Chaos and Injury, What a Year

Pelham Bay Park (IRT Pelham Line) by David Sha...
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My school year started with injury and chaos and it is ending the same way, only this time I’m not the one who is injured.

On our last full day of the year my school schedules a Field Day at a very large park a short subway ride away.

The ride over was uneventful, just what you want a subway ride to be, especially when you’re shepherding a large group of students.

The injury occurred on the basketball court. Somehow one of our 7th grade boys fell hard and hit his head on the asphalt. A large lump formed immediately. Ice was applied and an ambulance called.

At last report he was resting after having had convulsions.

The chaos comes from every teacher in my academy having to switch classrooms before next year starts. This is not typical even though it will be my fifth move in the four years I’ve worked at this school.

I am envious of those teachers who simply lock up at the end of the year and walk away leaving the room only requiring minimum effort to get the room ready for September’s students.

Not only have I had to move rooms every year I’ve taught, I’ve had to learn a new curriculum or two.

Next year I’ll be teaching 8th grade social studies again, but I’ll also be teaching the 7th grade for the first time. I’ll be teaching general and special education classes. My principal wants me to develop a technology-based literacy-heavy approach to the curriculum.

I’m happy about all that.

The 7th grade class will be this year’s 6th graders who I enjoy so much. The 8th grade class, this year’s 7th graders, is generally considered a class to avoid if you can.

I can’t, and I’m agonizing over how to approach them.

I’m being advised to be very strict, to set clear procedures with high standards of behavior and enforce them rigorously. This includes making them line-up silently before entering the class and behaving with maximum comportment once inside.

I am not a very strict person. I’m very relaxed in an energetic, intense way. I am far more inclined to tell students what I expect and help them try to grow to reach those expectations.

I’ve got to admit that this approach has not worked well for me and, as the saying goes, doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome leads to insanity. I’m afraid it will also result in diminished learning opportunities for those students who already have large educational deficits.

So strict it will be. I have all summer to practice my teacher stare, to learn how to project my voice better while learning that new curriculum and figuring out how to use technology to teach my students.

I’m also taking additional training in social studies content, on how to use my interactive white board to teach social studies and on grant writing.

So that’s how I’m spending my summer “off.”

Oh, I do get to take a trip. My wife and I are going to spend a week in Santa Fe.

For that week I’m going to try to forget about students, forget about curriculum, forget about planning and forget about gathering materials and resources,

Why doesn’t anyone believe me when I say that?

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8 Responses to Chaos and Injury, What a Year

  1. I do agree with strictness but it does not have to be delivered without ever smiling or sharing yourself with them. I have taught difficult groups several times, and there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to be stern and pointed if you are to get anything done. I try to deliver my strict expectations with a smile and explanation that although I have high expectations, I will do my best to deliver consequences with a smile. They find it strange at first, but if you continue to follow through with your discipline, it’s not necessary to maintain a stern, negative environment.

    After having read your blog for awhile, I don’t actually believe that you could maintain a stern, negative environment. You actually remind me of an excellent teacher at our school who really relates well with the lower level students (some behavioural). She jokes and laughs on a regular basis and still gets work done. That’s the mark of a great teacher — someone who can do both.

    BTW — I’m still working on it too. :-D

    Have a great summer!

  2. elona says:

    I agree. It’s not necessary to maintain a stern, negative environment to maintain a positive learning environment. I would like to share some insights with you that you might find useful. Nine things my students have taught me about classroom management and teaching. http://tinyurl.com/6r7p52

  3. Olaf says:

    Although I sympathise with your dilemma, you might be surprised to know that I also envy you this challenge.

    In the school where I work (and in most schools) in Germany a class is assigned a class teacher in Yr 5 and this person remains as class teacher until Yr 10. Although the class teacher doesn’t teach all of the subjects in the class, they often teach the majority of them. I consider this as about as unhealthy as it can get in a school. It’s not good for the kids, and it’s certainly not good for the teachers who have very little pressure on them to adapt or learn new approaches. Discussing a problem child with a class teacher here inevitably draws the comment from the class teacher, “he’s no problem in my class.”

    I’m sure the new challenges you face next year will make you a better teacher. Enjoy your break, switch off, and report back to us on your experiences next year. I know I’m not alone in saying, “We look forward to hearing from you.”

    Have a great Summer.

    • Deven Black says:

      Thank you for your comment and kind words, Olaf. In what are known as Waldorf Schools here, I think they’re called Steiner schools in Germany where they originated, teachers and students stay together from year one until year 12. I’ve spoken to teachers and graduating students and they all speak highly of the very close relationship that develops among classmates and with the teacher.

      • Olaf says:

        The close relationship is of course a positive thing, but it worries me enormously that the children are missing out on a diversity of teaching styles. It’s unlikely that they will spend their working lives with one boss or remain in one unchanging team for six or seven years.

        The Waldorf schools here have a very good reputation, but I remember from my school time the challenge of building a new group every year and I think that was a good preparation for the real world.

      • Deven Black says:

        Close relationships can be good or damaging depending on the quality of the relationship and its ability to change over time instead of merely repeating early patterns. The thing is, there is no ‘one right system’ for every child or every teacher. Waldorf schools, open schools, traditional schools, and many other forms all have their place at the education table. What disturbs me is the astounding similarity among almost all concepts of what childhood education should look like.

  4. Chris says:

    Enjoy every minute of your trip to Sante Fe! And don’t miss the blue corn pancakes at the Plaza Cafe.

    • Deven Black says:

      Right. I’ll add that to my list of things to not miss (almost all of them involve food). It will be hard to maintain my recent and continuing weight loss I fear.

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