Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Almost Done...

Here we are...halfway through the last week of testing!  Only two more math tests and a supplementary reading test left to go!  Woo Hoo!

As I have shared before I am really struggling with the behavior of my students lately.  Heck - who am I kidding!  This group has been a challenge since day one!  You know how you usually have the first week of school with everyone quiet and afraid to put even a toe out of line?  Yea - that didn't happen with this group.  Again - they are GREAT smart, empathetic, funny!  However, from day one we were working on controlling blurt outs, demonstrating self control and reacting with respect.

I'm a Responsive Classroom trained teacher and I try very hard to use this approach in my teaching - but it just wasn't working!  I felt lost, scared, frustrated...and a failure.  So last week, we started over...we went right back to the first day of school where we wrote Hopes and Dreams for the school year.  These are supposed to drive all of our work together and ours had fallen by the wayside.  Each of us (students, teachers, student-teacher) did some self reflection and came up with three new goals - one academic, one social and one behavioral.  We discussed these with a buddy and talked about why we made our choices and how they would be helpful.

My new goals are:

  1. Teach creative, meaningful and engaging lessons!
  2. Make time to interact with my students as people!
  3. Stop and Breath before reacting!
The point of this being that we all have something we can do to be better.  I know I contributed to the issues and I took ownership and made a plan to get better.  Each student did that and then we shared and reflected.  Each student wrote these up and decorated a sheet of paper with their new goals and we will put them up in the classroom after testing is over and I can uncover my classroom displays.  

I also made each student a laminated card they can take with them everywhere they go to remind themselves of their goals.  The specialist teachers have really appreciated these!  It gives them something concrete to latch on to when students are struggling with choices.  I also laminated a copy of these cards onto student desks as another reminder.  Again, everything the students did, I did too.  I have a card on my desk and I put my other card on a string around my neck.  When I need to stop and breath - I look at the card.  

Today we sat down and reflected on how we were doing with our new goals.  It was pretty hit or miss...and they knew that.  Following the RC approach, we used our Hopes and Dreams to write a new classroom constitution.  We brainstormed all the things we could do (from a positive stance) to help ourselves achieve our goals.  We then simplified and compiled these into four overall classroom expectations.  My student teacher wrote these up into a new classroom constitution, which we all signed.  

Our new classroom constitution says:

We, the students of room 48, in order to form a more perfect classroom, establish the following expectations:
  1. Follow directions the first time.
  2. Demonstrate self-control.
  3. Be respectful to all people.
  4. Do your best at all times.
(I'm having technical difficulties and for some reason my camera won't let me get the picture of my new constitution on the computer!  AHHH!  My student teacher did a beautiful job with it!  I wish I could share!)

If you want more info on Responsive Classroom just click the words!
(look at what I learned how to do - a link!)

Additionally, I am reading Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov.  It is a great teacher resource that provides concrete strategies you can use in your class the next day!  I paid specific attention to chapter 6 - which is on "Setting and Maintaining High Behavioral Expectations".  It was a well needed refresher.  The first technique it discusses is 100% - this may sound obvious...but the strategy states 
"There's one acceptable percentage of students following a direction: 100 percent.  Less, and your authority is subject to interpretation, situation, and motivation."  (Lemov, p. 168).

Now, I know this sounds pretty hard-core, but as Lemov explains, your directions are not arbitrary, they are to help all students succeed and they need to be followed.  In the two days since I finished the chapter, my management has gotten back on track and so has the student behavior.  Whew!  Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?!?!

After we live with our new class constitution for a week I will pass out a survey with descriptors for each element of our classroom constitution.  Students will fill out the survey and then I will calculate some percentages and we will use our math knowledge to look for patterns and reflect.

It feels like after drowning in behaviors for the last few weeks, I finally have a plan to get us all back on track.  If I can just make it through March (testing, parent conferences and report cards) I know we will be great!

Thanks for listing to my troubles and my plan!  Ideas and suggestions are more than welcome here...I am always willing to learn!

Happy Teaching!

1 comment:

  1. Hi!
    I don't know how your seating works but I have kids divided into "Teams." When Teams are on track, all homework in, ready, etc. they are awarded a "Team Tally." Once a team reaches 10 tallies they can redeem a "treat." I have used both physical (special candy, pencil, homework pass) and less physical (eat lunch as a team in the classroom, sit wherever you want for a class period) seems to really work. We changed seats up and don't sit in our teams at the moment and some of the kids really miss it! I hate feeling like I have to give out rewards but for some groups of kids, they need that extra motivation.