The Sunday Sessions: 3.25.18 Edition
Sunday is traditionally a day in which we slow down, take time for reflection, and recharge. Every Sunday, I will share a poem or excerpt that will make us think, wonder, or even laugh as we prepare ourselves for the upcoming week.
This school year has been incredibly hard for me. It is my eighth year in the classroom and my seventh year teaching 4th grade. What’s hard is not that I am teaching in a new school, with new colleagues, a new school culture, and new curriculum. What’s hard is my class.
I teach in a Title I school. To be a Title I school, 40% of the student population must be from low-income families. The school I taught at on Maui was a Title I school with 52% of its students coming from low-income families. My current school is 77% low-income. I thought I knew what it was like to teach disadvantaged students, but my prior experience really did not prepare me for this year.
The biggest challenge I have tackled is students’ attitude toward school. I have really addressed my students’ purpose for being at school and what actions they need to take to achieve long-term goals. I have seen changes: students telling other students to be quiet and pay attention, a larger fraction of students participating in class discussions, and students who refused to follow directions at the beginning of the year now following directions without protest. The changes are small, but they are moving in the right direction.
No anecdote highlights this more than the story of our class’s PE session a week ago. Our school’s PE teacher has taught at our school for over 30 years. He is more than able to handle the challenges of our student population. Earlier in the year, he praised my teaching partner and me for our work with our grade level, saying our students’ behavior has improved a great deal since last year. Recently, though, our kids’ behavior has been sliding as we get closer and closer to spring break. A week ago, he’d had it with my class and let them know it. Afterward, he released them to recess and talked to me about what went down that day.
As I walked back to my classroom, I was wishing he hadn’t let them out to recess because I didn’t want to reward their bad behavior. To my surprise, when I walked into my room, my entire class was sitting quietly with their heads on their desks. “We thought you’d want to talk to to us,” one of my students said. They had recognized their poor choices and put themselves in time-out! Without skipping a beat, I reamed them for the next ten minutes about their behavior, reminded them of why teachers teach, and what they needed to do to reach their goals. We wrote apology cards for the PE teacher later that day.
But can you believe it? The class that obstinately refused to follow my directions at the beginning of the year sought out my reprimand for doing wrong in the middle of the year! That is a victory. But it’s a small victory, because even though they recognize their own wrongdoing, they are still working on creating habits that prevent misbehavior from happening in the first place. Still, I’ll take every small victory I can get this year.
Question of the Week
What small victories have you achieved recently?