The First Days of School
The last two weeks of school starting have been a whirlwind. And weirdly, not a whirlwind at all..more like a calm soothing breeze coming off the water at the beach. Maybe painting my room a calm blue has been helpful?
The arrival of my partner (the male lead, as he referred to himself) has been a huge boon to my mood as well. It is a huge relief to be able to come home after a long day at work and not have to make dinner. To sit down and play Xbox with him, take walks on the beach (puke now, huh?), laugh, show around, vent to and bounce ideas off of, has been most appreciated. Almost two years apart was hard.
Back to the school thing. All the work three weeks prior to school is paying off. Sure I still am planning and changing things like mad but to be able to devote most of the time during the school day to teaching and reinforcing procedures and routines is HUGE. My students are catching on real fast to my expectations and acting accordingly. Of course they are still kids and they’ve made sure to push to the boundaries as well. They are doing their job well as kids. This last week we worked very hard for two days on rules and consequences.
With my guidance they came up with the rules and consequences. I’d never done this before and I will be sure to continue it in the future. It has been fascinating to see them puzzle through why we have rules, what they should be and to justify their ideas. Like many times in the past, I find I have a group of kids who I can tell haven’t been asked “why” often. When I ask them to justify their thinking/answers many of them struggle or give brief answers with little depth. Granted they are 9, 10 and 11 year olds. But I can attest from experience that they are very capable of deep thinking that, at times, can be profound. That saying “From the mouths of babes…?” So true. First someone has to ask them “why” and then someone has to listen deeply. Maybe it is just my teaching philosophy or who I am but I consider it part of my job to help my students know their own minds.
Teaching thinking is not what a standardized test taking society wants or advocates. Filling in bubbles, sitting passively to receive information…all the traditional ways of viewing school never jived with me. My classroom isn’t MINE it is OURS. In the last couple weeks I’ve been reminded that sentiment is not exactly commonplace. Why? Because it is scary to cede power and control. It might mean chaos, but it also might mean possibility.
Having my students come up with their own rules and consequences has really opened my eyes. I’ve operated on the share control to gain control model for many a year now but was scared to take it to this point. I have yet to see how it will play out but I can tell you that my classroom never has felt more alive, excited and in control.
I am also instituting a new classroom management technique that I read about in The First Six Weeks of School. It is called Apology of Action. In its essence it means that saying “I”m sorry” isn’t good enough when you hurt someone’s feelings…that you have to act in order to apologize. It feels like a wonderful tool to have added to my classroom management tool box.
A voice in the back of my head keeps saying “Yeah but these are private school kids so that is probably why they are better behaved.” And to that voice I’d like to say “Shut up.” These private school kids do not fit the profile I so often associated with private school kids when I lived in the States. By U.S. standards most of the kids that are in my class are poor. The average Tico family makes just $540/month and making the payments to attend our school are a huge hardship on many of the families who attend. Some of the kids’ backgrounds are just as hard as the kids I used to teach in the States at a Title I school. Private or public, I am starting to think kids are kids are kids are kids.