How to Survive Those First 9 Weeks

Here I am on my bed, still in my work clothes from the day, with my hair in a messy ponytail, having just finished inputting and verifying all my grades for the first 9 weeks of the school year. And even my worn down state of sickness brought on in part by playing a little too much the role of the Little Engine that Could, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Today while I was teaching I paused and talked to my students about two things. I talked to them first about how many more of them need to start caring, and caring deeply, abou their education. I said that many of them would feel deeply dissatisfied by their grade when report cards came out, but to remember that it was not a reflection of what they were capable of, but what they had given me over the grading period. I told them that many of their behavior was getting in the way of the success they could have, and I think many of them are seeing that more and more each day. But I also paused from the lesson today to let my students know that so many of them had come an incredibly long way from who they were when they first entered my classroom back in August. I have had students go from suspension kings and queens to diligent students, coming after school for help and turning in homework on time. Nothing is better than getting to make those calls home that your child that you worried about if they would make it in high school or not because of past issues is now earning As in both of my classes. There’s a lot that can happen in nine weeks. There’s a lot that has happened. And it makes me grateful for the consistency I stuck with at the beginning, because if the students know what to expect from you, it makes a great deal of difference in the majority of their attitudes.

So, then, how does one survive those first nine weeks? I survive it by drawing from that same essence of Mary Oliver that has carried me through so many different situations throughout my life. I remind my students that when they mess up, their teacher still believes in them, will still be there to teach them, and I remind myself the same when planning goes terribly wrong. My students are starting to see just what they are capable of and how very possible it is for them to craft their own niche in this world. We share in all the learning together:

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~

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