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The Reflective Teacher: April Horrors by Monica Breaux

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Monica Breaux, who teaches first grade in an urban Louisiana school, was named her school's Teacher of the Year after her first year teaching!

Monica Breaux

Well, we're coming to the end of another school year. This was a rocky year for me at times, and I'm both elated and saddened to see this group of students go on to second grade. We've been through a lot together, and have had to work out many problem situations along the way. I am happy to say, however, that we are ending on a high note.

In a previous diary entry, I wrote that this was the toughest group of students I've ever taught. I tried numerous techniques and strategies, trying to get my discipline plan under control and my classroom routines flowing in an appropriate and effective manner. That took a great deal of time to accomplish.

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Then, in January, I was assigned a student teacher, and eventually had to relinquish some of my control to her. She stayed for three months, and it turned out to be a negative experience both for me and for my students. After that, I had to gain control over the students again -- and I had to do it in a hurry. The ITBS (Iowa Every Pupil Tests) were just around the corner.

The beginning of April marked the beginning of the most stressful month of my life; so much was going on -- at school, at college, and at home -- all at the same time.

At school, my students were taking the ITBS and the pressure of the impending scores weighed heavily on my mind (and still weighs on my mind today!). In spite of that, I had to make sure I planned and delivered effective lessons every day, and that I was ready for two observations scheduled by our school's District Assistance Team (DAT).

At college, I was preparing two portfolios for my two graduate classes at Nicholls State University -- both were due on May 2.

At home, my oldest son had school band practice after school every day to prepare for the State Festival Band Competition scheduled for the end of April. My youngest son had after-school band practice twice a week in preparation for his Spring Concert, and baseball practice twice a week as well. He also played in an out-of-town (about two hours out of town!) baseball tournament every weekend of the month.

For the entire month of April, my world was torn into many different pieces!

Luckily, my students had begun to settle down at that point. I think they actually could see and feel the stress I was under, and they expressed their concern and sympathy by behaving and following directions.

In May, the tide began to turn. I handed in my portfolios on the evening of May 2 -- and felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. That feeling was especially true because I also had gotten both my DAT observations over with on the same day. My finals at Nicholls were completed and my two observations were done; I finally could relax and teach without those extra pressures in my life. By the second week in May, my sons had finished their band commitments, so I didn't have to do as much running around after school as I had been doing.

I also administered the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) to my students during the second week of May. I was amazed at what I heard when they read to me individually. Everything I had worked for all year long was coming true before my eyes. Almost every student read with accuracy and fluency on or above the first grade reading level. I was overjoyed!

Somewhere between April 1 and May 9, I seemed to have lost sight of why I am a teacher at Southdown School. It didn't take very long, however, for me to remember why. That's the reason, I think, that part of me is so sad to see these students go. I feel as though I've finally reached each and every one of them, and I don't want anyone else to have the same bond with them that I have today. I know that sounds selfish, but I've worked so hard to get my students to this point, and now that they've finally arrived, it's time for them to go. Of course, I'm also very happy that they've achieved almost every goal that was set for them this school year. They are moving on...and they will be successful second graders next year.

My family and I are still traveling to baseball tournaments just about every weekend, and I am still anxiously awaiting the results of the ITBS, but life definitely is easier now.

By the way, I received A's on both the portfolios I turned in for my graduate classes; I was happy and excited when I received my report from Nicholls on Saturday. Now, I only have to get through this coming summer and fall -- in December, I will graduate with my Master's Degree in Reading. I only hope that when December rolls around, I'll be able to reflect and recall what I learned about stress management during the month of April!

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Monica Breaux
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