From the mouths of babes…

This conversation started today when I was talking about how we should respect the flag / our soldiers (right before we were to recite the pledge of allegiance). I was just trying to get the kids to understand why we stand still during the pledge and how we should act etc.:

Me – “…now class we should respect our soldiers no matter our beliefs because they are only trying to protect our rights and…”

“But they be sinnin’… They be sinners.” – JW

“Excuse me?” – Me

“They killin’ people. They usin’ guns. Why they gotta use guns? That ain’t right. They should use their mouths.” – JW

I don’t know how to respond at this point, but I don’t have to as the others in the class continue….

“Yeah why do they use guns? They shouldn’t be violent. They don’t need to kill people! Just breathe people!” -AD

“How do wars start?” – NF

“Yeah yeah why don’t they jus’ talk things out?” -JS 

“Why do wars start? But how? But why?” – NF

At this point the class is breaking out into questions and exclamations about war and violence, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond to a class full of 8 year olds who wanted to know why people still killed each other in this day and age… That’s a conversation you’d expect in a college philosophy class, not a third grade classroom. How do you explain to eight year olds why and how wars start and why people are still killing one another when you still have the same questions yourself?

These kids, these kids who are just statistics to the government because of their races and their families’ incomes and education levels, these kids who are below the poverty line, these kids who are failing academically, these kids are smarter than they will ever know and they have more smarts and heart than they’ll ever be given credit for….please don’t let them ever stop questioning the system. 

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Whew!

So, here I am sitting at my dining room table writing this blog. Tomorrow starts the second week (first full week) at my new school back in America. This past week was beyond exhausting for numerous reasons.

  • No rest the weekend before as I and many other teachers came in on the weekend to decorate our classrooms as we had no other time to do so because of nonstop meetings and training for the previous two weeks.
  • A trip to Orlando for a summit meeting on Monday which meant that we had to be at the school at 6 am which meant a very early waking time of 4:45 am for me.
  • Open House the following day. Of course, the first grades scheduled to have parents were kindergarten and third grade. Since third grade is my grade, I again was there bright and early. After, I continued to decorate my classroom.
  • The next day was the first day of school. I woke up again at the crack of down and was at school by 6:15-6:20 am to put the finishing touches in the classroom. The other 3rd grade teachers and I waited until about 830 to close our doors as the students slowly kept trickling in (normally everyone should be accounted for by 8 and attendance should be in by 8:30. Being that it was the first day of school, this is not how it happened. There were about twenty-seven students on my roster, and about twenty-one of them showed up. This week more may show or some may go. They never know – this is mostly because the school that I am teaching at has a very high population of children coming from families falling below the poverty line.
    • That day in itself was very tiring. Getting to know the children and also getting them to behave in a somewhat appropriate manner took a lot of my energy. To be fair, most of them were fairly decent.
    • Easily the most tiring part of the day was dismissal. Getting the children home or simply out of the building started at 3. It didn’t end until nearly 5:30. Then we had a meeting and then some extra talking amongst one another. I didn’t get home til around 7:30 that night and I am supposed to be home around 4 on a normal night.
  • The following day was pretty much the same. I was (and am) still getting to know the children. I’m still trying to teach them expectations in the classroom and assess where they are academically (many are far below where they should be).
    • Dismissal this day also was pretty much the same. Disorganized and it took forever.
  • Friday (TGIF) came and the kids felt it. They’re getting to the point where they already don’T want to be in school (still in summer mode) and some feel comfortable enough to challenge my authority indirectly. So, I put my foot down, because these kids will eat you alive if they sense any hesitation.
    • This day also came with me learning about some of the children’s back stories. My god just stick a knife through my heart. The tragedies and lives that these children have witnessed or experienced is enough to make anyone want to curl themselves up in a ball and cry endlessly. How do I look at these babies knowing what they have been through? My heart breaks every day for them.
    • Friday’s dismissal was interesting. We started at 2 with a “mock dismissal” and the children all got into place by 2:15. We thought we would head back to our classrooms then, but nope. The poor kids (and teachers) had to wait in the cafeteria (or wherever they were supposed to be) until the actual dismissal at 3:15. What is more is that they had to wait silently and could not do anything. Now can you imagine 100s of students from K-4 (higher grades in different areas) waiting silently for that long? Neither can I. Poor babies. They were so antsy. Some kids, especially the kindergarteners, fell asleep, others continuously asked to go to the bathroom, all of them fidgeted impatiently in their seats, and many kept trying to speak to those near them. Many of the teachers were just as fed up as the children, but could only do their best to bite their tongues and grumble under their breath.
      • The problems with dismissal seem to be because of a new system that is in place, lack of understanding between the parents and the school, impatience from the parents, over-enrollment (more kids = more time that is needed to get them out of the school safely). Hopefully thing run a bit more smoothly this upcoming week.
  • I will be doing my best this week to continue teaching expectations this week as well as to learn more about each individual child – their needs, where they fall academically, etc.

Wish me luck! Coffee is my blood at this point. Sleep does not exist. Only preparations for the classroom and lesson planning exist. Preparing children for impossible assessments as well. Ahhhh!

A New Year, A New School, A New Start

Don’t worry, I’ll get to writing my year in review with 2A a little bit later. As I’ve just moved back to the USA from Turkey, I am quite the busy bee over here.

I wanted to let you all know that I have a new position as a 3rd grade homeroom teacher in Florida, and I will be teaching at a charter school. The children that I will be teaching come from diverse backgrounds. Most of the children that I will be teaching also come from very low-income families and do not have the resources at home for a proper education. I know I will have many students who will not be able to afford the basics. So, as a teacher in the US, you know where those basics will be coming from. Yep, that’s right, my own pocket. I want to make sure that my students have the proper resources at home and in their classroom. Since they come from diverse backgrounds, I also want them to have resources that represent them as well. I want them to have the resources to fuel their imaginations and creativity. I want them to want to learn and always question why and how and try to figure it out for themselves.

I’ve made a wishlist on Amazon for my classroom. If you could help out at all I would be very appreciative. The wishlist includes things like basic classroom supplies such as pencils and paper. It also includes many multicultural and thought provoking books as well as many science experiment kids. I want my children to have the resources they need and that will help them grow. Many of these kids have a high likely hood of never graduating high school let alone alone getting into college. I want to be the teacher that pushes them forward. I don’t want them to end up being just another statistic.

Thank you for any and all help.

I’ll be updating more soon.

My heart is heavy…

I’m sick of this. I’m sick of living in fear every day. I’m sick of the growing panic. I’m sick of my fears coming to life every passing day as something else happens. I’m sick of the media here keeping everything hushed. I’m sick of the media in the rest of the world not saying enough. I’m sick of the lack of compassion or care for this country…. in this country. I’m sick of being restricted. I’m sick of being told what I can or cannot wear, where I can or cannot go, when I should or should not go. I’m sick of being told that I should not speak English in public for fear of being attacked simply because I’m American (thanks Trump for making that even worse and for making the situation even more dangerous for Americans abroad!)

Turkey is not getting the recognition that it needs because it is a country stuck in the middle. It is in between progressive Europe and the conservative Middle East yet most of the world just throws it into the Middle Eastern category. Why? Because the majority of the country follows Islam? Because most people couldn’t point out Turkey on a map? Because most people think Turks still wear fezzes and ride around on camels in the desert because that is how it’s been represented in the past in cartoons and the like? Nobody knows much about Turkey except for the fact that its name is the same as the bird that they eat or just maybe if they stayed awake for that one week in history class the Ottomans kind of ring a bell. So why should they care? It’s just another one of those desert countries over there that is always fighting, right? The world isn’t properly educated on these matters. But these matters matter. A car bomb here, a suicide bomb there, another here, another there, just another day… the more it happens the more jaded people become. They think it’s just a normal occurrence. The world media covers it less and less, and the fact that the government is controlling (censoring) the media makes it even harder for news to get out. People fail to realize though that cities like Ankara and Istanbul are not just some desert  cities in the middle of nowhere. They are constantly busy, overpopulated, traffic burdened, work driven, family oriented cities just like NYC, Paris, London, San Francisco, Miami, and the like. People get up every morning, brush their teeth, kiss their families goodbye, rush out to work, sit in traffic, slouch in their desks at work, grumble through their days, live on coffee and tea, have a quick lunch break, get back to work, try not to fall asleep, finish the work day, and try their best to make it home. But Sunday, that didn’t happen for everyone. Sunday, near a bus station filled with hundreds people, men, women, children, teens, the elderly, a car bomb exploded ending the lives of at least 37 individuals and injuring over 100. Countless families’ lives were destroyed on Sunday and the world hardly flinched.The night went on, the morning came, people went to work, children went to school, and aside from a brief moment of silence held in some schools, it was as if nothing had happened the night before. If this had happened in any of the aforementioned cities, the world would have come to a halt, changed their profile pictures to mach the country’s flag, and sworn solidarity with that city. Even if it happened time and time again. But here? Apparently, it was just another day…and that’s all it ever will be until the world wakes up. I know that I’m just another blog post in the wind, yet another voice and cry for help that will go mostly unheard, but if I can educate at least one person out there, then I’ve been at least somewhat successful.

On a side note, I must say though that I am privileged. I am American, and I can leave at any time. I’ve got my passport, and if I feel unsafe, I can hope on a plane and go home to a land that has rarely felt the pain that this country goes through constantly (and when we have, we unite with the utmost passion). My fiance, my students (my children), and millions of other do not have that privilege. They are stuck here. They cannot just hope on planes. They need to go through a long and costly visa process, and that’s just for the tourist visa!  We Americans do not realize how spoiled and privileged we are.

Not teaching related…

Listening to Lou Monte makes me feel an overload of emotions. Nostalgia…happiness…sadness… This music reminds me of my childhood growing up with my grandmother, so therefore it makes me happy, but thinking of my grandmother makes me very sad to say the least. The same happens with Christmas music. Or with certain smells. Sensory memories are the strongest. They can be great at times, but right now it’s just frustrating because I just want to listen to my music and enjoy it. It’s hard enough being away from home and family, especially around the holidays. When you add in these sensory memories, and it’s even harder. Not to mention it’s that time of year when it gets grey, dreary,rainy, and depressing in İstanbul.

Tomorrow…

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Welcome Back!
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Some door decorations…

The school year starts tomorrow here in İstanbul. My co-teacher and I finished decorating the classroom at the end of last week. We had to stay late to finish, but luckily we both live very close to school so it was fine by us. We now have a very colorful and slightly Minion themed classroom. We’re excited and nervous for the year to begin, but I’m glad it’s finally starting!

PYP Learner Profiles

A few important notes…

Throughout my teaching experiences these past two years, I’ve learned that patience truly is a virtue and that it goes hand in hand with kindness. In order to teach successfully, you need the both of them. The kids will respect and love you a lot more for it.

It is very important to be consistent, especially with young children. You always need to follow through with what you say you are going to do, because if you don’t the children will walk all over you. It’s the same with even how you conduct class every day. The children learn better in an environment where they know what to expect. Inconsistency can be your downfall.

Always be prepared. Prepare your lessons, and even have extra lessons prepared for unexpected reasons whether you have to cover a class that isn’t your own or you only have half of the students in the room. Preparedness is key, and it goes along with consistency. Walking into class with no real lesson plan can lead to wasted time and ineffective learning. It can also easily lead to misbehavior and the children yet again walking all over you.

It’s amazing to watch your children grow and learn throughout the year. Two of my students were actually my old students from a previous school and watching the progress that they made was incredible. It’s not just their language acquisition and comprehension that amazes me, but it’s that the students’ confidence levels over the year have grown so much. Children I didn’t think would ever talk, opened up; students that were doing miserably started turning themselves around with a little extra help and motivation. I love being a teacher and being able to make a difference in their lives. I’m very excited to continue on to my third year of teaching, and this time as a classroom teacher with my own class of around twenty students instead of as a branch teacher who has six different classes every day.