Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sometimes, Teaching is a Game of Whack-a-Mole

"The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways." -unknown

"Teaching is like trying to hold 35 corks underwater at once" -Mark Twain

Sometimes I feel like my classroom is a zoo, especially during the middle of the day when I have all 26 kinders on the rug. I have a little girl who I've caught stealing my things. I had a little boy running with scissors. I have kids who can't keep their hands to themselves, can't sit still for more than 15 seconds, and kids who can't not be making noises...unless I ask them to. I have very few kids who listen well, follow the rules, participate, complete their work, and clean up after themselves. I have some, so I know there's hope for the rest, but they are currently in the minority. It's pretty safe to say that somedays, my kids are driving me absolutely crazy. I love them, but they are little mysteries that I haven't fully solved.

Being both a first-year teacher and a first-year kindergarten teacher, I'm not sure what's normal for 5 year olds 50 days into the school year. I have a sense though, that some of what I'm seeing is normal, and some is decidedly not normal. I have started a clip up/down behavior chart, which occasionally seems like it is working. The problem is I'm still figuring out how to make it work for me, and my teaching style. I had a parent volunteer ask if I had an aide in my room. Umm, just for two half hour blocks during the day. She was surprised--and rightfully so. Extra adults are helpful at any level, but especially in lower grades, when there is so much individual attention needed, because for many of these kids, everything we do is for the first time. And because, well, they're 5.

Sometimes it's easy to figure out why a kid is misbehaving. I have a few little boys who speak little to no English. So it's not surprising that they stop paying attention on the rug. They don't fully comprehend what's going on, so they get distracted. It must be overwhelming to have someone speak to you in English all day, when you only know and speak Spanish at home. For other students, it's not so easy, especially when they won't respond to direct questions about their behavior, or even respond to you calling their name. I worry that my students are going to get hurt, because they refuse to respond to my direction, or respond when I call their name. It is ridiculous how defiant these kids--these 5 year olds!--can be. I know that developmentally speaking, empathy is difficult for them, as is sitting still for a while. But I also know that they can learn how to do this, because some of my kids demonstrate it beautifully. And these kids deserve more--and it's unfair that so much of my energy is spent on a handful of kids being disruptive.

That being said, I still get hugs from kids--even the ones who cultivate so much negative attention. One day I brought the kids out to their parents at the end of the day, and the mom handed me flowers (the picture above is of said flowers). Another day, I had to attend a meeting, and had a sub in my room for an hour--and when I came back, two kids ran up to me to give me a hug. And one of my students likes coming to school--wants to come on Saturdays! I must be doing something right, because my kids seem to like me. It's safe to say that I care about my students, but sometimes I'm not sure that's enough. I want to help them learn, and be ready for first grade. I want to teach them to be good people, to think about and question the world around them, and learn basic reading an math.

But right now, I worry that they're going to fall behind because transitions take so long. Because the kids I need to be paying attention the most are the ones hiding under their desks, or talking to their neighbor when we're learning our letters. Because I often don't feel like a teacher, but more of a babysitter. It's no wonder, as I put together progress reports, that very few of my kids know their letters. It's not because they aren't capable, it's because we all haven't figured out how to act in Kindergarten.

Totally made this arrangement up. Hope it works!
So after a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day (some days are like that), on Friday, I threw up my hands and decided to totally rearrange my room (see the pictures...and note that I have more stuff on the walls!). We'll see what happens on Monday. Maybe a change will be enough to start over with someone in my credential/masters program said today: "It's never too late for a fresh start." So I should probably plan on very little academic work for Monday, and really focus on getting our routines right. Make them do it over and over, until we get it right.

Rug time is so hard! We'll have to add assigned squares.
I am exhausted, all the time. I feel like part of the problem is simply that being a first year teacher is hard, and notoriously not the best, and it's okay that I don't have all my ducks in a row. It doesn't make it any easier on a day to day basis though, because I still have to make it through each day, and I still have 26 real, live, little human beings in my care.

1 comment:

  1. You are awesome! (sentiments from Tim and Denise)