Unexpected News

My friend surprisingly came into my classroom during the middle of the lesson dressed in all black and with a look of seriousness. She quickly came up to me and I just listened in silence to her news. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. As she left, I saw my students with their eyes on me, I continued the read aloud of The Tiger Rising.

I kept reading aloud like normal, but then as I started to process the news, I felt my eyes filling with water. I kept looking at the book, hoping my students wouldn’t notice. I just kept reading about a boy named Rob, who had lost his mom, and tried hard to keep his “suitcase” shut. I felt my suitcase slowly opening as sadness tried to sneak out of the sides. I kept pushing it back in.

I was the teacher.

I went on with the rest of the morning, teaching the rest of the periods until lunch. During lunch, I came back to my classroom and my sandwich with sitting on my desk staring at me. I should eat it, I thought. I finished it and then the suitcase burst open. I wiped away the tears and composed myself. A few minutes later, two of the girls in my class came inside during their recess time.

“Ms. Kim, were you crying?” She asked concerned.

I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t look up. I stayed silent.

“Why would she be crying? Of course not.” The other girl replied with confidence.

“Her face is all red.” She replied.

“I wasn’t crying.” I softly responded.

I wanted to tell them that my friend’s mother battle with cancer was almost over, but I couldn’t. I wanted to tell them that sometimes teachers have suitcases they try to keep shut because they have to. Sometimes we are like Rob from The Tiger Rising. Sometimes, we are human and we cry. Sometimes, we hurt, when our friends are hurting.

The Teacher Effect

One of the things that I love about teaching fifth graders is what I call the “teacher effect”. Yes, I just made that up. What is it? The standard dictionary definition would look something like this. The ability to influence students in a positive manner due to your role as a teacher.

Here’s a specific example of how it looks like in my classroom. I tell my students about a new children’s book I just read. I give them a brief synopsis, then tell the students I will put the book in the classroom library. Then, I ask the students who would like to borrow the book. Without fail, almost the entire class shoots their hands up, excited and hoping to be chosen. I bring our class cup with colorful popsicle sticks with the name of all the students in the class. I choose names randomly, deciding on the order for who will borrow the books first.

A few days to a week later, there is a buzz growing about the book. As students start talking about it and what they think about it, I overhear conversations about it! I have a few particular students this year, that are always asking me for recommendations. They seem to think that I know all the “good” books.

I finally had some time to read a few really good children’s books this past weekend. I absolutely loved The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, and immediately started doing a class read aloud with it. I also read So B. It. by Sarah Weeks. I was reading the ending in the hair salon and had to hold back the tears! I just finished rereading The Hunger Games (first book) as well. What can I say, except that I am soo excited for the movie to come out in March. Of course, I told my students all about this. I’m pretty sure all the copies of So B. It & The Tiger Rising are checked out by my students!

How have you seen the “teacher effect” working in your classroom? 🙂

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers.

P.S. If you haven’t checked out two apples a day yet, please do so. My new teaching blog project is up and running finally!

New Year, New Blog!

One of my projects for 2012 is to start a teaching blog with my friend Melody (check out her awesome blog: spit on the street). Part of my inspiration was seeing the successful collaboration of Stacey & Ruth  (two writing teachers). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as an educator is that collaboration is crucial in improving and learning more. I thought that it would be great to collaborate with Melody, not only a fellow teacher, but friend.

So, this year, we successfully bought our own domain name!! 🙂 Yes, we are just that cool. And voila, now we are co-creators of two apples a day. It is so exciting to be part of this new teaching project together.

At first, we struggled with what the focus of our blog should be. We are both elementary school teachers, teaching at the same international school. So we brainstormed a few different potential topics that we could focus on from English language learners, creativity in the classroom, reading & writing workshop, but in the end we didn’t feel led to just focus in on one particular topic.

Therefore, we decided we would just start blogging about our lives as international school teachers and see what we post. As of now, we plan on posting about the various things that international school teachers face, from life in the classroom, professional development, living abroad, and all the other exciting adventures and challenges.

Also, we hope to have guest bloggers once a week share about their experiences as an international school teacher. We are definitely looking for guest bloggers! Please leave a comment and your e-mail if you are interested. We hope you will help spread our blog with other educators as well.