My birthday has been during final’s week the past 3 years of college. It was on Sunday, then Monday, and now Tuesday. This year is definitely the worst though, since I’m turning 21! I have finals Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
I had one of those moments.
One of those moments I’ve had only a handful of times,
since the beginning of last year,
since the start of my career,
since becoming a teacher,
since fulfilling my childhood dream.
During math class, as my students took their Unit 3 Test, and I sat at my desk in the back grading one of the first papers to be handed in, someone tapped his pencil on a desk.
Tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap.
Pause. I waited to see if the student would stop on his own and our “electric” silence would return to the room.
From my desk in the back, in my quiet, amiable, magical teacher voice – “Whoever is tapping, make sure you’re working so that everyone can concentrate on their own test.” The absentminded tapping had stopped the second my voice entered the space. And as my words floated out into the room, that feeling came to me. The one that makes a smile break out over my face and fills my stomach with that fluttery realization.
These are my kids. This is my classroom. This is real life!
For so long, I dreamed, planned, and worked toward this result. It was never something unattainable and unreachable, never something that I had to be encouraged to not give up on, nothing that I thought might not come true. But how many times had I imagined my OWN classroom, written about my OWN classroom, talked about my OWN classroom.
I remember student teaching and the magic of being a student teacher. I am so lucky to have loved all of my mentor teachers and to have had such supportive placements. Even so, I was still a shy student teacher, who didn’t really have her place in these other classrooms. Even becoming as confident as I did in those rooms and in my roles there, they were never my classrooms.
Now, as I sit at my desk and plan lessons, walk around the room and listen to groups reading, get pulled suddenly into a hug as a student passes by, it sometimes hits me. This is mine! These are the little humans that I get to spend my days with. The people that I have the chance to shape, mold, teach, and learn from.
I stand at the front of the room each day, 22 smiling faces eager to hear what I have to say, eager to share in more experiences together, eager to have their minds opened to new ideas. Most days, it’s my job. It’s what I do, and I never lose sight of the fact that I love it.
But some days,
it’s more than just a sure feeling that I’m doing the right thing,
more than the realization that I am so lucky to be doing what I love,
more than the smiles on their faces.
I have one of those moments.
Today was my first day in the school. It was so much fun! Everyone was so welcoming and so nice. I’m in a special education classroom this week that has kids ranging from Year 2 to Year 6 – with none of them doing work above a Year 3 level. Much of the work that the students did was individualized, with them working through different spelling lists and different math pages throughout the morning.
Here are a few major differences that I noticed today between the American schools I’ve been in and this Australian school (and I’m saying it in that specific way because I’m sure my experiences of schools in America are not all encompassing and I’m positive that my one day in one school here in Australia doesn’t make me an expert on the subject):
-Here, the students wear uniforms at this public school. Part of their uniform is a wide brimmed floppy bright blue sunhat to protect them from the sun.
-Recess and lunch here include every grade. Everyone was surprised when I said that we have recess and lunch by grade in most American schools. Recess here happens a few hours into the school day and all students eat a small snack at this time before having some time to play. Although the day started out sunny and beautiful, it started raining pretty hard right before lunch, so I didn’t get to see the students out in the play area. They were all squished onto the cement area, so I’m excited to see them all out and playing tomorrow (weather permitting!)
-The school is open to the outdoors! I keep calling it an open air campus or an open campus school, but I just googled both of those terms and one is a response to a tuberculosis outbreak and one is referring to students getting to leave during lunch. So whatever it’s called, it’s awesome! The classrooms are indoors, but all the hallways are outside. I told people that there are schools like this in Florida (my dad lived there and we’ve driven by his schools before), but that in PA they aren’t like this at all. They were really surprised to hear that you walk into the school and then can’t see the sky until you leave. Here, the students eat, play, and walk to different rooms outside!
-The students were all very polite. Being polite is an important part of the teaching here. Doing what your teacher tells you is actually one of the school rules, and this way of thinking seems very different from what I’ve seen and learned about in the US. From what I saw today, the kids were polite and kind and always working to show their manners. The students chorally said good morning to each teacher today, thanked their peers for sharing after they read from their journals, and were expected to give their full attention while listening. I’ll be interested to see how these rules play out in some other classrooms in the school as well.
-At lunch, the students were to get quiet after a teacher blew a whistle, but they would not get quiet. The teachers ended up lining the students up in the way that they sit at assembly (which is the morning meeting type thing where the whole school sits with their teachers while some announcements are made and then they all sing the national anthem**), and they were reprimanded for their behavior. The teachers were very straightforward in the way that they talked to the students and it struck me as different than what I would have heard in America.
-**One teacher I met this morning told me that every exchange student had to go up and sing the national anthem on their first day in the school. I didn’t believe him, but it made me laugh to think about me actually having to do that. I could barely understand the kids when they were singing the national anthem! I’ll have to look up the lyrics. I’ve never had any trouble understanding anyone (except when they use slang terms and I have to ask what they mean lol I’ve been discussing slang with lots of people and it’s so interesting – I love asking what different words mean), but the kids were singing and not enunciating and I seriously had no idea what they were saying hah!
Everyone was super nice – when some of the staff heard that I was missing my college graduation, they started planning a morning tea for me on the Friday that coincides with my graduation. It happens to be on the first Friday in May, which is the first Friday after the two week holiday. I’m looking forward to that. =)
After school, I went with C to have coffee with her mom. I bought some juice boxes at the store near the coffee shop (because I’ve been craving juice!), and I tried some more uniquely Australian food: milkshakes (their milkshakes are much thinner than ours – so not too different, but still different enough to count as trying a new Australian food) and musk stix. The milkshake was amazing – I had a Caramel Malt one – and the musk stix were DISGUSTING! Seriously tasted exactly like soap! M says it’s something you had to grow up on, which is what they’re also saying about Vegemite, so I’m slightly suspicious about trying more Australian foods lol. Just kidding, I’m always up for trying anything, but it is funny how I keep hearing that all the gross stuff is only liked by Australians because they grew up with the taste. But I did love Tim Tams and the milkshakes so I guess we’re tied with 2 loves and 2 hates in the Australian food category.
C keeps trying to think of something super Australian for me to eat, and she keeps trying to convince me to eat witchetty grubs (blech!) and turtle soup – I don’t think she’d really let me eat either lol but she keeps joking about it. People keep mentioning eating kangaroo, but C says she wouldn’t even eat that. I wouldn’t want to either! Kangaroo here are like our deer at home though so I guess it isn’t too crazy to eat it, but it still seems weird! I don’t think kangaroo is something that people here regularly eat, but it’s sold in the supermarket and it’s served in some restaurants (probably more for tourists).
After C dropped me at home, I went on a run. There wasn’t an amazing sunset that I saw tonight, but I did see some awesome trees including this one below! I couldn’t stop staring at it, it’s awesome. Dad, I thought you would love this tree, too!
I showered and settled in to eat dinner (M is an amazing cook!) before writing this blog post, and my bff was attached to my side tonight! She was acting crazy and really hyper and, of course, adorable. Every time I sat down she would race across the room and fly into my lap. The only reason she’s not laying across my computer right now is because she’s eating her dinner!
It’s 8:00pm here right now and I think I’m going to head to bed! I’ve liked getting up early (not 2am early, but even 5am was nice, although 6 would be fine too – I think I might be turning into a morning person!), and it’s nice to relax while eating breakfast and getting ready. Well, if I pick up my Kindle right now I probably won’t go to bed till midnight anyway, so we’ll see!
Identifying Your Inner Critic:
Photos of a Normal Day:
I added my phone into this next picture to show how big the journal entry is!
and then folded back up again: (with my phone for comparison)
My journal is actually very small so it was fun to include this massive accordion style entry in and to see my teachers face when she asked to see mine =)
I’m in the library right now studying before my next final. I’m sooo relaxed and I love it. I finished my take-home test, my two projects, my paper, and I even took a final yesterday. I just handed in everything and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I’m normally the biggest procrastinator in the world so I was very proud of myself this weekend; I finished everything that I needed to and I made this handwritten study guide that I’m using to study for my test at 2:30. Writing it out is actually what does the most for me, so reading it over right now is just an extra bonus. I’m actually excited to take this final because I know the information so well (lets hope I still feel that way after I take it!).
Birthday dinner tonight, birthday tomorrow, one more final on Wednesday, and then home on Thursday! Yay!