Could This Be Your Classroom?

“… the first six weeks were rich with modeling, practicing and defining our class community and expectations.  Children rose to the challenges and pulled together to be their best. We proudly celebrated our accomplishments and dug into the academic endeavors.  But  slowly, tension started to build.  Friends are comfortable with each other and lose patience or know just how to get under someone else’s skin.  Children feel  unsure and that can manifest in silly or bold behavior. Germ-sharing has begun and some feel under-the-weather and more vulnerable. Our schedule now gets tweaked, interrupted, crammed.  Others are revealing small signals that the workload is hard or needs to be modified so that their learning can be optimized. It’s officially  feeling like a frenetic fall, despite the glorious accomplishments that come to light during each day’s closing circle.”

Kudos to Lisa Dewey Wells for bravely sharing that even after a successful first six weeks of school, once her class settled into a regular routine, she noticed “something was slightly amiss.” Then she goes one better, describing the steps she took to set things straight in “Knit One, Purl One, Pull It Out. Restart the Pattern.”

There’s no cruise control setting for teaching in elementary school. Great teachers invest time in establishing expectations, teaching routines, and building community at the beginning of the school year, and that investment pays off in terms of smoother-running classrooms, more time for learning, and student autonomy later on… but only if the teacher stays alert to changing conditions, making adjustments as needed along the way. Great teaching involves observation and reflection, knowing the children we teach (even as they change and grow), patiently providing  them with opportunities to practice, and – most of all – responsiveness.

Stories like Lisa’s remind me that the “defensive driving” aspect of teaching is part of what makes this work so fascinating. We love hearing about how you’ve handled challenges in your classrooms responsively!

Jen Audley was manager of online communications for CRS, Inc. until June 2014.

Tags: Middle of the Year