Saturday, March 8, 2014

Take it easy on them...

When I was in my first year of teaching I remember having difficulty with some of the kids in class.  I was frustrated because they weren’t getting their work done, didn’t show much effort, lacked focus, and were in each other’s space on a consistent basis.  I remember calling my mom to let her know that the new job was hard and the kids were having the aforementioned issues.  She told me to keep working and it would be fine. So…I kept working, but I still saw the same thing out of the kids.  About a week after our conversation, she left the following message on my answering machine (yep…it was an actual machine at that time!)…
“Joe lacks focus.  He has the potential, but procrastinates and rarely gets his work done on time.  He needs to show more effort to improve.  He also needs to keep his hands and feet to himself.” Then she said… “You turned out ok…take it easy on the kids”.

It is funny that listening to an excerpt from my elementary report card completely changed my outlook on the classroom.  As an elementary kid I knew I was more of a burden than a prize in the classroom.  I needed a stage, and our classroom didn’t have one…so, I created my own.  The needs I had as a learner were definitely in contrast to what my teacher had for the class.  I often think back to that time when kids are struggling.  Clearly their need is not being met…and it is our job to find a way to engage them in the process. I had a number of students in that first class that needed to be engaged in a different manner.  I think the opportunity to learn from my own experience helped restore a positive outlook on what was happening in the classroom.
The cold weather…time inside the building…and shortened days
always makes for an interesting February.  The last month has been exceptionally difficult on kids as the temperatures have been ridiculous.  I never thought I would see -45 and am fine if we don’t ever see it again.  With kids cooped up in classrooms and unable to get outside I think it is natural to see them get agitated a little easier than normal.  The group of Crickets we work with on a daily basis are phenomenal…I am constantly astounded by their work ethic and the support of their families.  We are in a very lucky place.  Having said that…they are still kids and kids make mistakes.  I think our staff does a great job of looking at the environment of the action rather than the action itself.  This allows us to adjust the situation, rather than shift blame.  PBIS data has been great in this regard.

The environment of the classroom is largely determined by the actions and attitude of the adult in that space.  We have to set the tone in our classrooms…and it has to be an inviting place for all.  In the end, the environment of the classroom will be determined by the feelings students have in that area and whether or not they feel like they will have success. That success may come at a much later date…but they need to feel like it is possible.  Go Crickets.