Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is It Me?

It's no secret if you read my blog that a lot of things are changing in my classroom this year. In case you haven't been able to keep track of them all, here's a quick summary:

1. Many coworkers and I left the schools / faculties we were part of for many years to become part of the faculty at a brand new school.
2. I switched from 5th grade to 4th grade.
3. I went from teaching all subjects to teaching Humanities (communication arts - reading & writing, and social students)
4. My day is divided into two parts - morning and afternoon, and there are two VERY different groups of students in my room during those times
5. We missed 2.5 days of school during our first week due to historic flooding.
6. We missed 1 day of school this week because an outside business overwhelmed the township sewer system and forced nasty, nasty gas into my school. We missed Monday while they aired out the place because the smell was overwhelming.

So, yeah. That's been my last month. Even with all of those crazy things going on, the year has gone relatively well. We've been working very hard to implement Daily 5 activities and CAFE learnings, and we (my student teacher and I) also spent a great deal of time developing a sense of community with both groups of students.

In addition to all of that, I have REALLY been trying to incorporate what I have learned as a PLPeep and what I learned from reading The Book Whisperer. I have been trying to flip my classroom, base the learning on student interests, connect our curriculum to real life experiences, and incorporate technology when it will enhance learning (and when I can get my hands on the tools).

Which brings us to this morning. It was awful. My poor student teacher confessed that she was near tears, and to be quite honest so was I. The kids were not ready for the start of the day (our routine is on a chart on the wall and we've been reviewing it every morning when they come in), they needed directions repeated multiple times, they were talking while we were teaching... it was just a bad, bad day.

I suppose my old way of thinking would have been, "Geez, these kids are AWFUL, how are we going to get through this whole year?" But this morning I was thinking, "What am I doing wrong? What can I do differently to help these kids?" We've had class meetings about all of these problems as we've worked to develop routines and build community. I've incorporated the students' suggestions as much as I could. Today they didn't even follow their own suggestions. When the first lesson bombed I thought, "Let's be more active," but the active just led to silly and unfocused. "Let's be more structured," led to blank stares and talking while I was trying to teach. I could go on, but I'm pretty sure that we've all been there before. Right? We have, haven't we??

The good news is that my afternoon group saved the day. I shared that I was very frustrated and hoped they would help me have a GREAT afternoon, and they did just that. It was nice to have the day end on a positive note. But being who I am, I keep thinking, "Is it me? What am I doing wrong? What else can I do to engage this morning group of kids?"

I suppose before I do anything drastic I could simply chalk it up to an off day for the whole group and see what happens tomorrow. But I can't help the kids feel successful when I am feeling so beat down myself. I hope I'm right - I hope tomorrow will be a better day. And if it's not, I'll be back asking you what I could do differently because I think I need a fresh set of ideas.

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