I'm currently in the tossed about / lost as sea part of this comparison, and I'm hoping some of the wonderfully knowledgable members of my PLN will be able to help.
There are several different things that have me floundering and adrift. The first is the fact that we are just about 6 weeks into the school year, and my kids are still struggling to get into the routine of doing school. We have seven specific jobs they're responsible for as they come in each morning, and most of them are just your general, be ready for the day type things that take all of a minute or two to finish up: attendance, unpacking, stashing stuff in lockers, bathroom breaks, sharpening pencils, picking new Read to Self books and a quick 5 question morning assignment. Everybody has at least 15 minutes to finish this and some have 30. These jobs are listed on a reminder chart we made and hung on the wall, each student has their own checklist on their desk, and as I'm greeting my kids at the door I'm giving verbal reminders. Even with these reminders in place and the relative ease of the tasks, my kids just aren't getting them done. It may not seem like a big deal, but each day as soon as I start teaching, kids are trying to get up to sharpen pencils, asking to go to the bathroom, and asking to get something out of their locker. As we're getting ready to do our Read to Self, they are trying to pick new books. I say now when I can, but whether I say no or they need to do it, all of these things steal learning time.
Am I missing something? It's not like these are assignments the kids can't connect to - they are just the jobs we need to do to be ready for the day. Even so, I feel like I have done something wrong, like I have made a mistake. I feel like my extended absence due to pneumonia may have created this problem and my trip to Philly to participate in PLP Live made it worse. I blame myself for not providing the consistency they needed to get into this routine. And now I'm not sure how to turn them around.
The other thing that has me floundering is that many of my kids struggle with focusing issues. Please don't think that I mean I expect my kids to be sitting in their seats, hands folded neatly and listening quietly to me for 6.5 hours a day. I really do understand that these are 9 and 10 year olds. We transition often, as in every 10 - 15 minutes, from chairs to the floor, from teacher directed class lesson, to group work to independent work. We face the front of the room, we face the back of the room. Kids can choose where to work. They can sit or stand at their desks, sit or lie on the floor. There is a lot of movement in my room to give my kids breaks, and we do lots and lots of different activities. I'm also making a conscious effort to tie my students' interests into the work that we are doing in class.
It almost seems like since I have taken them out of their seated in rows, be quiet except at recess scenarios, that they have lost all control. They're constantly trying to make faces at each other, to whisper *loudly* to each other across the room, to do silly things to get under each other's skin. We review our routines - they know what to do, yet they struggle to actually do it. I feel like I have failed them because I can't plan activities to engage them, and I can't give them the strategies they need to stay focused, work together, and complete their tasks.
I'm making it seem like these storms are happening all the time, and I know that's not true. I've seen discussions between partners and groups in science, math, social studies and language arts that make my heart pitter patter from happiness. But it's hard to remember those placid days when so many 60 foot waves are whipping up and slamming your boat from every side.
We sat down as a class today, and we talked about it. I explained how I was feeling (figured it would be a great idea to model the I Statements I'd like them to use), and I asked the kids what suggestions they had to solve these problems. I think this may have made me the saddest of all. The only suggestions I got? Punishments:
- pull cards
- names on the board with checkmarks
- taking away recess
- taking away tickets or chips
- moving sticks
I jumped in after these suggestions and many more and talked about the fact that these were all punishments, things I would do AFTER they made the wrong choice. I shared that I'm more interested in strategies that would help kids do the right thing in the first place. Did the kids have any ideas of strategies we could use that wouldn't be punishments? They didn't, but at least they could chime in with a, "Oh, that's a punishment." I lie. There was one that wasn't a punishment: getting a prize for earning all the marbles in a marble jar.
So I'm not sure where to go from here. My kids are good kids; their behaviors are not mean or spiteful, but dealing with the behaviors is costing me a lot of instructional time. I really do not want to have to start an antiquated, punishment based, embarrassment... I mean management system, but I'm not sure what else to do. I want to continue to try and implement student focused lessons and choices throughout my day, but I feel like maybe that freedom is causing the problem. Or maybe something else I'm doing is causing the problem. Is it just growing pains? Will we eventually get there? Is there something I'm missing? Is it me?
Help me out friends. Talk to me about what you're thinking after reading from an outsider's perspective. I'm seriously drifting this Friday evening.