the kids and the childhood mindset. As the head of school told me during my interview, "If you're passionate about your subject, teach high school or college. If you love kids, teach elementary school. If you want a mix of both, teach middle school." For this year, at least, I'm banking on my love of kids to hep me teach. I'm not at all sure that this is the classroom I want to end up in, but I'm definitely willing to give it a try.
And it's pretty easy to love these kids when they do and say things like this:
|See? I'm taller.|
Me: I'm with you guys! Third grade!
J: No, I mean (gesturing to the high school building) what grade are you actually in?
Me: I'm not in a grade.
Me (whispering): I'm 23.
J: What?? I thought you were 15!!
Important note: I am taller than all of the third graders. Check in in June to see if that's still true.
T: Hamorah Naomi, what do you and Hamorah B. DO while we're in gym??
(I consider telling her about Teacher Gym Class, where third grade teachers chuck dodge balls at the second grade teachers who messed up their kids the previous year. Then I remember that third-graders believe almost everything you tell them.)
Important note #2: Because I am the assistant for the Judaics classroom, the kids call me "Hamorah Naomi," which roughly translates into "Naomi the Teacher" or "Teacher Naomi." I chose my first name rather than my last name because, well, I'm 23.
On Friday, we had an inter-grade activity where students made Rosh Hashanah cards for soldiers in the IDF. As I walked around surveying the students' work, I peeked over one of my kids' shoulders and saw that he had written:
"Dear Israeli Soldiers, I hope you win the fights versus the other states and I hope you don't die."
No one can make a point as clearly as a third-grader.
In all honesty, I didn't really know anything about teaching third grade when I accepted this position.
I barely even remember third grade myself. Robo-math, biography projects, the Chumash presentation. Oh, and that was the first year my parents made me pack my own lunch, so I remember the blue thermos in which I packed leftover pasta and pretended it was still hot at lunch time to impress the other kids with thermoses. What I don't remember, though, are all the rules.
|This was NOT what my lunch looked like when I was in 3rd grade. |
GoGo Squeeze hadn't even been invented yet.
From day one, it is the teachers' job to create a routine and enforce rules. Once the kids know the expectations, they will learn more efficiently and accept the teachers' authority as the year unfolds. Which makes a lot of sense. But this also means that right now I have to be the rule-enforcer, which has never been my forte. Sometimes, it seems like I am constantly barking out orders:
"No sharpening pencils during class."
"Wait until you go outside to eat your snack."
"Everyone stand against the wall if you want recess."
"No climbing up the slide."
"Don't bring sticks inside."
"No doodling during class."
And, the most frequent: "When the hand goes up, we stop talking."
Often, I change up my tone or my phrasing. Sometimes I even smile when I say "You know we don't throw pencils, right?" My favorite is when I can turn the rule into cheerleading: "I know you can sit quietly during davening. I know you can do it! Show me how awesome you are!" And in truth, most of the rules make sense. But sometimes I let my mind wander...
What if I just let that student open her Fruit Roll Up and start eating it in the hallway before she gets to recess? The wrapper might fall on the floor. She might not pick it up. That's littering. And someone might slip on it. And she might choke because she's eating while she's walking and then her parents would sue the school. Or she might end up as a devil child who doesn't follow rules at all because I let her eat in the hallway!
All of this comes to mind when a child whines, "But why???" Usually, I settle with a simple, "Because I asked you to."
I don't know why I don't remember all the rules in my own third grade classroom. Perhaps I was just a chronic rule-follower, and doing what the teacher said never bothered me. Perhaps we didn't have as many rules back then. Or perhaps the content eventually overcame the rules, which simply drifted into my subconscious under the category of "how to behave in school" and kept me from becoming a devil child.
So. I guess I have a job now. I am at school from at least 7:30 am to 4 pm with very little break time (hence, the classroom teachers love it when the kids have specials). When I get home, I am often too exhausted to do much of anything. I go to sleep by 10 pm and wake up at 5:45. I have been staying with incredibly generous cousins and I am moving into a three-bedroom apartment in Brighton next week with two other girls. I am in a new city, with new people, new synagogues, new tasks, new schedules, and new roads to learn.
Sometimes I feel lonely, but not as much as I feared. After being with people all day, I am grateful for a few hours of quiet in the evening (#introvertpatterns). The only time loneliness really affects me is later at night or on Friday afternoon, when I wish I had somewhere, something, or someone to go home to. The thought of an entire weekend alone in a new city is daunting for me. So far, I've spent Shabbats in Cambridge and in Brookline, two very vibrant and very different Jewish communities. I am struck by how welcomed I feel by synagogue members and long-time residents, and for this I am so grateful. However, after a Shabbat full of introductions and life stories, sometimes I am ready to go for a long walk with just my iPod or curl up in my bed with a book, internet television, peanut butter, or a Skype date with a long-time friend. Or all of the above. When everything is new, the comforts that work best are the old ones. And that's a rule.
|Sometimes, I just act like this.|