Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My New Normal

Sometimes I laugh at my own life, not because it's funny, but because it's ridiculous. Today Brian asked how the day went at school. I replied with, "It was good, kind of a chill and easy day." Then I rewound my brain and realized that today involved two altercations between students escalating to inappropriate insults, one bloody nose as a result of a punch thrown during buddy reading time, and a middle finger being raised during a vocabulary lesson. Hmm. Not exactly what I used to consider an easy day. Of course in this past year and a half my definition of "normal" has drastically changed. But nonetheless, on these "normal" days it's nice to have a daydream here or there, and of course I'm turning to wedding thoughts. That's another part of my new normal. Want to see what I'm dreaming of? Can you guess my favorite color as of late? I'm liking the look of this new normal more and more each day :)






Monday, January 20, 2014

Those Kids

I'm about to go on a small rant, because a few little words are bothering me lately. They're adjectives. Of the demonstrative variety. THESE and THOSE. Sometimes these two words serve as demonstrative pronouns, where they replace nouns. For example, instead of "Wow, the flowers are beautiful," one might say, "Wow, these are beautiful!" But sometimes "these" and "those" can be used as adjectives, as descriptors to nouns, as an add-on to help narrow down exactly what you're discussing. Instead of saying, "Look at the couples! They are dancing and having a great time," you might say, "Look at those couples! They are having a great time." You know, you're helping your audience understand a more specific cross-section of the whole to which you're referring. Add in these and those, the ever-helpful demonstrative adjectives, and you help people figure out exactly whom you're talking about. But I digress.

All of this is just grammar. I was an English major, after all, and most people don't care about all of that anyway. What's the point?

It's not that I'm against demonstratives. They've never done anything to me. It's not their fault. These and those are just as good as any, so I can't really say it's the words with whom I am peeved. It's the people who use them. And, in my opinion, misuse them.


It's odd, because the demonstrative adjectives, THESE and THOSE, are being unnecessarily attached to some humans (who are near and dear to my heart) on a daily basis. I'm finding more and more, especially now that my radar is buzzing for it, that people are using THESE and THOSE for some very special people. For my kids. My class of first grade kids.

Last fall, someone said to me, "Well, teaching at your school, with THESE kids, it's almost like babysitting instead of teaching."

Right before Christmas break, I went to a day-long workshop and was learning alongside teachers from all over the Chicago area. It was centering around how to run and organize the behavior management in your classroom. When I asked a question about a hypothetical interaction with a misbehaving six-year-old, the presenter asked where I taught and the nature of my school. She replied, saying, "Well, I believe this will work for most kids, but THOSE kids especially need boundaries clearly set."

During Christmas break, a well-meaning friend said, "Anna, I can't believe you're still teaching THOSE kids."

Last week, during my grad class, my professor said, "Well with the type of neighborhoods that THESE kids come from, you never know what you're going to get."

Finally, a few days ago, I overheard a fellow teacher (not from my school) saying "THESE kids are just too difficult."

Now I'm not saying my students don't need clear boundaries, or that sometimes it's not overwhelming to be their teacher, or that their neighborhoods are perfect. But I guess I want to call some people out on their grammar. Why THESE? Why THOSE?

Why words specifically chosen to call out a small group from the whole? Why do I never hear about kids from Winnekta being referred to as THESE kids? What do you mean by THESE kids and THOSE kids anyway? Do you mean naughty kids? Poor kids? Chicago kids? Black kids?

The problem, I guess, is that by attaching the THESE and THOSE labels to my students, you'd never think about B, who is reading at nearly a 3rd grade level, comes from a loving family, and asks me at the end of each day if she can "please Ms. Gesch just keep learning because I want to learn all day."

You'd never think of M, who has gone from not knowing the alphabet in August to picking up books and reading the words in them by December.

B and M and all the others aren't THOSE kids. They're MY kids.

THESE and THOSE cut out all the humanity from your brain and cause you to jump to a label instead. I'm not saying I've never in my life fallen into this mindset before, I'm just more sensitive to it now that I know and love my students. I am, however, saying it's time we start choosing words more mindfully.

I have an idea. And once I share this idea, I'll lay off the grammar and stop being so picky, I promise.

Maybe instead of talking about THESE kids and THOSE kids, we could start talking about OUR kids. When we're talking about the challenges facing education, and the topic of  kids ceases to be those, and starts to become ours instead, that's when the conversation is starting to go in the right direction.

Because OUR kids deserve better from us. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Morning Epiphanies

Sometimes I am so moved by something in church that it takes over my brain for the rest of the day, maybe even the following week. We sang this poem in church this morning as a Confession and it was incredible. It is one of those things that struck me, and, although it is admittedly long, I hope you don't think of me as some church weirdo, but rather that it's something you can identify with as well. I took the liberty of highlighting my favorite verses. I love finding those moments of awe on what should, by all accounts, just be a regular Sunday morning. 


The Grieved Soul
By: Joseph Hart

Come, my soul and let us try, For a little season,
Ev'ry burden to lay by, Come and let us reason.
What is this that cast you down, Who are those that grieve you?
Speak and  let the worst be known; Speak and God will hear you.

O, I sink beneath the load of my nature's evil!
Full of emnity to God; Captived by the devil.
Restless as the troubled seas, feeble, faint, and fearful'
Plauged with ev'ry sore disease, How can I be cheerful?

Think on what thy Saviour bore in the gloomy garden.
Sweating blood at every pore to procure thy pardon!
See him stretched upon the wood, bleeding grieving crying,
Suffering all the wrath of God, groaning, gasping, dying!

This by faith I sometimes view and those view relieve me;
But my sins return anew, these are they that grieve me.
Nothing good within me dwells; E'en God's love rejected,
Have not I, if any soul, cause to be dejected?

Think how loud thy dying Lord cried out, "It is finished!"
Treasure up that sacred word, whole and undiminished;
Doubt not he will carry on, To its full perfection,
That good work he has begun; Why, then, this dejection?

Faith when void of works is dead; This the Scripture's witness;
And what works have I to plead, who am all unfitness?
All my powers are full of greed, blind to truth, unholy;
If from death I'm fully saved, Why am I not healthy?

Pour not on thyself too long, lest it sink thee lower;
Look to Jesus, kind and strong, mercy joined with power;
Every work that thou must do, will thy gracious Saviour
For thee work, and in thee too, for his laud and honor.

Jesus' precious blood, once spilt, I depend on solely,
To release and clear my guilt, This then makes me holy.
He that bought me on the cross, can control my nature;
Fully purge away my dross; Make me a new creature.



Monday, January 6, 2014


In my first grade classroom, we begin every day with a Morning Meeting. We start by greeting one another, and then we go to a time of sharing. We sit in a circle and go around taking turns sharing about a given topic. I love it because every kid gets his or her voice out there, especially for those who might have come in the room a little extra cranky, shy, or tired, but it's also awesome because I get a little insight into their lives outside the classroom. Every single Monday our share is: "Over the weekend, I _______." The best shares come after long breaks and vacations, because then they get to be exciting things like "Over Thanksgiving break, I went to Key Lime Cove and cannonballed into the pool and made my sister cry." We have an extra day of winter break today and tomorrow due to the -50 degree windchill (not even joking) and so our big share day will have to wait until Wednesday. Each kid will get a turn to say, "Over winter break, I _____________." After all of the kids go, my fellow Instructional Assistant and I take a turn so the kids know what their teachers were up to as well. I woke up this morning and thought to myself what I'll say on our first day back. There was a lot of stuff that happened this winter break, both seemingly small and definitively significant. So here it is in pictures. Ready?

Over winter break, I....

cruised in the backseat with Xander, 

got engaged to this handsome guy, 

cleaned my disaster zone of a room, 

went out for enchiladas, 

ate some delicious gluten-free cookies, 

reunited with some of my favorite humans, 

braved #Snowpocalypse2014, 

and had the best snow-removal-service around de-snow my car. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Stuff Students Say: December Edition

Hey friends! It is January 1st! I should take a little bit of time to reflect on the past year, which for me, has been full of big things but has also gone by in an instant. While I do that, in the meantime, here are a few gems from last month in Room 25.

I am the champion of Miami!

I'm going to steal your coat Ms. Gesch. Then I'm gonna give it to my mom.

Will you marry me?

Student: How do you make a tissue dance?
Me: I don't know - how?
Student: You put a little boogie in it?

Me (in response to one student's answer): What a smart answer!
Another student: Wait wait wait, I'm smart too, right Ms. Gesch? You told me that I was smart before!
Me: Yes. More than one person can be smart!

(Walking in to class 2 hours late)
Student: Ms. Gesch I came to school today.
Me: I know.
Student: Just letting you know. 

Does this school offer milk refills?!

(Yelled at two of her classmates who were hitting each other)
No hitting in school! That's what you do at home. Keep the hitting at home!

Ms. Gesch you got a white pastor? My pastor is black. Is your white pastor good? I think he'd probably be a good one if he's your pastor. 

Student: Ms. Gesch. Michael farted and didn't say excuse me.
Me: Thanks for letting me know.

(As it was snowing outside and we were walking to recess in 15 degree weather)
Is winter over?