I survived my first week teaching all six classes by myself. Things did not go perfectly; students acted out, students were rude, lessons failed, lessons went great, students said they liked my class and all sorts of things. Students participated while others got angry, I made new student allies while definitely alienating and losing others. But the best news of it all is that I am not bitter, I am not angry, I feel great!
I feel so connected with the students, the school, and teaching. What is great about feeling well, so great, is that the week wasn’t perfect and I am okay. Even when the last period of the day gave me trouble I still went home with a smile on my face. I still walked the halls feeling good. I am appreciative of my ability to reflect, be aware of circumstances/situations I am happy and unhappy about, talk to coworkers/tweeps, get advice, seek help, and then ultimately let it go.
On Thursday the honors students would not shut up. I had given them extra time to finish their projects and then wanted to rally back their attention. They are the one class that I have the most trouble getting silent – it could be that it is last period, that they fill the entire room, or that they are all best-friend-know-it-alls but either way it is what it is.
So it’s Thursday last period and I really don’t feel like yelling. Instead I just stand there and notice the clock – they have been talking now amongst themselves for about 3 minutes before one student shouted to a few others “Shut up – she’s waiting for us.” That took another minute and then finally it was silent. I said very quietly, “It took four minutes for you to settle down and pay attention after I had asked you several times so you will stay four minutes after the bell.” The uproar that ensued was intense but I just pulled up my arm and started counting on my watch, it took another minute before the students caught on, yelled to each other and shut up. “We will be staying five minutes.”
This had never occurred to me before, I’m not sure where the idea came from but students were furious. When the bell rang I shouted from them to sit down and 4 students shouted, “F this” and bolted – they got written up for demerits and the rest had to sit for 5 minutes.
I’m telling this story because I was worried about how the students would act, what would happen, would this backfire, does it matter? When 8th period began Friday they were the best behaved they have been yet. I couldn’t figure it out til I remembered, oh yea I held them after school yesterday. I had forgotten!!! I didn’t hold a grudge when they came in, I let them behave well, I had thanked them several times for it, and I had let it go.
Now some students were clearly angry – rolling eyes, not doing work, general misbehavior but the majority of the class was in line and telling those students to keep it in line so that they didn’t have to stay after school. I wanted accountability to one another and I got it. But most importantly I wasn’t still angry at those students who bolted early, who wouldn’t shut up, or anything else. I let it go.