Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Real motivation

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Had my first day back to school mentoring my former student. He was disappointed when the morning announcement didn’t say his class was one that had earned “free seating” in the cafeteria. I said, “so the seats are assigned right now until each class shows they can make good choices?”

He responded, “No, I think they just want to make us miserable.”


Heated molecules

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been a hard week. One of my boys is in total meltdown (the counselor, who adores him, says, “oh yeah, he’s a hot mess right now”), one is continuing his desperate search for attention, and their combined meltdowns seem to be upsetting the very delicate balance I had found with my emotionally fragile child.  When relatively stable and healthy, these three boys take about 40% of my attention.  With all three crashing and burning together, they’re taking about 98% of my attention.  This leaves 2% for the 13 other six- and seven-year-olds in the class.  They’re a good group of kids, but no group of six- and seven-year-olds is good enough to go through an entire school day – let alone a full week – with almost no guidance or attention, especially surrounded by three constant crises.

So the rest of my class is melting down.  I have not taught anything new this week.  The only teaching I managed to do – introducing them to Eleanor Roosevelt – I did with one of the boys in crisis sitting on my lap, hugging my arms tightly and rocking.  It’s a good thing I can spin dramatic, spur of the moment stories about historical figures, because I definitely didn’t have a hand available to hold the book we were supposed to read.  And I managed to spin this story while one of the other boys shrieked repeatedly from a corner of the classroom (the third, miraculously, sat quietly and raised his hands to ask attentive questions).

The only bright spot of this week is that it’s been so incredibly bad that I’ve finally gotten the attention of other people in the school and we’re finally moving forward aggressively to get these boys help.  No more “have you tried giving him more one-on-one attention?”  “Have you tried teaching him to take some deep breaths to calm down?”  Now we’re bringing in counselors, we’re bringing in parents and translators, we’re getting formal documentation and referrals submitted, and – thank god – we’re skipping the rest of the 30 committee meetings that each suggest six-week interventions before I can talk to the next committee and we’re moving straight to “we need to figure out a solution for this child and his family.”

For the first time this year, I’m feeling optimistic that we may be able to get help for my three boys.  I’m consumed with guilt, though, at how little attention and patience the rest of my class has been getting from me, and worried about if and how we’ll be able to reestablish a peaceful, supportive classroom community once these crises are dealt with.  And I am tired.  Thank goodness for the upcoming teacher workdays; I need some time to take a deep breath and figure out my next steps.


January 11, 2012 1 comment

Last year was hard. My boss didn’t like most of what I did in the classroom and let me know it all year.  If one of my six-year-olds was (gasp!) wiggling on the carpet, she’d write in her notes that the class was off-task and not learning.  This time last year, we had an hour-long meeting to explain that I might not be recommended for reappointment that spring.

Flash forward. I have a new evaluator who thinks deeply about teachers’ practices.  We’ve talked informally about my class throughout the year, we are in 2 hours a week of team meetings together, and she’s been in to observe a few times. We had a 15 minute mid-year meeting today in which she said that I am exceeding expectations on 7 of the 23 professional standards and she’s recommending me for reappointment.  She explained that she’d thought a lot about the observations she’d done in my classroom and even talked with my mentor to think through her evaluation of it.  She said that her first impression was that the kids were behaving rather “loosely” with me (yet would sit up ramrod straight when she looked at them), and that threw her off a little.  But then when she looked more closely, she saw that I was constantly checking for understanding, pushing kids to explain their thinking, and providing enough freedom for the “hard to fit in” kids in my class to feel comfortable and find success.  She said, essentially, that my management style is not her own, but that if it works for me, she’s fine with it, because she can see that it’s working for the kids.

Forgive me a flowery moment: this is like a balm to my soul.

I’ve spent the last year and half filled with fear, doubt, and a sense of incompetence because my classroom simply doesn’t look like the other classrooms.  I know my kids are learning, but when other people see or hear our room, I feel judged – that I can’t control them, that I don’t know how to keep them in line.  And the truth is, I don’t – not in the way other teachers do.  I cannot for the life of me get a class full of six-year-olds to line up straight and silent (though I’ve seen it done).  But I kind of don’t care about that, which is probably why I can’t do it.  It’s just not a battle I feel like waging when there are so many other things that matter more to me.  Honestly, the one major non-academic battle I’ve fought this year is to have students stop touching the levers on my chair.  Drove me nuts.  They stopped.  I’m sure if I really, truly cared I would figure out how to have a quieter, less wiggly class.  But I love the roly-poly, puppy nature of six-year-olds.  I love their random conversations and off-topic explorations.  I let them conspire with a buddy sometimes instead of reading because I want to see what they’ll come up with.  I watch them change the rules of the math games and invent totally new activities, then I talk with them about what they’ve figured out.  Not all of the freedom I give them is productive, and I definitely feel sometimes like my kids are less “polished” than many of the other teachers’, but they’re learning to think, to explore, to test boundaries.

For the last year, I’ve been taught to think of myself as a failed classroom manager and therefore a failure as a teacher.  Today’s evaluation reminds me that while I may fail to look like everyone else, I’m succeeding at putting my teaching philosophy into practice.  As I read what I’ve just written about my classroom it sounds exactly like the application essay I wrote about teaching and learning to get hired for this job.  My goal for the rest of this year is to approach each day with a sense of positive purpose for what I’m choosing to do in my classroom and let go of the needless guilt and worry about how things might appear.  If I’m happy, my kids are happy, and they’re learning, that works for me.

All is forgiven

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

One of my boys almost always has hard days, but today was particularly tough.  By the afternoon he couldn’t control himself anymore.  In his non-stop moving over-exuberance he ripped a book, threw a pillow at a classmate, then tackled another classmate and wouldn’t get off or stop tickling him.  He’s almost never aware of his movement, and definitely doesn’t feel responsible for it, he felt hugely wronged by getting in trouble for this – “[while sobbing] You so mean!  You SO SO MEAN! [continue crying]”  I brought him to a buddy teacher’s room to calm down; he stayed there for almost half an hour, coming back just in time for dismissal (it’s our last day before winter break).

At the doorway he threw his arms around me, buried his head in my stomach and said “I going to miss you so much!”  I got a big final squeeze, then he sprinted down the hallway to his bus.


December 16, 2011 1 comment

Our wonderful P.E. teacher started a school-wide running program this year.  For every two miles the kids run in P.E. or at recess, they get a charm to add to their running necklace.  My grade started the recess program on Tuesday and it’s been wonderful to see how the kids respond.

Two of my boys, one a constant behavior issue, one incredibly shy, have thrown themselves into the running wholeheartedly.  In just four days they’ve earned two charms each, which means they’ve run at least one mile in each 15 minute recess – not bad for a six-year-old!  They, and the rest of the kids in my class, glow with pride over the charms they’ve earned and they’ll tell anyone who will listen how many more laps they need to earn their next charm.

The P.E. teacher says studies show schools with running programs like this one experience a drop in serious discipline problems and an increase in test scores.  While it’s obviously too early to know if we’ll see those benefits, I’ve already experienced at least one benefit of the running program.  This afternoon my usually prickly, inexhaustible child spent the last lesson of the day curled next to me, cuddly and sleepy.  Seeing that side of him was a nice way to end the week.

Categories: Teaching Tags: , , ,

Turning a day around

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

One of my hardest boys had a very hard day today. Sprinting around the classroom, refusing to do work, refusing to come to whole group lessons, bursting into tears whenever I said no, really, NOW.

As he left this afternoon, I reminded him I’d be out tomorrow morning for a meeting and a substitute would be there. Our conversation:

Child: Where you go?
Me: Remember? I’m going to talk about teaching math with all the first grade teachers.
Child: But why they need you?
Me: All the first grade teachers are going. It’s part of how I get to be a better teacher for you.
Child: But you already a real good teacher, really!

When other teachers wonder how I manage to deal with him all day, these are the times I think of. As much as I worry that I’m not giving him all that he needs, and as frustrated as I can get with his impulsivity and physicality, he regularly makes me want to wrap him in a big bear hug.

Positive feedback

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Today felt like a breakthrough trapeze class, but not because I learned a new trick or mastered a new skill.  In fact, the goodness of today came from me NOT learning something new.

I’ve been struggling with the same skill (lingo warming: adding a force-out to my swing) for many, many classes.  It’s getting better, but it’s still not great, and since it’s the foundation of almost everything cool in trapeze, I keep plugging away.  The instructors were giving me feedback on it near the beginning of class and I must have looked a little frustrated, because one said to me “almost everything you’ve done in trapeze has come easily for you.  It’s okay if this very tricky skill is tricky for you to learn.”

On my next turn I was chatting with the same instructor as she clipped me into my safety lines and I told her that I’m completely willing to work on the force-out until I get it right, even if I sometimes get frustrated with myself.  She laughed and said “and that’s why we love working with you.”

So that’s two happy things.  First, that someone actually thinks trapeze has come easily for me.  I sort of feel like it has, compared to other people I watch (and especially considering I have no dance or gymnastics background), but it’s nice to hear an instructor say so.  Second, that they like working with me — or that they have any opinion of me whatsoever, really.  I think I’m a pretty easy person to work with, but I’d say it’s probably true that I am more willing than most of the students I know to put in the time and train endlessly on the skills that are really important.  I don’t want to rush to check off boxes, I’m in this for the long-haul.  It’s nice that the instructors see that, too.

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