Friday, September 27, 2013


Today was a great day! My students were listening and there were fewer interruptions than normal. I did have to make a phone call home, but it went well. After school I went with the other 5th grade teachers and some other people from the school to a restaurant. It was interesting to talk to the teachers outside of school. It dawned on me that being a Christian in a secular world is an interesting position to be in. The conversation turned to religion, and many people shared how they have been hurt by the church: weren't able to baptize their kids because they weren't married in a Catholic church, weren't able to get married in the Catholic church because they were living with their partner before getting married, and being told that they're going to Hell if they aren't regular church goers. How can I be a witness to the Truth when so many have been hurt by Christianity and want nothing to do with it? It was also interesting because every so often one of the other teachers would make a comment toward me like "don't judge me" or "you probably have such a negative view of us after this." What is it about me that people feel the need to apologize for who they are and what they say? I hope it is not that I come across as judgmental. That is never my intent. Maybe it's because I am young and "inexperienced in the world." Whatever it may be, I hope that people notice that there is a difference in how I approach things because of my faith. I pray that God uses me where I am, to reach some teachers and students.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pulleys and Levers

I am in charge of teaching a unit about Pulleys and Levers. My experience with science is minimal. I really started to learn science in high school: physics, chemistry, biology, and environmental science. Then in college I took one general science class. Now I am responsible for teaching about pulleys and levers. We have these kits that have all that we need in them, but I still had to sort through all the extra copies and materials to get to what I actually needed. Luckily, I had the help of another 5th grade teacher, who spent about an hour after school helping me sort through all the material and coming up with an example.  She is not even teaching that unit.  She did not have to spend that time with me, but she did. I was so thankful. All of the people I have encountered in Danvers have been very helpful. I've shared before that the other teachers have been scouting books for me and getting me extra resources to help me start building my own collection of resources.  What a great community in which to start my teaching career.

In addition, after school I was told that I am getting a new student on Wednesday! I don't know if I am excited or stressed about this change. We'll see how this new boy changes the dynamic of the class. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Listening and Meditation

My students are crazy! It is a daily struggle to get them to quiet down so that I can give instruction, and a bigger struggle to remain patient after repeating the same thing day after day and question after question. Constantly I hear, "Miss Schundler, what are we supposed to do when we're done?" and my response is usually "I've already said 2 times already AND it's written on the board that after you are done, you should take out a book and read independently." Then at the end of the day "Miss Schundler, do we have homework?" "Every day I write the homework on the board, I tell you when I assign it, and I review it when I tell you to take out your agendas to write it down." They still miss many homework assignments.

My students are learning to listen, but somehow I feel like by repeating myself I am teaching them that listening is not important because instructions can always be repeated, so why listen the first time around? Some days are better than others.  Yesterday was especially bad, but today after a little pep talk, the day ran more smoothly. The class just enjoys being with each other and wants to socialize. It's that age when friendship takes priority over schoolwork.

The special ed teacher came in today to talk about meditation and stress and how those two things were related. It was very interesting. I learned that the brain works best when it is slightly stressed, but also relaxed: a kind of paradox. Thinking about how our brains are designed makes me think of how creative and genius God was in creating us. The brain itself is so complex, and this makes up just a small portion of our body.

Because of my chatty class, I have incorporated a time of complete silence, where the students literally do nothing for 5 minutes. Sometimes it is during a lesson when I can't get them to focus and other times, like today it is scheduled for after lunch to get ready for the last hour of school. Today after the 5 minutes were up, students asked for another 5 minutes because they felt so relaxed when they were quiet. I wish this desire to be silent would transfer over into SILENT reading, but we still have approximately 170 days left for that. I have also incorporated more prayer time in my morning to focus myself for the day. On my drive to school I put on worship music and pray for patience and productivity. Each morning I am reminded that I not only teach to get a paycheck or even to teach students important information. I teach for the glory of God and I teach to love kids with the love that Christ had for us on the cross. Although I will never be able to love as much as Christ, I can show unconditional love (a fraction of God's love), and show mercy and forgiveness as he did. I am in a unique situation where I have the power to influence kids because I get to work with them for 5 1/2 hours a day!  I pray that God uses me to reach these 21 students of mine.

 I have to remember that it is still the beginning of the year, and nothing will run perfectly. It is a time to set expectations and routines so the rest of the year will not be as exhausting as these first few weeks. It is a time to pray for my students and learn from my teaching (and failed lessons). It is a time of great transition.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reflections on the past week

Happy Sunday! Here in Massachusetts, weeks seem to go by slowly (because so much happens in a week in 5th grade) and weekends seem to go by all too quickly to get everything done and still have time to spend relaxing.  It seems like the work never ends.

Looking back on the week, I feel like I'm getting a sense of who my students are and what their strengths are. I also realize that I need to work on my verbiage. There were times this week when I misspoke and confused my students or when I talked to quickly for them to understand. I am working on figuring out how to get students to come up with the answers on their own rather than telling them the answer.  I also need to work on being less casual in my approach to teaching. Coming from working at camp all summer, it's easy to slip into being slightly sarcastic (which high schoolers understand) or trying to "be friends" with my students. I have to remember that school and camp are not the same! I need to amp up my professionalism.

Outside of work, things are good. I got to spend time with a coworker this weekend painting pottery, I ran to the post office (about a 2 mile run total), I caught up with Christa and Audrey some, and watched a movie! I cooked some decent meals for myself while Skyping with Wes :)  It was a good weekend despite having to grade an assessment and student journals.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about questions like "Why, as Christians, are we hesitant to bring up Jesus' name?" We can tell people that we believe in God without it being taboo, but once we bring up Jesus, it's a whole new ballgame. Even when I pray I realize that I pray to God the Father, rather than Jesus. Jesus is the reason we believe what we do, so why don't we give him more attention?

Another idea I've been thinking of is the concept of time. So often we say "there are not enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do," but I think God created the 24 hour day because it IS enough time. We just spread ourselves thin and get involved in too many things, including spending hours on the computer. Then we ask the question, "where did all my time go?" If Jesus could heal, teach, and spend time with people during a 24 hour day, we can too.

My goal for the next week is to spend less time on the computer and more time on journaling and really investing in teaching and reaching my students. This is more important than looking at the latest pictures on Facebook or watching a show on Hulu just because it's there.  I hope you all have a good week! Continue to pray for me as I get used to the routine of school and that I become an effective teacher. I want my students to do well, but I'm still learning how to get them there.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feeling old-remembering 9/11

Today we remember the 12th anniversary of 9/11. I remember the day clearly. It was a Tuesday about a week into the school year. I was in 5th grade, and shortly into the day teachers kept running in and out of the classroom making phone calls and were highly stressed. No one would tell us what was happening. All we knew was that something bad had happened. Confusion loomed throughout the day. We were told to walk directly home.  They might have even required that we get picked up by/walk with an adult. I walked home with my friend Caitlin and her mom.  When I got home, my mom was glued in front of the tv and images of the planes and World Trade Center filled EVERY channel, even Nickelodeon. We attended a church service where darkness, shock, and sadness filled the sanctuary. For days, the images of the World Trade Center falling were on constant repeat. Stories of bravery, courage, and divine intervention were common.

Today, on the 12th anniversary, we had an extra moment of silence in school to meditate. During this time I came to the realization that I was in my 5th graders shoes 12 years ago, and that none of them were alive yet to experience that day which changed history and will forever be in my memories.

I pray a special prayer today for all those whose lives were changed 12 years ago, and all those who are still mourning. I pray for the protection of this country in a time where the tensions of the world still fill our news channels. Remembering days like 9/11 reminds me that we live in a fallen world and that one day Jesus will return and restore Creation as it was meant to be: Beautiful and Perfect.

Monday, September 9, 2013


So everyone always complains about how the weekends go by fast and then comes Monday, the worst day of the week. Waking up this morning was definitely difficult, but after I had my cup of tea, I was ready to go! Today was my first full day of school and even being a Monday, it went by fast! I accredit this to getting into real content and actually teaching! One of the things my students did was write autobiographical poems, and some of them added a creative component to it, which was fun to see. It's exciting that in 5th grade students are more likely to make projects or assignments unique and creative because they have their own unique personalities and talents.

On a sadder note, my ESL student had a really hard day today. She cried for the majority of the day because she was overwhelmed. I tried to tell her that I understood how hard it was because of my time in Argentina, but that just made her cry more :-( This aspect of my job is one of the hardest because I have no aides in my class, so it is hard to find the time to explain things to her when I have 20 other students to worry about. If you know any ideas on how to reach ESL students, let me know!

I pray for patience, not only with my students but with the process of being a first year teacher. I haven't built up my repertoire of activities and strategies yet, which I know will come in time, but right now it just seems like I'm behind.

Thanks for reading about my thoughts on teaching! I would appreciate any prayers for my transition year, as I am still getting used to being an adult. (Side note: I felt very adult-like today when I received my very own health insurance card in the mail, worked at my desk (which I have actually never done-usually I do work on my bed) did some grocery shopping, and went to the laundromat--REAL LIFE!)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day

Today was my first day as a teacher! I got to school and was surrounded by people asking if I needed anything and if I got sleep last night (which I did). On my desk, a bowl of candy awaited. It had a note attached (but no signature).

Then the kids arrived! I have 21 students: 9 boys and 12 girls. It was a little overwhelming knowing that I was in charge and the way the day ran was dependent on me. There was no one telling me what to do or when to move to the next activity.  Pacing is something I will need to work on.

I will also need to keep my eye on a few of the boys. I will also have to find ways to reach my ESL student and my students on learning plans.   Hopefully leading the class will start to come more easily as time passes and I get to know my students. Another half day tomorrow!