November 15, 2014

Eleven Weeks

Eleven weeks. It took eleven weeks for my class this year to start feeling like my class. Eleven weeks to feel like I was finally really teaching, not just managing, handling, urging, or corralling.

A couple of weeks into the school year, I had seen a post on the Responsive Classroom website about the difference that the first Twelve Days can make with a new class.  I remember thinking, "we are so far from there! Will we ever get there?"  Week after week, I'd try to confer with my readers during Reading Workshop but would get distracted or interrupted by other kiddos.  At six weeks, I'd tried to open all of the activities that I'd planned for Word Study but found that my kiddos could not handle making choices. At the end of our second writing unit, I still had a number of writers who were struggling to produce complete stories. My kiddos were still regularly tattling, pushing, complaining, and teasing.

I kept hoping we'd get to a point when I could relax just a little during transitions or make it through a day without feeling like I'd lost control. So I scaled back, modified plans, did more modeling, had more discussions. I added tools to my readers' book bins to help them stay focused.  I limited the manipulative options during math to ensure the kiddos were able to use them appropriately.  I reviewed how to "Fill a Bucket" to encourage cooperation, patience, flexibility, and responsibility.

Finally, after eleven weeks, I was able to sit down next to one kiddo and talk about her reading while the others read quietly.  I was able to open all of the Word Study centers and the kiddos actually practiced their spelling words and worked together without the crying, whining, confusion, and throwing from a few weeks earlier.  I allowed the kiddos to select their own manipulatives during math and no one made them into weapons.

It finally feels like this class is my class and I'm no longer constantly reminiscing about previous classes.  My kiddos are doing more listening and helping than tattling and teasing.  I know that I will still have difficult mornings, afternoons, maybe even a whole day or week, but at least I've been able to experience some successes, which gives me hope for more. Phew!