Yesterday, I received the following email from a reader:
This is my first year in Kindergarten. I enjoy it. I love helping my little ones learn… I have 3 or 4 that aren’t getting it in ELA. I look at their scores and they seem to be falling more and more behind. It makes me feel like I’m not doing a good job as a teacher or that I’m not doing something right… Do you ever feel this way? Is this normal? Especially to have this many who are falling behind? Some days I feel so lost.
I asked and Allison said I could reply to her on the blog…
Let me start by saying, without even knowing you, based on your letter, I can say you are doing a good job. You are doing more than something right. Do I ever feel this way? Sometimes, but with time, I’ve learned there’s more to it than hard work.
More than hard work? What else could there be? Here’s the thing they don’t tell you in your education classes and most folks don’t want you to know… kids are no cogs. Kids are not robots. Kids are not machines. Kids are not cars.
When you buy a new car, you expect it to do certain things in certain ways. You expect this because a group of people on an assembly line have worked to put it together according to very specific plans, with each car coming out exactly the same. Every once in awhile a lemon gets through, but if you happen to have the bad luck to buy a lemon, you can return it and get a new one. That’s how it works with cars… kids are not cars.
Kids are people. Kids come from vastly different homes with unique experiences and genes. Also, as a new teacher, you may not know this, but classrooms are not the same. Your classroom, is like no other, made up of different kids and resources than any other. For instance, at most schools, the adult to student ratio isn’t even the same from room to room depending on aides, techs, you name it.
The sad fact is, as teachers, we’re expected to get all our sprouts to the end of the year benchmarks. All. Of. Them. I can’t say that’s ever happened to me. There are always a few (some years it’s been one, some years two or three) who just aren’t going to get there. For whatever reason, no matter how much you try, how many interventions and extra time you spend, they just won’t make it.
The reality is, those kids will make growth… so even if they don’t meet the benchmarks, they’re still learning and growing. Just because they don’t meet the benchmarks doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a good job, it just means, they’re not quite ready. Again, this is usually a few and I always do whatever in my power to help them, because sometimes they do get it and begin to ‘click’… but sometimes they don’t.
I realize I’m repeating myself, but you are doing an excellent job. You are giving it your all and I know you’ll continue to do so. I’ve seen other new teachers feel defeated, but please don’t give up. Remember, it’s not what you teach them, but how you make them feel. Reread that sentence… It’s so true. I tell all of my sprouts, each and everyone of them, I love them and how smart they are. While everyone may not meet all the academic benchmarks, I can guarantee any child who leaves my room in June will feel loved and ready to concur the world… that’s our job, plain and simple.
Keep your chin up.