Home » The View from Saturday » The View from Saturday #6

The View from Saturday #6

#thewonderofwonder
#nerdybookclub

It’s still Saturday, right? Right? Baaaahahahahahah I wish.

Though this is supposed to be a reflection series on implementing Reading and Writing Workshop, it’s turned more into a reflection on classroom management and student behavior–since that is what is giving me the most challenge.

This week started off very, very rough. All the promise of last week seemed to have disappeared. Monday and Tuesday were long, frustrating days with many, many more side conversations than learning going on. By Tuesday afternoon, I was at the end of what was left of my wits.

I sent an email to my principal and assistant principal. Here it is:

I’ve tried pretty much everything I can think of, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges of this class are beyond my capabilities and knowledge as a classroom manager.

Would it be possible to set up, with one of you, a weekly or twice-a-week after school meeting? I need your expertise and advice, and I need it in a way that can help me improve my practice, rather than just “survive the year.” I’ve never been a great classroom manager, but this class is killing me.
I am willing to read books. I am willing to set goals and monitor my own progress. I am willing to try anything, because what I am doing is clearly not working.
Thanks.

Though I am very honest and forthcoming about the things I need to work on as a teacher, it is different to send an email like that. And it was partly a relief to make it very public and clear that I needed help, and part depressing, of course, that I can’t seem to get a handle on things myself. We teachers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do right for our students.

My principals wrote back quickly, pointing out the important things they saw me doing for my students–guiding them, pushing them toward being more independent beings. I appreciated the noticing. And we set up an after school meeting for the next day. Pleasantly, both principals spent a lot more time in my room during the rest of the week. Observing, taking notes, having their eyes opened a bit about the challenges of some of these students. And they spent more time in the other two fourth grade classes, too. All three of us have been having a hard time of it.

I had a phone call from a parent on Wednesday afternoon, letting me know that her daughter came home Monday and Tuesday crying. She couldn’t focus because of the noise in the classroom (me, neither), she felt like the recess time we use to make up for wasted time is not fair to the students trying to pay attention (she’s right), and she was having a hard time learning. Oh, it crushed me, of course. Because it isn’t fair. Because it hurt me that a student was coming home feeling the same way I felt some days. Because school should be a place of joy and learning, and we’re having a hard time getting there.

The end of the week was better. I tried some things my assistant principal suggested. She offered to be the “jailer-teacher” (I don’t know how else to explain it) one day, and take any students I wanted to kick out during Math. I tossed four before the rest of the class settled a bit. It made a difference, though closer attention is partly giving those students what they want.

But! We are one lesson from the end of the first Lucy Calkins Unit of Study for Reading. I wonder how much has sunk in, and how much of a reading life has really been built. Some students have. Others are still working on it. I’m curious to hear what students share during the end-of-unit celebration/reflection. It’s something I’m looking forward to next week.

And it helps to get emails like these, from a parent of one of the loudest, most self-centered of students, after an exchange in which we discussed homework, independence, responsibility, and my firm stance on students taking control of their own learning.

I am so happy you are her teacher!!
I’m happy, too. Most of the time. It will feel so, so good when things finally get right. They will get right? Right?
I’m glad you’re with me.
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2 Comments

  1. Sally says:

    Know that your honesty is helping me, another struggling teacher. Not sure if it will make you feel better but I had a horrible week, too. At one point, while trying to begin the writing minilesson and after reminding all that I was the one voice in the room speaking now and after some continued to talk among themselves, I slammed down the computer lid and with a quivering voice near tears, said I need a time out and to please go sit at your desks. They knew they had pushed me too far and all sat for 4 minutes in complete silence. Then after I cooled down, I delivered the mini-lesson. I know i was more on edge as I was taking Friday off to attend the TCRWP Sat Reunion and they would have a sub. Tomorrow I’ll find out how they did without me.

    However, hhile in NYC I had the chance to observed in an amazing k classroom. My notes are posted to my blog: http://www.funwithreadingandwriting.blogspot.com/

    Seeing her spend so much time on managing behavior and using Habits of Mind as well as teaching RW and WW, made me think that I need to do the same. Hang in there. Thanks for your honest sharing and know you are not alone!

    • Well, it doesn’t make me feel better. I don’t want anyone to have a horrible week!

      You’ve coaxed another reflection out of me. I did almost the same thing as you. During writing minilesson on Thursday, students were talking, talking, talking. I sort of growled, “God, it’s so frustrating!” The class froze. I instantly said, “I’m sorry,” and then I just put my head down into my hands and sat for a moment. I could feel those tears, so close.

      One thing that my assistant principal kept repeating when she met with me was that she couldn’t believe how disrespectful the class was to me. I’m trying so, so hard to not snap, to not yell. Trying to set an example for my students, especially after I heard some of my students reacting angrily to each other. But I hear you–we all have limits.

      I was very worried about my first sub. According to her notes, it went well. It helped that she had subbed for third grade classes last year, and knows some of my students. I hope your sub report is positive! Anything to celebrate little successes!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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