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Reflections from Year 5, Week 2 of Teaching

Week 2 of my fifth year of teaching is in the books, and I thought I’d use this post to reflect.  After all, it is through reflection that I process and learn.

Every year, I tell myself that I won’t get off to a slow start…that I’ll quickly jump into the curriculum so I won’t “waste time” and get behind.

Every year, I fail at this task and beat myself up over it.

This week, whenever I started down the road of self-beratement, I stopped myself.

I had to give myself permission to do what all good teachers do – spend quality time practicing classroom procedures, setting up class norms, and fostering a welcoming environment where students feel safe to think outside of the box.  I had to spend time building relationships with my students…grounded in trust, humor, and dependability.

These things don’t happen in a day, nor do they happen in a week.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that two weeks still isn’t enough time, but I’m going to jump into my first “real” unit next week while setting aside snippets of time for more classroom bonding.  We’re off to a solid start, though, as evidenced by this sweet email one of my students sent me through our school email accounts (she had responded to a question I’d sent out to everyone)…

This week, I watched as my students excitedly selected books from my ever-growing classroom library.  They hesitantly asked if they could take them home to read, which of course I allowed after teaching them how to properly check the books out through a new binder system I’ve instituted.  They caught on quickly, and my books flew off my shelves with a waiting list for certain books forming.

This brought joy to my heart, as did book discussions that cropped up between students and myself.

Things I don’t think I did very well this week involved managing certain classroom behaviors.  I’m feeling a little stuck right now, trying not to alienate my students with quick write-ups yet feeling the frustration that’s coming from students aghast at behaviors they perceive as simply intolerable.

I’m trying to do a better job of picking my battles, but I think I’m erring on the side of caution.

I tried a new incentive this week, allowing students to earn minutes for free time at the end of the week if they heeded my silent signal.  Although they got better, upon reflection, I can’t honestly say that this is not going to be something I stick with.

I feel as though students need to more instant gratification, so I’m going to borrow a page from a teacher at another school.  Some time ago, I had purchased five small, magnetic white boards.  They’re individual-sized.

Because I don’t have a large whiteboard, I’ve stuck these little ones on my metallic wall.  I have five tables of students in my room, and each table will get three chances to keep a five-minute free time session I’ll set aside for the end of class.  I’m going to list the most often repeated behaviors from posters they presented on Friday (see a few examples below) on a sheet of paper and post it beside the white boards.  As students fail to adhere to class norms, I’ll quietly mark X’s on their respective groups’ boards.  Groups that accrue three X’s will lose their five minutes of free time and will, instead, write a paragraph explaining what led to the loss of this privilege.

My mentor, Cinda, is mentoring the teacher who uses this strategy, and Cinda watched her in action.  She said that students kept each other accountable, which made for easier management of behavior.

I like this idea because the entire class isn’t punished because of a few students.  Because tables have only four students (one class has two tables of five), the numbers are small.  I think that a lot of the behavior issues, which mainly involve talking, will diminish greatly.

Not only was the week filled with the ups and downs of actual classroom teaching, but I continued my mentoring responsibilities, sharing my reflections with Cinda late in the week.

I’ve come to realize that in my excitement to share, I share too much, thus overwhelming people.  Nobody has told me that, but I sense it in my heart.

I think that my love for students I’ve taught before makes me seem a bit overbearing when trying to help a new teacher.  I suspect that my passion for these sweet kiddos comes across as being overcritical.

I’m going to “turn down” as my students would say, take a step back, and start asking probing questions rather than leading my mentoring discussions with my ideas.  In other words, I’ll let my new coworkers do most of the talking.

Um yeah…that’s going to be a hard lesson for me but one that I must learn so people don’t start running when they see me headed their way.

Overall, I’m pleased with how the week went, but I realize that I have a lot of work to do to make things run a little quieter and smoother.  Teaching is a profession in which you’re constantly tweaking, making adjustments for the various classroom personalities and skills that emerge as the year progresses.

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