Teaching in the Heartland

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 19 2012

Day One With My Lil’ Ones

Today marked my first official day in class with my lil’ ones. I say “lil’ ones” because most of them are a young three years old. THREE. Babies. Beautiful, eager, babies. Babies with their entire future before them. Babies whose doe eyes have so much to see in this world.

One of the special things about children this age is that they are full of love. I can’t even count how many little bodies wriggled their way into my lap whenever I was squatting, how many miniature arms threw themselves around me, how many delicate heads buried themselves into my chest. Today was a day of love. Sure, those same doe eyes would look at me with a flicker of defiance before running off or saying “no.” Sure, I got my exercise picking them up and chasing them around the classroom when they were testing me. But this is my new job. And let me tell you, I couldn’t love it more. But let me also make it clear-I have SO far to go.

I’m in the process of developing my teacher voice. A process that I know could take awhile, but that is awhile that I just don’t have. This summer is fast-the timeline screams urgency. In TFA, urgency is a central theme. While I’m blessed to be getting my kids from the very starting point of their education, it’s imperative that I realize how urgently I need to not only prepare them for pre-k and beyond, but to even get them to the place where they should be right now. Who knew that you could already see the achievement gap at work in early childhood education?

While I was reflecting on the day (we do a lot of reflecting here, so it’s become ingrained in me to think back and process everything. meta-cognition is huge..) I realized that I had my priorities misalligned from where they need to be. Today I got lost in the world of behavior management-I started out trying to work with each individual student while he or she tried to write his or her name, but then I became consumed with trying to line them all up to brush their teeth, to make sure they were sitting still, not hitting each other, not running away from me…It was all I could do to keep them all under control. When I came home, whenever someone asked me how my first day went, I told them of my struggles but also of my highlights-and I realized, the only thing I kept mentioning was the behavior. Hold on. Why am I here again? So they can learn. Granted, to learn they must behave and be on task…but still. I need to rapidly develop my teacher voice so I can help them learn. A statistic that is thrown around a lot is that only one in ten low income students will go on and graduate college. I had ten little ones in class today. You can’t tell me that I have to pick one of them. I’m regaining my sense of urgency.

I have no other choice.

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