Wednesday, May 29, 2013

7 Year 3 Reflection

Tomorrow is the last day of school and also the closing of a chapter. I'm leaving Provo Saturday morning and I'm leaving my job at Westridge Elementary tomorrow. There's no way to really sum it up, but I'll try.

Teaching is really hard. Like a lot of things in life, no one gets it unless they do it. You're handed 30 plus or minus kids in August with lots of different needs. Some of their parents might tell you the first day of school that they have autism, or a severe heart condition or they're acting out a lot from a nasty divorce. They all have different challenges and needs. They all have many things to contribute.They have different reading levels and math levels. You are to challenge and push the "high" kids while spending one-on-one time with the kids that can't read the word house. You are to love, challenge, manage, excite, discipline on top of creating lesson plans at night and grading papers when you just want to go home to relax and decompress. You need to constantly assess their growth and track it just in case there isn't growth. Kids learn at different speeds, you must work with that as well. Teaching the class whole group all day doesn't cut it. You are responsible for every child having at least one year's growth and try to help those below grade level reach grade level performance while in your care.

When you first get your list of names in August, you might see some names on there that make your heart race. You've seen them being little farts in the hallway in past years. You wonder how you will love them but you have to love them. If they're hard to love, you still have to love them.

They are not your own children so you are frustrated on why they might act a certain way or behave poorly. You wonder why they call kids fat or weird or short or stupid and bully them. You wonder how in the world a 9 year old could be so apathetic. You wonder how in the world they could be okay throwing a screaming crying temper tantrum in front of the whole class. There are kids that test your patience every minute of every day. I had to remind myself constantly to forgive and start fresh with them which can be hard if the offenses are almost constant. There are some that have never been hugged, have no home support and could not bring in their homework for the life of them, but everyone else brings in their homework. How can that be fair?

Over the past 3 years I've dealt with 100 different backgrounds, 100 different personalities, hundreds of strengths and weaknesses, 200 different parents. I've tried to make parents happy. Sometimes, you have to talk to them about really hard, awkward things. No one likes those talks.

Sometimes you have to live off of "rewarding teacher moments" to get you through but sometimes there's a long drought of those. I've held in my tears some days to just finally make it to my car, shut the door, and burst into tears. It's hard, it's taxing and it's not for the faint of heart! I've had to strap on my boots and just get over it many, many times.

But on that incredibly draining note, I could not feel more blessed for the opportunity to teach at Westridge for 3 years and also be able to complete cohorts there. To say I loved every minute would be a lie but I have been stretched and have grown more than I ever thought possible. I have learned what I preach to my kids daily: You can do hard things.

Beginning of my first year I had nooooo idea what I was getting into. HAH! All my BYU professors had told me I was a natural and would be an amazing teacher and I went into the classroom with oodles and oodles of confidence. After a long day 1 of my first year and parent teacher conferences, I went home, sat for about 2 hours in shock and finally just said to myself, "only 179 more days to go." I could not believe what I had just gotten myself into and in the month of September decided that would be my first and only year of teaching. Turns out, I loved loved loved it (after about October, I realized I could actually do this)! My kids from that class are all as tall or taller than me and will be in middle school next year.

Year two was just straight up hard and required lots of prayer for extra strength. So hard that I really didn't think I was going to come back this year, but my principal approached me last March and asked if I'd be willing to start up the new STEM program with another 4th grade teacher. That got me excited again and I decided to stick around and thank goodness I did!

My class this year is every teacher's dream, no lie. They are fun, clever, curious, witty and love to learn. I went home every night researching questions they had asked me during the day. Their questions were thoughtful and made me more excited to do my job. Unfortunately I was sick from about December-March with random flu issues and mono and that took away a lot of my energy. It made it difficult to make it through the day with as much enthusiasm as I normally have but my kids were always behaved and we all loved school so that made things much much easier! I could not think of a better class to leave Westridge on than this one. They have brought so much joy and light to my life! They have not sent me home in tears (hah! kind of...) I love their spirit and their attitudes. They are genuinely good to each other. They are respectful of differences. They have hearts of gold. They make what I do a thousand times easier and more enjoyable! Groups like these only come around once in awhile and fortunately I recognized that early on.

So here I am, now trading in my Westridge Wildcat Teacher hat for my U of A Wildcat Wife hat. It's a bittersweet feeling but I still could not feel more grateful and blessed for the wonderful opportunities given to me by God. Now on to the next chapter!


  1. Your students and school are going to miss you so much! And so will Provo. I know you've been one amazing teacher and I love the stories! And Sam is really grateful you did the STEM thing haha

    Big changes are always hard but I am soooo excited for you and your new adventures!

  2. І was wоnderіng if yοu ever thought
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    But mаybe you coulԁ a lіttle mοre in
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    my web раge - Forever Aloe

  3. LOVE your story, Danielle! So glad you wrote it! It really does help us all understand. Utah has SO MANY children. I was told that even though Utah puts education as a very high priority, it's the large number of kids per tax payer that makes those closes so big. I am guessing anywhere you go from here will seem much easier because you will have less students. You will be missed there FOR SURE! Breaks my heart! :( Those kids need good teachers like you...I know Westridge has them though! Love you!

  4. I have had up to 36 students in 4th grade and I don't live in Utah.

    Well written Danielle. I could SO relate. You don't go into teaching for the money. It's about the kids. You have 3 years under your belt. If you stick with the insanity of the teaching world, I recommend you get your Masters; it gives you even more tools for being successful in that world. AND remember that school district policy too often is based on money and numbers. Stay focused on the child and ignore the silliness that comes down from those who have no idea what goes on in a classroom....
    I just finished my 16th year.
    Good luck in wherever life takes you!
    Aunt Connie

    (And forget whatever "Forever Aloe" said. You are blogging for you, your friends and family - Not competing for blogger-of-the-year.
    Carry on!

  5. I thought I had left a comment on her but I guess I hadn't. Very well said! I re-read it and understand that you have been through a lot as a teacher and thank goodness you did. You are leaving that school district knowing that you did the best you possibly could have for the children. I read what your Aunt Connie said and I agree 100%! She has given you good input here. I don't know about the anonymous person that commented but I personally love everything about your blog and appreciate the good writing skills you exhibit and your wonderful sense of humor! Hope you will keep it up. I will miss the class room stories though. Knowing you, your life and your blog will be interesting no matter what! Love you, Danielle!

  6. Thanks everyone! Love your words and advice!

    To annonymous- I think you're right! That's actually one of my next things to tackle after the wedding. Haven't had a ton of time to do pictures lately but I will be on that soon. Thanks for following!

  7. Dani - I feel like we're going through very similar things right now. Even though we taught different ages, the experiences are so similar. I'm sure going to miss my kids, too. Change is hard, but it'll be fun! Good luck in Arizona, you're going to keep doing amazing things. Thanks for your post, this one got me a little emotional :)



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