Putting it all on…

I’m in the process of getting prepped for THE FULL TAKEOVER OF RESPONSIBILITIES and it is…difficult. Being able to flit in and out of the classroom because of my courses was a misleading experience. It really only gave me a glimpse of the bad days, days like the ones we have been having in my kindergarten classroom.

Managing the classroom. I think that’s the biggest RESPONSIBILITY I am most afraid of. I can teach the academics (I think. I hope). But implementing “Positive Discipline,” “Cooperative Discipline,” “Blahdy-blah Discipline” is proving to be much harder than I thought, especially on days like today when my beautiful, intelligent, surprisingly-astute students push me to the limits of my patience. Do they understand that I don’t want to be the drill sergeant telling them to be quiet in the hallways? Do they understand I do it because I want that recommendation for a job next year? Can they see the beads of sweat forming on my hairline when I realize I’m losing them?

I hate to sound so insecure because I know I’m going to be a good teacher…one day. Scratch that. I know I am a good teacher and I know I will get better. It’s just so frustrating to be in that stage of my career where I haven’t figured out what works and what doesn’t. I feel like I’ve been trying so many different hats, piling things on that it’s just starting to weigh me down. How can I simplify it? Is that even what I need to do or is it supposed to be this complicated?

The more I reflect on my classroom management, the more I see that I need to take responsibility for how the students are behaving. It’s so easy to chalk it up to a “bad day,” or “So-and-so is having trouble at home,” or even “He just needs some more time to mature.”

I think I need to be calmer. I need to be even-toned. I need to be the adult my students need me to be, and make Every.Single.Expecation.Clear.and.Explicit. Ok. I think I can work on that for now.

You Know Better

“You know better.” It’s something I often to say to my kindergarteners when they’re doing something they should not be…and know it. Depending on the student, it immediately ends the unwanted behavior (usually something like pushing or not sharing or talking in line) but for others, I’ve realized that even if they know better, they just don’t have the skills to do better. For example…

Liam (changed name) is, sorry, INCREDIBLY ANNOYING. Imagine the most typical toddler you can, and he fits that mold. Almost nil impulse control, has a hard time focusing for more than a few minutes at a time, it takes him 2-3 minutes longer than other students in every task, and he throws a very respectable temper tantrum. Now listen, don’t get me wrong, I adore this kid. He’s intelligent and funny and incredibly sweet when he’s not busy talking out of turn and over other students. He’s on a behavior plan, which entails him earning smiley faces for good behavior. Usually rewards based behavior systems bother me because I think extrinsic motivation only motivates students to work for a prize, not work because it’s the right thing to do, but this system seems to work without the smiley faces leading to some sort of prize or other reward. At the end of each day, my CT fills out a small slip of paper telling his Liam’s parents how many smiley faces he has earned (two other students are on the same behavior plan).

Unfortunately, last week and today have made me question, how can we better help Liam be a good classroom citizen? Control his impulse to be heard when it’s not appropriate for him to be talking? Because the smiley faces haven’t seemed to be working. My CT and I talk about him to great lengths and try to think of other ways to help him control his own behavior. Sometimes it means in a moment we have to ask him to be a good citizen, to be mature, to act like a kindergartener (being a kindergartener is a very big deal to a kindergartener) and remind him that he’s strong and tough and we know he can do it. It’s really hard to know what else to do with such a young child. I mean, what can you really expect from five and six year olds in terms of behavior and recognizing there are other people your behavior affects? Is this a discussion you can have with a kindergartener?

I realize this post is mostly questions, because I’d really like some advice. If you have students like this in your classroom, what do you do?