Crazy-Busy, and One Good Thing

So have I mentioned I have a new job? I mean, like a second job. I didn’t change schools. I am still teaching at the same school, which lost its grant coordinator last year. We are receiving a grant for before- and after-school activities worth over a million dollars over 5 years, and this is the second year. The guy who was coordinating the grant last year is still in our district, but moved to another school. Anyway, I’m basically going to be in charge of overseeing our before- and after-school tutoring and enrichment programs. Our teachers have some cool ideas for things they want to do for enrichment, and many of them have stepped up to do tutoring a few hours a week, so I’ve got the schedule nicely filled out. It’s all coming together, but it’s been a lot of work.

I’ve been at school until 5:30 (some days 6:00) every day since school started (except for Fridays because that’s crazy), and I’ve been bringing work home. My roommate has 3 preps this year, so she’s in a similar situation.

This is where I explain that this is why I didn’t keep my resolution last week – I missed a week in my blogging. It’s because I was so busy that I completely forgot. It’s also because I’m so exhausted that I don’t really want to let my brain process all of the stuff that’s happened. I feel like I can’t remember much of what’s happened the last two-and-a-half weeks because I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to relive the argument a student tried to start with me today. I don’t want to obsess more about how busy I’m going to be this year. I don’t want to tally the number of parent emails and office referrals I’ve already written this year (referrals is 4 or 5, I think – no idea for the emails). It’s exhausting and I’m done.

I’m at the “Just do the next thing” phase of the year right now. No time for thinking about yesterday and no time for planning for tomorrow. Need to get through today.

Ok, one good thing about last week – on Tuesday my assistant principal came in to one of my classes to observe and give me some feedback for dealing with the behavior issues I was having. She gave me some fantastic advice that I have been using since. It’s helped me to remain calm when my students act out, and I feel like I have a script of what to say. It’s been fantastic. Sure, we’re still having issues with talking too much, but I finally feel like I know how to deal with it.

I have had this issue with every book I’ve ever read about classroom management, every PD or seminar or conference I’ve ever been to – just telling me to “be consistent” is NOT HELPFUL. What does that look like in an actual classroom every day? What does it sound like? What do I say when I just want to scream (incoherently, like Tarzan, or George of the Jungle)? Some of the most helpful advice I’ve ever gotten from mentors has been about how to phrase certain things. If I have to hear about how to teach procedures again, it’s not going to be pretty. (Yes, I read that Harry Wong book too. Just like everyone else.) And if another person tells me I just have to “be consistent”, my head might actually explode.

What did my AP do differently? She came to my room and watched my kids and listened to what they said. She watched how I responded and listened to what I said. Then we met afterward and she told me what she would have said in those situations, or other ways I could have approached it. She told me what to say if the situation ever came up again. We talked about how to arrange my students in the seating chart so I can still have my desks in groups all day even though I don’t trust this class to work in groups (or even in the same room as each other or any other human being). We talked about what warning signs she noticed from specific students that I should watch out for.

THIS is what I’ve needed for the last two years. I need specifics. I am a very detail-oriented person, and you can tell me to “just be consistent” until you’re blue in the face (because I strangled you) but it doesn’t do me any good until I know what that actually looks like. Observing someone else’s classroom might be helpful if I knew what to look for (which I certainly didn’t my first year) but having someone observe my room and give me that kind of specific feedback was amazing.

My AP might have done more for my teaching, and my classroom management specifically, in 30 minutes of observation and a 45 minute conversation than all the PD I’ve done in the last 2 years combined. Of course, we’ll see how effective the strategies that we discussed wind up being over the course of this year, but for right now the knowledge that I know what to say when Kid A says or does [insert dumb thing here] is doing far more for my mental health than you could imagine.

And my desks are in groups all day, every day and I love it. So much. Groups! Everywhere! So awesome.

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