It was hard. Really hard, actually.
It’s funny – school got out not even that long ago, but my memories of what every moment of TFA felt like are blurring fast – I can name my kids and describe their personalities, but can I remember everything I taught?
We read Whistle for Willie both years. I remember that. I struggled to find time to do guided reading and math interventions. Spelling and phonics showed such a wide range of student understanding and I never really figured out how to bridge that gap. The multiple-choice-exit-ticket-in-groups-with-plickers thing worked out really well. I tried to make phonics more interesting, but honestly, it was a challenge.
I remember how irritated I was that we had to split one class set of books between two first grade classes, that we only had one set of teacher books between the two of us, that kids had to share books because I had 15 books and 16 kids.
I remember the constant struggle surrounding the bathroom in my classroom, preventing kids from making a mess in it, failing to prevent kids from making a mess in it.
The day they told us that yes, our school would be closing for sure, there was an adult who was in my classroom and they told me I couldn’t manage student behavior in front of my students. I held it together all through dismissal and the meeting after school where they told us we would have jobs in the district next year. Then I went back to my classroom and I called my mom and I cried.
I was too strict sometimes and maybe I raised my voice too much.
I feel like I should be able to distill the past two years into this short, sweet list of 7 things I learned from TFA. I can’t, really.
I learned how much I love my kids.
I learned how weird it feels when your kids mention that they saw you walking out of your front door, and you know that half of your kids know exactly which house you live in.
I learned what phonemic awareness is. I learned what a phoneme is. I learned what sounds short vowels make, I learned which g sound is soft and which is hard, I learned what a digraph is and what sound digraph oa makes. I learned what decoding means. I learned what an open and closed syllable are.
I learned that it’s a good idea to stay late at school on pantry night to get a bit of face time with parents.
I learned how often special ed fails our kids. I learned how complicated it is, and how often parents don’t understand it. I learned that having a baby doesn’t come with a manual in how to navigate special ed systems.
I learned exactly what things needed to be in order for when MDE comes in.
I learned how to make use of 39 days of extended school day because the city was out of water for a week and a half in January and now we have to make up that instructional time.
I learned that being alone with 16 6 year olds from 7:15 to 3:15 on those extended school days can be grueling or it can be inspiring but usually it is a mix of both.
I learned that this complicated, challenging, engrossing thing is something that feels worth it to me.