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!!