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I had my first full day in an upper elementary school classroom today. Also, my first day in charge of an upper elementary school classroom. It was not awesome.

In fairness to everyone involved, this isn’t a fun time for the kids. It’s June, their real teacher just left, their room looks completely different, they’re totally over school, and they have a new teacher who doesn’t know any of the things that make them happy – just the rules that make them sad. So they’re not bringing their best.

And in some ways, I’m not bringing my best either, or at least I wasn’t today. Their teacher left me with a lot of “fun worksheets,” and while we did some of those today, the kids’ response made clear what I already knew – worksheets aren’t fun. I’m going to have to step it up and come up with some actually fun activities or risk battling the kids all day, every day, for the next four weeks.

In addition to the kids’ fairly reasonable reactions to change and boredom, there’s also a heaping dose of moodiness at play in the classroom. In fact, I’ve experienced this moodiness in every upper elementary classroom I’ve been in. If a six-year-old sits in stony silence it’s a sign that something’s wrong. If an 11-year-old does the same thing, it’s just Tuesday. All the upper elementary teachers I know say “be hard on them,” or “tough love is the only way to get through,” and while that’s all well and good, I find no joy in it. I prefer nurturing love for learning and enthusiasm for school, not trying to salvage it from the wreckage of hormones, social stress and academic insecurity. Good realizations to keep in mind as I continue interviewing for teaching jobs.

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