Monday, May 6, 2013

Teachers: It's ok to laugh at ourselves!

Tonight, I found myself laughing out loud about my day at school. A bit stressed out, I decided to exercise, which I do almost daily since becoming a teacher. As Reece Witherspoon said in the movie, Legally Blonde, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." Well, I believe all teachers need to stay happy, but that is another post altogether.

What I want to focus on for this post is the need for all teachers to laugh at themselves and the situations that happen in their classrooms every once in a while.

Today, I decided to take the plunge and have an official "catch up" day. My students needed it and I needed it, but I've been putting it off for months. Why? Because it means, as the teacher, I may have less control. It means students may have to move around the room to get the stapler or the three hole punch or throw things away in the trash can. This may seem simple enough in elementary school, but middle schoolers are an entirely different beast altogether.

The goal of the "catch up" day was for my students to get all of their writings and essays from the entire semester transferred in an orderly fashion into their writing portfolios. They were to do this while also filling out a reading interest survey and end of year reading assessment packet. My first two classes accomplished their tasks pretty well overall. But, my last class of the day got pretty messy, so much so I felt the blood rush to my head, and the overwhelming feeling of a sudden panic attack or stroke looming in the near distant future.

Let me paint the picture a little more clearly through a narrative.

"Class, today we are going to catch up, and get all your works from the entire semester into your writing portfolios for next year. We need to make sure they look great for your seventh grade teachers." The kids scream with excitement, "7th grade, yeah, we're outta here."

Then I think to myself..."Laura, are you just said "7th grade"!?! No, they are not supposed to think of the next year yet. Not, until the last day of school. Oh well, it's out there now. I will just continue to pass out papers."

The kids continue to wiggle, asking infernal questions and stating crazy things. "Mrs. Farmer, can I sit with Suzie? Mrs. Farmer, "Tommy just farted, and it smells can I move?" "Mrs. Farmer, I just spilled my perfume all over the floor, can I go to the bathroom and wash it off?"

"Oh, gracious, I think to myself, this whole classroom smells like a smelly bathroom. What am I going to do with these kids!"

I try to calm the students and myself by playing the video of the book, Thank you, Mr. Falker. It worked for a minute, maybe. Then, we had a visit from the principal, which is basically, why I feared having a "catch up day" in the first place. Why, is that? Well, as a first year teacher, I always want to seem in control, in the moment--teaching the best lesson of my life! Not--holding on for dear life as papers fly, stinky human and perfume smells waffle through the air, and kids wander around the classroom looking for the three hole punch!

But--what is a teacher to do. Like it or not, teaching is messy sometimes. Teaching cannot and will not always be perfect.

Once, we realize that, even those out there like me--striving for excellence--must know that it is ok to laugh at ourselves and the crazy moments the sometimes happen in the classroom.

By the end of the day, my students had beautifully organized their portfolios, filled out and discussed their reading assessments, and cleaned up my room.

What else can a teacher ask for?

~ Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.~
Kurt Vonnegut

Laughing helps you to go from this...



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