A Teacher’s Life: Mayday, Mayday

Mayday, Mayday.

Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, which means “help me.” 
Yes, that’s exactly what I want to say, “help me!” Every May, I get extremely stressed. What else is new? This is a cycle.  I know this.  But I can’t seem to mute the stress once May 1 hits.   So, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m going to give you a first-hand point of view of what’s really going on in most teachers’ brains this time of year. ELD, AR, ZPD, UA, IEP, CAASPP, SBAC, LCAP, SAI, ELA, WFTBB, CTTF, CKLA, GAFE, TM, IAB, EOY, DWA—educators are the kings and queens of acronyms.  Mind you, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the acronyms that we educators encounter on a daily basis. Is your head spinning yet?

Here are a few examples of how these acronyms are used in our heads as teachers:  I have to give the EOY math test and the DWA before May 26 after the CAASPP. Translation:  I have to give the End of Year math test and the District Writing Assessment after I give the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.  AR ends on May 26 so I have to give the STAR test to get their ZPD to factor into my ELA grade.  Translation: Accelerated Reader goals end on May 26 so I have to get their Zone of Proximal Development to factor into my English Language Arts grade.  (This will all happen before the end of the month. I’m making myself anxious just writing about it.)

Then a new craze emerges— the fidget spinner.  Last year at this time it was the flipping- water-bottle event (thank you YouTube, for that) that drove teachers batty. This year, introducing—the fidget spinner.  (If you don’t know what a fidget spinner is read this hilarious commentary from a Chicago Tribune journalist, click here.) Oh, brother. Gimme-a-break kids, I am teacher, and you need to PAY ATTENTION to learn these important ideas am required to impart to you!  The last thing you need is a status symbol toy to play with and profit from at school (yes, a student tried to sell one for $20 this week) to distract you from all the end-of-year review that we have to accomplish.  (Don’t you know that we still have 3 topics in math to finish and you don’t know how to convert feet to yards?! Damn you, customary measurement! It’s confusing and the system based in 10s makes so much more sense. Ahhhhh.) My students don’t realize how important my plans are for them, see, they don’t really feel like it applies to their life.  But Minecraft, on the other hand, is REAL LIFE.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I’ve been sludging through the depths of computer science this year and teaching my students about how to control the world in Minecraft?  They can change the day to night, fly, and control the weather.  We all want to be God, and this is as close as we can get… by experimenting in creative or survival modes in Minecraft.  Yes, in addition to teaching my students how to read and write, do the maths, be productive citizens, critical thinkers, growth mind setters, communicators, and collaborators, I am now teaching them how to become computer science experts.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a shift that needs to happen in education to enable students to develop a stronger skill set for the future, but for the teachers, those of us who really don’t LOVE gaming, this is a huge shift and learning curve.  Huge.  (Did I say huge?  I meant it.) 

And then, this happens:

A sweet little note brings me back to reality, to why I teach. “You are a nice and fun teacher.  Please keep your smile.”  (Oh, thank God, I still smile at this point in the year! I feel so grouchy and stressed.)  She ‘got’ me.  She drew my outfit to perfection, including the little flapper tassels hanging from my blouse, and it made my day.  It’s the little things about teaching that keep me going.  This was one of those moments.  This is one of those events that can’t be measured on a state test.  That communication between student and teacher.  She can be a difficult student at times, full of excitement and mischief, laughing inappropriately, talking across the room, distracting the students around her.  But she’s bright-as-all-get-out and likable and I like her smile too.  I hope she knows this.  Teaching, for me, is about that exchange, that interaction, that craft that is magical.

Scientifically speaking, I know what makes a teacher effective can be measured, it’s been done in many studies, but most of the data is based on how students perform on assessments.  As far as I know, educators aren’t studied for how they effectively prepare students to be good humans.  What is a good human and is that important and can the teachers, the ones that spend 6 hours a day in close proximity impact what happens to these growing humans?  I give an emphatic yes! Even if my students don’t score proficient or advanced on the CAASPP, I think they will remember that Mrs. Guiles wanted them to love to read, she wanted them to love to explore and keep learning in any capacity, and she loved them, whether or not they scored proficient or advanced. See, my students come to me with deficits, deficits that I try to fill in, however, filling all the gaps for every student is a great challenge.  I do my best.  More than anything, I want my students to have a sense that they can grow.  They may not grow as much as I want them to in 3rd grade, but I want them to take growth mindset with them to 4th grade and beyond and know that they can keep learning beyond my classroom.

So, my student’s drawing reminded me to keep smiling. A good reminder for all of us. A reminder of what it means to be human.

Teacher Appreciation Week comes at the perfect time.  All the teachers I know work extremely hard.  I’m giving a giant fist pump to all of you!  Hang in. June will be here before we know it.  Whew.

All of you need to watch this.  All teachers have had these thoughts, and if they say they haven’t, they’re lying.  Enjoy a little educator humor compliments of Gerry Brooks. He gets it.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass Update:

Today, I got weighed on one of those non-digital scales when I was at my OBGyn’s office and I weighed 4 pounds more than I did on my scale at home.  I’m telling myself that it’s not the end of the world, and it’s a different scale, so maybe it’s wrong or does it really matter?  I SHOULD have been thrilled to get weighed on that scale because over the past ten years the health assistants have had to move that weighted bar to the 200 mark and smaller weighted bar at the top beyond 200 pounds.  Now I’m stressin’ because the bar is at 150 and the smaller bar is at 14, I’ll do the maths- 164.   Joy, you make NO sense. Stop it!  It’s a different scale for Pete’s sake!  Deal. For reals.  (I did go for a longer walk tonight.  I hope I’m not becoming obsessed about the number on the scale.)  Keep yourself in check, you are not defined by that stupid scale. Really.

I’m speaking to all of you now.  Really.

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