After my last blog entry, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what’s working and what’s not working in my class and, by extension, what needs to change. Part of the (my) problem is that everything always feels rushed; this particular group of children needs more time to explore and ease into learning. Instead, I keep pushing them along; the clock is always my worst enemy.
When I looked at our class schedule I was reminded of my tendency towards being dogmatic. Although I understand that ideas and structures are just that – ideas and structures – I tend to want to replicate them religiously even though I am as nonreligious as they come. If the “experts” say, “thou shalt do morning meeting every day for 30 minutes”, then that’s what I try to do first, instead of thinking about what my students need and what I know is important about teaching and learning. The adjusting and tweaking needs to come first given the constraints of an elementary school schedule and the previously mentioned attention to children and learning. Although this is what I will always tell the protege I am mentoring this year, I am hard pressed to follow my own advice.
So, for now, I have rearranged our schedule for a better flow between activities – fewer interruptions and lost opportunities for leaning (there’s that mighty clock again) – so that there’s more room for sharing, which my students love. Classroom frameworks such as morning meeting and class meetings are useful and need to be intentional and purposeful. But, when the children don’t know why we are doing something then even a good idea can be cause for disruptions and unintended outcomes.
I need to rethink the language I am using with my students. It’s time to take out Choice Words by Peter Johnston for another look at at how the language we use impacts the children we teach. And, it’s time to read Alfie Kohn for inspiration and a good dose of chutzpah.
I need to slow things down. Although I don’t feel pressured by the threat of standardized testing, it’s the self-imposed pressures that I need to do battle with. Gratefully, I love the challenge of teaching and I am always looking for a better way. Sometimes this can be exhausting but the smile of a child who “gets it”, or has just discovered she loves to read, or has felt what it’s like to “get lost in a book”, is priceless.
That’s why I’m a teacher and that’s why I keep coming back day after day after day.