Wow. The up-and-down nature of today and yesterday reminds me of how CRAZY EXHAUSTING this job really is.
Monday was my students’ worst day in QUITE awhile. They couldn’t stop talking, they couldn’t focus/concentrate AT all, and they couldn’t walk quietly down the hallway had their lives depended on it. The three students who were new this semester have definitely come out of their shells, which has added some interesting flavor to the mix. Once again, I found myself at the front of the classroom wondering, What the heck do I do now?!?! It’s at these moments, when I just shamelessly admit to God that I am literally hanging on by a prayer. Did some shuffling around of desks after school and hoped it would help make Tuesday a better day.
And Tuesday (today) WAS a better day. …partially because two students were out on suspensions, but hey. I’ll take what I can get! Ha ha! Of course I wish they wouldn’t have to miss out on instructional time, but I think today really helped my class get back on track. We were productive, and we even spent 25 minutes reading our novels when I could have heard a pin drop at any point throughout the entire 25 mintues. And THAT is an accomplishment, let me tell you! Getting 20 11-year-olds to all read silently for 25 minutes feels like an Olympic feat sometimes. Anyway, today after school, I was jamming out to High School Musical in my classroom while cleaning stuff up. I then grabbed a student out of her tutoring class to go over some fractions with her, and when she came in, she heard the music and asked, “Ms. P, are you really just a kid inside?” Yes, I am. That pretty much made my day! Ha ha!
Speaking of day-making moments, I was actually surprised to have one yesterday. I’m not kidding you when I say that yesterday was an AWFUL day. We spent ALL of recess practicing procedures such as walking in a quiet, straight line, lining up, entering the classroom and sitting down quietly, etc. But even with the threat of doing the same thing again today, they just could NOT get control of themselves and show me that they knew how to perform these basic procedures. This, of course, led to an extremely loooooooooooong and restless afternoon.
We’d started yesterday morning with a somewhat one-sided ‘discussion’ (ha ha!) about six levels of moral development I’d read about in a book over break. The first level is “I don’t want to get in trouble,” and it works all the way up to “I have a personal code behavior, and I follow it.” The sixth level is based upon the premise of not needing threats, the promise of rewards, the satisfaction of pleasing someone, or the structure of rules to KNOW what is right … and then DO it.
I shared a couple examples of this with the kiddos. For example, Phineas, the main character of a certain book, was playing around in a pool with a friend one day, and he decided to try to beat this swimming record, which he did successfully. He friend was totally bummed that no one was there to see it, so he began planning to invite an official timekeeper and members of the media to come the next day so it would be made official and public. Phineas refused. He hadn’t done it for the attention or pleasure of others. Instead, he had just done it for himself. Phineas had reached Level 6, and nobody knew it but himself … and his friend. My kids were just appalled by this, and they even went so far as to call Phineas stupid. So obviously, this idea of motivating and teaching them to make wise choices just for their own good is difficult and pretty foreign to most of them.
So after my HORRIBLE day yesterday, I had a meeting thing to attend from 4:15 until 5:15. I walked back into my classroom at 5:15 to clean things up from our day-end disorganization. After picking things up, I walked to my computer to shut it down for the day, and what did I see? A slew of fraction flashcards that had been strewn across the floor when I last saw them were now piled neatly upon the keyboard of my computer. One of my little stinkers had apparently picked them up while I was attempting to pull kids in from their lockers and then into the bus line at the end of the day. And whoever had done it hadn’t told me, hadn’t asked for a reward, and hadn’t done it because a rule required it. He or she did it just to do it. Just like Phineas. I cannot even BEGIN to describe how much, at that moment, it just made my heart happy to know that at least one person had been listening.
I’ve realized by now that I cannot save every child. But if I can affect just one, then I’ve made a difference.