Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's a Teacher Girl?

The first year of my teaching career I had a student who consistently challenged me, while continually teaching me how to be flexible and responsive.  She was a bright girl, with fantastic ideas and a caring heart.  When she became frustrated, overwhelmed or tired, she struggled to control her emotions and her responses. The organization of my meticulously planned lessons (scheduled down to the they had to be in college) was threatened daily by her outbursts and meltdowns.  I was 23 and had never encountered a student quite like this before.  Up until this point I had found comfort in being well planned, organized and being able to anticipate how everything would go (for the most part!)

One day early in the year,  I could tell a meltdown was approaching.  She ignored my multiple requests to take a break and utilize her sensory break bag.  My one-on-one attempts at processing the situation with her did not seem to be getting us anywhere.  My next strategy was to give her space to make an appropriate decision.  Her response to me giving her space was to invade mine.  For the next 15 minutes she followed me around the classroom as I moved on with the rest of the class.  In her fist she grasped a newly sharpened pencil, threatening to stab me.  I was pretty confident that she wouldn't actually stab me, which made it a little easier to carry on as though I wasn't thinking about the chances of the pencil becoming lodged in my arm.  The rest of class watched me nervously, but followed my lead and carried on with their math (although I'm sure they had visions of my possible impalement as well...)

Finally, she grew tired of her empty pencil threat, set down the pencil, picked up a piece of chalk and drew a dusty white line down the arm of my navy blue sweater.  "I hate teacher girls who....who wear blue!" she announced as she completed the line and stomped back to her seat and began working on her math.

The class and I breathed a collective sigh of relief as this meltdown ended quickly compared to some of our past experiences.  At the end of the day she skipped to the hallway and gave me a quick hug in passing.  "I love teacher girls!" she exclaimed.

The ups and downs of my classroom that year constantly challenged everything I had been taught about being well planned and organized.  I learned that planning and organizing definitely has its place, but the beauty in teaching is the flexibility and responsiveness that everyday requires.


  1. What a wonderful slice - so full of energy and emotion. I let out a sigh of relief as I heard your students say "I love teacher girls."

  2. It takes a flexible and responsive teacher to learn flexibility and responsiveness in such an endearing way. Bravo for your patience, caring, and understanding of children and their needs! Sigh!

  3. Wow! My stomach tightened waiting for your impending impalement. You were brave and I know it takes a lot to keep patience in those moments. Makes me think about how important support is for us as teachers. I hope you had some! Great slice!

  4. I can't wait to read more "Adventures of Teacher Girl!" So glad you are adding your voice to the Slice of Life Challenge this year.