Friday, February 26, 2016

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Challenge

I once read somewhere that intelligent people worry more, overthink, overanalyze, over-reflect... and I constantly try to justify my vast tendency to overthink with “it’s okay because it means I’m smart, right?” Teaching is the one place where I think reflection, over-reflection even, is okay. Good, actually.

One: What has been your one biggest struggle this year?
All last year I hoped and hoped that he would be in my class when he came to first grade. I wanted him. Two years into teaching (a seasoned veteran, right?) I was ready. I was confident. I watched him last year each time he came into my room for a quiet place to work, or for a break to calm down. I watched him in the hallways. Actually I heard him. He’s the kind of kid you can hear long before you see him. He made me laugh just watching him. I wanted so badly to know him and connect with him and to help him grow. I really had no idea what he was like academically. But his little quirks, that huge voice coming from that tiny little body everywhere he went, that energy... those parts of him interested me. I wanted him to be in my class. I wanted him to be my challenge.

And he has been. I will never forget putting my hand on his little chest and feeling his little heart beat like a hummingbird’s. He was exactly what I expected in so many ways. After a month or two of school, I was seeing improvement, still feeling confident— his friendship skills (namely keeping his hands to himself), his reading skills and writing skills were improving— but somewhere that improvement slowed and the lack of self-control, the lack of following directions, the boundary-pushing became more than a struggle. Now, I know every teacher has a student like this, and I know I’ll have 50 more before I retire. But the struggle came from the fact that I couldn’t understand WHY. There was no reward (or consequence) that had impact. There was no behavior plan or special quiet place to sit or extra support or scaffold that seemed to help. Even one-on-one, I couldn’t get him to stay focused. He didn’t understand that he wasn’t making good decisions. He didn’t understand that he was disruptive. At the end of every day, “I had a good day, right, Miss Kloczko?” He really had no idea. He is intelligent. He's funny, creative, outgoing, and happy. He has two loving parents. I communicate with them almost daily. I couldn’t help him. I had no idea what was causing his behavior, what I was doing wrong. I came into the year so confident. I couldn’t wait to be his teacher all summer long and I was failing him. And I was failing my other 27 students. I wasn’t the patient, attentive, loving teacher they deserved. And then one day my little struggle was absent and it hit me. The day ended and I felt more relaxed and calm and it had gone so smoothly. I felt so guilty for feeling that way. My responsibility is to teach and love and connect to ALL of my kids. And I was failing. I had to help him. I told myself the words my mom told me two years ago about another little guy (who was similar in many ways, actually): “You’re the only first grade teacher he’ll ever have.”  I had to help him turn his year around. Still working on it...

Two: Share two accomplishments you are proud of from this year.
1. Well, it’s February and I’m here and I’m still struggling. However, I can finally say that my little guy’s FIRST complete “good day” was Tuesday, and today, Friday, was his FOURTH. To be fair, this isn’t my accomplishment. “It takes a village.” My village this week was a room full of 6 and 7-year olds. They encouraged him, they high-fived him, they thanked him when the class got to watch a clip from The Lion King because he met his behavior goal (following directions the first time he’s asked, 10 times in 1 day). My tiny first graders had tears in their eyes for him (I did as well) when he was finally recognized as “the secret student.” The way my class came together to support this little boy this week, their genuine happiness for him and each of his tiny accomplishments this week was amazing.

2. A few weeks ago, to switch things up, my exit ticket to line up for recess was to use our sentence frame, “_______’s diet includes _______.” Normally we would complete this frame to talk about an animal we are studying. (“The African elephant’s diet includes bark,” for example.) But for fun, they had to complete it about me. “Miss Kloczko’s diet includes strawberries.” “Miss Kloczko’s diet includes carrots.” “Miss Kloczko’s diet includes tea because she quit coffee.” “Miss Kloczko’s diet includes apples.” “Miss Kloczko’s diet includes oatmeal.” I eat snack with them every day before recess and I can’t tell you how many times a first grader has come up to me to compare snacks. “HEY! I have a banana too!” My first graders think fruits and vegetables are cool.

Three: What are three things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?
1. Work with my grade level partner to create a STEAM challenge to add to each of our GLAD units, hopefully incorporating Project Lead the Way’s Design Process in each challenge.

2. Skype with our 3rd grade penpals in New Jersey.

3. This is already a work in progress, but I’d like to settle on a way to build, plan for, and run my differentiated small reading groups that I can consistently keep up with and that I can feel confident starting the new school year with.

Four: Give four reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.
1. At a staff development day my first year of teaching, our school’s Co-founder and Executive Director, Ting Sun, told us “Working at NCS, you are in education reform.” It’s so true. So much of what we do here is experimenting. It’s different. It’s revolutionary. Crazy, even. And it is amazing.

2. I love learning. Especially about animals. Yesterday, talking with my kids about real and pretend aspects in The Lion King's “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” one student pointed out that “the giraffes were wrapping their necks together,” but she didn’t know if it was real or pretend. So I looked it up. And… giraffes ACTUALLY do that. (It's called necking, and males do it to assert dominance.) I would never have learned that without this job.

3. I want to be a mom. Soon, hopefully. I can’t wait and it’s crazy. (Sorry, Dad. Hope you’re not reading this…) I’ve learned so much about love and patience and kindness and helping kids grow and I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned in this career when I have my own kids.

4. The kids. Every day they surprise you. They smile at you. They laugh at you. They tell you you’re smart and pretty and funny and they think you are a real author and a real zoologist. They finally say “Yes, I want to share my writing with the class,” after saying no for 6 consecutive months.

Five: Which five people do you hope will the take the challenge of answering these questions?

1. Petra Luhrsen
2. Jenny Tabb
3. Kimberli Bartlett
4. Chelsey Marshall
5. Jordan Watts


  1. This is so cool! I'll try to write one this week! Thanks for challenging me ;)

  2. I love this post. The way you connect with your kids (and especially particular kids!) is so inspiring to me. Thanks for being real and for always loving the kids. :)