The first week is done. Well, actually the first two days. New York City students started school on a Thursday so my first “week” back is officially over. I have a ton of reflections from the last two days but I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve been thinking the most about expectations, relationships, and rigor.
Let’s start by saying that middle schoolers ain’t easy. I pride myself on being an educator who holds all kids to high expectations and has a strong command of classroom management. However, I will be the first to admit that my skills were definitely challenged on my first day back in the game. We all know that young adolescents are talkative but two of my three sections of 7th grade English Language Arts would not stop talking yesterday. So much so that it was tough to get through our first day lesson. I am used to being that teacher whose students do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do and yesterday, that wasn’t happening. I was quickly reminded that not only do I need to hold my students to high expectations but that I need to a) know them well enough for them to trust and respect me and b) I need to be transparent about what will happen if they don’t follow my expectations and then actually follow through. I am having a hard time learning all of their names and that’s also holding me back. I’ll definitely be working on that this weekend.
Relationships are the core of what I do and after being in a smaller school setting for 5 years I realize how much harder it is develop close relationships with the nearly 100 students I see for 45 or 90 minutes a day. That being said, I am committing myself to building those relationships with my kids. I’m thinking of creating a cheat sheet for myself about each class so that when I greet them at the door each period I can greet them by name, shake their hand, look them in the eye, and ask them about something they shared on the “Who Are You?” survey I gave them on the first day. I forgot how much time it takes to build those relationships and I need to be easy on myself a bit. It’s only been two days so it’s OK if I can’t call every student by name yet. If that’s still the case in a week, we’ll have a problem.
In my last class of the day I noticed that some of my kids were visibly bored. Negative behavior was stalling our lesson and I started to lose some of my kiddos. This is one of the toughest things for me as a teacher. I never want to be the cause of any student’s boredom. It made me stop for a minute and reflect on the fact that I need to ensure that the content and activities we’re doing in class are challenging and engaging to kids. An afterschool conversation with my assistant principal about the day also got me to reflect on pacing and how I can keep our lessons moving so there is less down time for students to be bored and/or act out. I am committing to stepping up the rigor in my classes for all students. I’ll take any and all good vibes you send my way on this one.
I’ll end by saying that during my first “week” back I was reminded that incredible educators are incredibly patient. I forgot this on day one and talked to a good friend and fellow educator about this. We started a new ritual to call each other each morning at 7:40 – before we pick up our students - to say the following mantra to one another and into the universe: May I be blessed with patience, loving kindness, and compassion. May I bless others with patience, loving kindness, and compassion. I was much more patient, kind, and compassionate with my students today and in turn they were more patient, kind, and compassionate with me. I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be and they weren’t where I wanted them to be but it’s a process and we’re getting there.