Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Whew! I survived a very long week.
This past week was parent teacher conference week. This entails 2 half-days for students and 2 extra long days for teachers. It also means higher levels of stress, lots of extra talking, extra paper work, and sadly, extra comfort eating simply due to the out-of-whack/off-balance week. It also means extra stress on the family.
My husband was a huge help picking up my sons from school and entertaining them, while I stayed at school late. We had a funny moment as my oldest relayed information back to his teacher about why he did not do his homework until the next morning with me. He told his teacher his Dad could not help him since Mom got home so late, we did it right before school. She knew he had been home all afternoon with his Dad, so she questioned why he didn't work on it with his Dad. His clever response, "My Dad has not been in a school for a long time so he could not help me." Ha ha! Funny guy forgot to mention how Dad tried and he kept procrastinating!
For the most part, my conferences went very well. I had a few "Bite my tongue," "Are you serious?" "Who is in charge?" moments, I really cannot complain. I also learned a lot of interesting things from parents, and have made some adjustments already. It is amazing what you gain from a 20 minute chat with parents! I have a funny feeling most of them feel the same way, so I am thankful that our school system gives us this opportunity 2 times a year.
I still have a few conferences this week with our translator, but they will be during the day and will be a piece of cake. I really appreciate that our school recognizes that we need a chance to meet with all families, and have a translator who helps us reach out to our non-English speaking parents.
This year, behavior has really been an issue in my class. My biggest complaint is talking, which leads to not listening and not following directions. And yikes, transition times are killing me.
So, I have had to use some techniques I neatly packed away in my old teaching sack.
Rearranging Desks
Lately it is mostly due to some negative behavior amongst peers. Everyone has a right to learn and not feel threatened or like they are being teased. This has also became an important tactic to split up the chatty ones.
Assigning spots in line.
I had a small group who lingered back in the room or at the back of the line disregarding school rules of walking quietly. They felt it was catch up time and would walk in a herd down the hall. I also have some kids infringing on personal space and we actually ended up with a 4 boy pile up in the hallway. Having assigned spots has helped tremendously!

I revamped my schedule. I noticed that they are more distracted in the afternoons after lunch/recess and it was almost impossible to pull them in to our lessons. Our social studies lessons were being cut short. They are making it through science, but as 1 student reported they love science, it is fun.
My solution was to move my social studies to right after our language arts block, before lunch. We will at least get started on the lesson and at most have to close it up after recess.
But instead of walking right in to an academic lesson from recess, we will take a brief 15-20 minute break and complete our independent reading block. On Friday, we did not get the full reading time, but at least we got through the social studies lesson. I hate to sacrifice independent reading time, but I figure as we adjust they will settle down and our stamina will increase. They need the quiet time to recover from the highly social lunch/recess block.

I have switched science to the end of the day, since they are most interested in science. I also decided we would prep our notebooks in the last few minutes of class so we are ready to go right at the beginning of our next class. One student even came up with the idea of them being rewarded with a point for their student chart if they can stay focused, and getting to keep that point to start the next day. I thought it was a great day and totally went with it.
Points, what do you mean student point chart?
I am not a fan of token economies and I don't believe in rewarding students with candy or prizes for doing things that they should be doing because it is their job. However, as I am learning, that is not how they are being raised or what they are used to. They are used to having carrots (candy/prizes) dangled in front of them as motivators. Of course that means I am running in to issues.
They are not necessarily self-motivated or driven to do what is right because it is what I expect of them. I have some really great kids and we work together well individually or in small groups, but as a whole they are not encouraging each other to do their best. They are easily pulled in to negative situations/drama/distractions. Things that used to work are not working this year. So, I had to come up with some plans to increase our learning.
I read a great blog by Teaching With Style about Whole Brain Learning and teacher/student points using the Scoreboard. Check out her blog for some freebies or the owl themed free posters created by Teaching With Style here.
Since reading that blog, I noticed that other bloggers were writing about using similar techniques, a huge relief that I am not the only one facing dilemmas in the classroom!
It is working for me. I am praising good behavior and getting the class to pay attention to my expectations. They are also becoming self-aware and are making changes for the sake of their leaning, not just to get a prize. Of course, when I told them about the rules and what we would be doing they wanted to know what they would get if they won. {sigh} Well, you learn more. {not good enough} So I had to offer a little something.
If they have more points than me by recess they can skip the lap we all walk at the start of recess. I feel the lap is important for their health and fulfills our teacher directed physical education requirement, but I have to pick my battles right now.
If they have more points than me at the end of the day they can earn a paper link to our class chain and when the chain reaches the floor we will have a little celebration (game time, snacks, etc.) They can still earn links for compliments from other teachers. This was not happening and instead I was receiving negative comments when I picked them up from their special area classes and lunch, so I needed them to strive for keeping all their teachers happy.
I know adjusting behavior takes time and I am staying strong. I see glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. I am working to stay prepared and a step ahead to prevent disruptions in our learning. Perhaps that is why I was exhausted at the end of this week, reached for the snacks, and spent Saturday catching up on my DVR!
Going forward, I will keep charging ahead with the whole brain learning, make my social studies lessons more engaging, help them strive to be their best, and keep encouraging them to inspire each other with good behavior choices.
As for my own stress level, it is back to my workouts with co-workers and watching what I am eating!
Hope you have a great week and a week with great behavior from all your students!



  1. I also teach science at the end of the day. It try to do my academic "heavy" classes as early as I can...some days are easier than others! I'm glad you survived your week.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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  2. Thanks Bethany. It just took some rethinking, I know it will improve. Hope you have a great week!


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