Shiny Penny

The second I signed my contract to be a teacher, the floodgates opened and horror-stories of teaching came pouring in. From friends, teachers, students, random people on the street . . . . basically, everyone.

Even the people who were trying to be encouraging would say somethings like, “It will be great! I mean, it will be hard. Very hard.” *He or she grimaces.* “You will probably hate teaching for the whole first year. But after that, it will be great!”

And I must admit, most of the horror stories are true.

For one thing, I am learning the hard way that Fifth Graders are not ready for the Socratic method.  At least not 25 Fifth Graders all at once.

Classroom management? Pshaw.

Covering all the material I had planned? Don’t make me laugh.

Grading? It takes FOREVER.

Planning? What’s that? I’m going to bed!

Thus far I have had several “not bad” days. I have fought for every single moment in them.

Last night I survived Parent Teacher night, in one, relatively unharmed piece.

But today, halfway through the Fifth Academic Week, something finally clicked.

I had a good day.

I covered everything I had planned.

We had a detailed discussion of Thorin’s leadership skills.

We had a fun language arts exercise for the poetry unit that I made up all by myself.

We had a very spirited religion class, discussing Angels. My students are conservative to the point of being unable to say “hell”. They usually say “the bad place!” But as we were discussing the Fall of the Angels that resulted in demons, I found it necessary to say that accursed word.

Oh. My.

The looks on their faces. Part shock, and part thrill.

I almost burst out laughing.

Instead, I told them about this Medieval Italian book about a man who takes a trip through Hell, and how Satan in stuck in ice at the bottom solely through his own efforts.

Now they want to know if we can read that book in class.

One of the things that my Principal keeps telling me is,  “own the victories, count the shiny pennies”.  The shiny pennies being those little moments of achievement, the glimpses of happiness and fulfillment. Being something of a sometime perfectionist, I have difficulty even recognizing those shiny pennies.

And then it happened.

During recess one of my more truculent students sought me out to say, “You know that poetry homework last night? That was fun. Can we do that again?”

Right there. A Shiny Penny.


10 thoughts on “Shiny Penny

  1. “Shiny pennies”–I like that. There were days when I loved teaching and days when I didn’t, and thankfully there were several shiny pennies that I still have. Romeo and Juliet, Edgar Allen Poe, Odysseus, Sherlock Holmes, and Paradise Lost are all bright and shining memories I hold dear.
    Congratulations! I know you’ll continue to have good days.

    P.S. there is something fantastic about the humor students have, isn’t there? My 2nd year teaching my students made a game out of seeing how many ways they could make me laugh. Thankfully they also liked literature or we would never have accomplished anything. 🙂

    • I hope more of them come along! Right now it is hard to see the end of the year, much less a SECOND year! Any advice on books for fifth grade at an uber-conservative school?

      Aw, your kids seem so cute! Where did you teach?

      • Whatever you do, tread carefully if you assign Bridge to Terabithia. I read that in the fifth grade, and my class was devastated. Fifth wasn’t my grade, so I’m not sure what to suggest, but maybe I Am the Cheese by Cormier? (I think it was Cormier)
        The Giver, Island of Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, and if you think they can handle it, Lord of the Flies.

        I taught at a private international school in Kazakhstan.

      • Eventually you will have a stock of lesson plans that will only need tweaking. That said, my mom pulled all-nighters throughout her career. Of course, she’s something of an insomniac, so…

        It’s the small blessings that make like a miracle, no? At least I am coming to think so. 🙂

  2. Lord of the Flies is, I think, an important one to read, but I found it far more traumatic than Bridge to Terabithia. I wish I had been older when I read it. I actually wish I had been older when I read both of those. Unfortunately, I have no idea what grade I was in when I read either of them. For the most part, though, my mom did a good job of choosing what would stretch us but not break us. She would probably say that it was a never-ending learning process for her.

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