mentally questioning if perhaps her mom had told her to say that. "But actually, you guys did all the work, you did all that writing, it wasn't my writing!" I continued. Another child cuts in (without raising his hand, obviously), "Yeah but, you TAUGHT us how to do the writing!"

In that moment I think, maybe this is the best class I've ever had.


  1. Awww, that is a sweet moment! I am glad there are positive, fun moments to offset the difficulties of having challenging class! Like you said, if anything you will come away with lots of stories from this year!

  2. aww! i have that group this year too. you do something fun and then you regret it. gah.

  3. I love this story, Kelly. We all hear that teachers have amazing stories about specific kids or classes. I love how you're able to appreciate the silver lining even in one of your toughest classes.

  4. Aw Kelly that is such a great story! And THAT is why you do what you do - you are making a big impact on these kids lives! Love this so much!

  5. Aw that's the sweetest story!! Kids can be the best sometimes :) I love those moments when you realize your hard work paid off or was appreciated, those moments when you think ohh yeah this is why I do what I do! : )