Friday Happiness

Today I am happy to be a teacher. 
It’s hard a lot of the time. I know last year it was hard because the group of students I had were just… not nice most of the time. Not all of them. But the “leaders” definitely had malice in their hearts, and sadly, most of the other kids were followers led astray. Each day was an emotional battle. Even still, I loved (most of) those kids very much. They were my first group of students that were mine.  And if you got them away from the leaders, they were mostly sweet, helpful, fun-loving kids.
I cannot get over how different a group of 100+ thirteen-year-olds can be from one year to the next. This year is a night and day difference. There is honestly not one child in any of my classes that I would consider a true troublemaker. At most, I’ve got some kids who are squirrely and have a hard time concentrating. That’s it. I am so enjoying these kids. The majority want to learn. I can have them do activities without having to worry about my classroom being destroyed or someone throwing a chair or having a temper tantrum. (All things that happened last year.)
I told Chris that this year I actually get energized from the kids. It’s still tiring and hard, but the emotional drainage isn’t there this year. The kids have fun in class and I can in turn make class even more fun. 
Yesterday we did mixture problems, one of the worst Algebra concepts to teach. I love teaching it though. Last year I discovered that hyping it up as one of the most Difficult Things Ever just spurred my lovely and ever-contrary 8th graders to prove me wrong. I did the same this year, along with making up a couple of graphic organizers to work through in class. Throughout all four classes, I would hear gasps of horror when I first read one of the problems. Then we did a little demo that involved mixing two solutions of varying amounts of food coloring to give a visual of the chemist mixing up two solutions. They liked that. Then it was just a matter of putting all the information into the graphic organizer and all of the sudden… click.
I had my weakest kids solving these things like nobody’s business. They even told me this was the easiest thing they’d ever done in math. (Hardly, but okay, kiddo.) Today when we went over homework, I overheard one boy commenting, “This homework was sooooo easy. I helped (insert name of student who was absent the day before) figure it out. Me. I never help people!”
Today we moved onto motion problems, the dreaded “one train leaves at 1pm going this way, and another train leaves at 3pm going this way…”problems. Luckily for me, you set them up exactly the same way you set up a mixture problem, so I knew the kids were going to be fine. I was going to print up more organizers and have us all go through it together as a class again, but at the last minute (like midnight last night) I decided to simply review the distance formula with them and let them group up to figure out problems on their own. They totally struggled, but it was the good struggle. A few figured out they could make a table of values or do guess and check to find their answers. Others needed hints along the way, but most of the time I’d get halfway through the hint and then hear, “Oh! Then this person was going x + 25 miles per hour!” It’s so great when you can easily see that they really are getting it. It’s also great hearing the cheers of a team finding out they found the right answer and seeing the big, proud smiles. 
So, yeah. Today made me a happy teacher. 🙂
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