Monday, September 17, 2012

State of Wonder

These days, I'm in a constant state of wonder.  Mostly wondering how on earth I'm managing to get up every morning, then wondering how I will ever get through the day. I'm feeling my age in these old bones. My exhaustion seems to know no limits. I go to bed tired, with a brain that won't shut off, wondering and worrying, with a sea of ten-year-old faces taking the place of imaginary sheep, and wishing for elusive sleep.   The first few weeks in the fall are always exhausting, but, like childbirth, somehow I forget that part until I'm immersed in the tsunami like waves of it once again.  Right now I'm wondering how many more Septembers I have in me!

I'm sure all occupations are like this, where you feel like you're already behind, almost before you get started.  With new Common Core State Standards (which are really not new, but new wording and new ways of organizing) and new students, and new schedules (radically changed from previous years) and new expectations, and new staff members, my poor old brain is spinning. I'm wondering when I am going to remember all these new things.

Fortunately, I have an amazing classroom of 27 fifth graders who, for the most part, are enthusiastic, eager, and willing to remind their wonky teacher that it's time to head out for lunch, or PE, or where ever they are supposed to be going.  I am already in love with them, and committed to making this a year of wonder that they will always remember. 

I spent my first weekend, after the first week of school, inexplicably weeping.  I knew that on some level, it was partially due to knowing one of my students had lost his dad last year, and that reminded me of losing my mom when I was in 4th grade.  I also knew I was mourning the upcoming last day of a student I have barely gotten to know, but felt wrenched with her leaving after only four days of school. I've had kids before in these situations, though I'm usually not weepy.  I'm still wondering about my sensitivity, although I think I may have traced it to my reaction to a book I read this summer, recommended by my dear friend, Deb (aka Catbird Scout).

Deb told me about a book called Wonder, by P. J. Palacio, the story of a fifth grade boy with multiple facial anomalies, who enters public school for the first time.  Auggie is "just an ordinary boy" stuck in an unordinary body, and this poignant story is told mostly in his voice.  It's a beautiful book, and I fully intended to read it to my class.  Unfortunately, a series of events caused me to think twice about beginning the book on the first day as I had planned. I read a few picture books instead, but I was missing the magic that happens when I read aloud an intentionally chosen chapter book that draws the class in.

I won't go into the details here, however, after careful consideration, and a conversation with my principal, I began reading the book aloud on the fourth day of school. It was the right decision.

Auggie's voice is often very funny, and at moments the class erupted in hysterical laughter.  (I was finding it difficult to read aloud, as his descriptions are pretty amusing, in a delightfully fifth grade sort of way!)  Humor is always a good catch, however the beauty of this story comes alive through the conversations we have had as a class.  Deep, and sometimes painful, connections were made, and the empathy was palpable in the classroom.  Stories shared brought tears, understanding, hope and invoked  a state of wonder. I am humbled by what these young people have dealt with in their young lives, and have a burning desire to brighten their world.

The first week of school, I suggested an idea to my class for covering our reading response journals with torn paper art, representing a favorite book.  I got the idea from my daughter, Kailyn, who had created one for an education class she was in last spring.  The kids loved the idea!
My example, which I found quite difficult to accomplish!
One student's choice of their favorite book! There were several Dr. Seuss!
Of course, there was BabyMouse!
Many, many versions of different "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.
This one surprised me! I'm enjoying getting to know this student.
We will begin week three by celebrating Constitution Day.  Lesson plans are ready; Kailyn is visiting today as she doesn't start classes until Wednesday.  I am no more rested than when I began this post (about a week ago!) but the clock is ticking and life is moving on.

Despite the weariness in my bones, my heart and soul soars in a continual state of wonder, filled with the anticipation of what awaits in the days to come.  


  1. I've always enjoyed working with kids, I probably should have been a teacher. Great idea for the journal covers.

  2. Sounds like you have it under control. The book sounds like a wonderful read. I worry sometimes about the youth of the world not having empathy for other people who might seem different. The bullying that goes on is scary. I'm glad your students are enjoying the book and from your description they seem like great kids. Every job has it's ups and downs. I think the school systems need teachers to love the kids and getting emotional about their lives would be easy to do. I had a few teachers who were so cold I couldn't believe ice crystals didn't form on them. I would have taken a teacher who cared that much over the others. Good luck with your class this year. At the end of the year you should go back and read this post and see if things have changed any!

  3. Dear Sandi,

    Through your posts, I have come to know you as a marvelous person, now I know what a marvelous teacher you are. Your students are blessed.

    Get some sleep, your natural ability to teach and your empathy towards your students will get you through this September.

  4. I love it! Learning is exhausting and I've come to realize that teaching is more often about learning than anything else. Such important work you do. Take care of yourself and enjoy!

  5. We all wonder, each time a season rolls around again, how many more we've got in us. You, I hope, have many many more times to fall in love with your beautiful class. A great story with a lot of lessons for all of us. Thank you for being YOU! :-)

  6. I understand your September well my friend. I have all new colleagues, a new classroom, and AWESOME kids. I am going to check out the book.

    I want to see more about these torned paper book things. Interesting....

  7. Oh, the exhaustion of the beginning of school. I get tired just remembering! The Three Cups of Tea 5th grader is quite an advanced reader. The torn paper art is wonderful. Get some rest Sandy - those kids need you!

  8. Yes, I have known the spinning brain feeling due to too many teaching demands - I am sure most teachers feel the same way, as is witnessed in many a staffroom over a cup of tea - that's if you get the time to sit and drink it before the bell goes! The students' books look great Sandi. How is your daughter going with her teaching experiences in Oz?

  9. Dear Sandi, I so enjoy your postings on the children in your classroom and what you are teaching and learning. You are an inspiring teacher. And a truly dedicated one. Peace to you ever and always.

  10. My daughter is a high school math teacher and department chair, while her husband is an elementary school teacher, who heads computer technology. Both are efficient and well liked. I give all teachers credit for their efforts in the classroom!

  11. Oh Sandi, all of the newness will sink in and you'll be in a routine before you know it! It sounds like you're full of great ideas already! Love Di ♥

  12. Dearest Sandi,
    I sense you are tired and a bit weepy. I suggest you may tweak your body with some good doses of multivitamins and nice herbal teas. Hormones also fluctuate as one progress in time. Be kind to yourself. Let the students believe they are helping you learn new things and you'll soon have the best ever group of fifth graders. those fifth graders even love to be acting teacher and come up with some brilliant ways to present their curriculum. Their self esteem just goes up and so will yours. Bless you as you try to figure out how new age issues and your ability to be your best will progress. It will.
    Those resone journals show what a huge range in reading ability you have at this grade level.
    Those response journals look very

  13. Hope you are feeling lively again Sandi- this post gives a lovely chance to peep into the school you work so hard at and even see the pupils' text books ;-)

  14. Hi I came over from Retired English Teacher's blog where she shared about meeting you. I think you are a blessing to the children you teach.

  15. Sandi, I guess it's about time I "found" you. After all, I need to follow all of the Vashonistas. I was the one who declined the weekend invitation. Someday I may explore what is inherent in my personality that caused that to happen.
    But in the mean time, having just read this post I am reminded of the many Septembers I started anew another school year. I finally had no more in me. With all that teachers face now I admire your continuing sense of wonder.


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