I realize that relationships need to be built outside of the classroom as well as inside, but the focus this month was doing something towards my Professional Goals at school as well as completing a step here at home — I justify it by thinking I’m being efficient instead of lazy.
Refresher of the goal:
Relationship: By October 31, 2018, I will implement two new procedures for building better teacher/student relationships in my school classroom. (Book: Create Your Dream Classroom by Linda Kardamis).
The book and online class I ended up taking as well were great refreshers for some of the things I already knew. Be sure to have procedures for EVERYTHING in place by Day 1 of school. Teach those procedures explicitly with days to review rules and procedures in the outline for the school year. I made some MAJOR changes in my classroom this year — daily schedule, voice level buttons, daily behavior tracker, Think Time, and a classroom store. Since I teach the same kids for three years, there was a bit of shock and push back from my older students — this week I was even told I was being “salty” (Urban dictionary defines salty as “someone who is ‘angry, agitated, or upset,’ as well as someone who is “mean, annoying, and repulsive”). I guess I’m doing something right since I’m not striving to be their friend, but their mentor.
I have posted the daily schedule with length of time it will take to complete the activity. I also put the timer with the correct amount next to it. This also makes it easy to write sub plans (Class begins with a 5 minute warm-up. Use the green timer on the board.). This placement makes it easy to switch timers as I switch the voice level buttons.
Daily Behavior Tracker. In the very first column I record information like who used a hall pass and conversations I had with them. The next column I mark negative behaviors like talking out, wandering, playing with phone. Last column is tallies for being on task. I also give them a sheet to record their positive tally marks. On Fridays, when I grade, I collect their tally sheets and add the earned marks into their checkbooks for Monday’s store — their sheets get stapled to mine. At the end of the week, I also have some good data on what areas I need to make some adjustments and improvements in.
In-Class Think Time is a new implementation that me and the teacher across the hall have worked on together. If directions aren’t followed, or they begin to argue with me, I send students to Think Time. They follow the instructions on the purple sheet, fill out a form that asks them to reflect, and then they turn on the button when they are done. I can keep teaching while they calm down and then we can have a discussion. If a student comes in from another class, they sit at the same desk with the same instructions.
Thanks to the new behavior tracker, I find myself wondering the room more, having more small conversations with students, being more present instead of behind my desk with my head wrapped up in re-writing curriculum for next week. I teach in different areas of the room which allows for my students who struggle to sit still to swivel around so they can keep their eyes on the speaker. I’m putting most of my lesson notes on PowerPoint so they can copy, but I am not stuck at the board — bonus here is I can upload everything to their online classroom or my teaching blog so if they are absent, they can still have full access to anything we did in class!
In my school calendar, I have specified dates I need to sit down and write a positive note to a specific student. These will probably be mailed home so parents have more of a chance to see what I’m seeing in class. I’ve been kicking around the idea of a student mail system where students can send positive notes to each other, but I’m not ready to set that up yet — maybe at the semester?
The big question came towards the end of the book: Why are you a Teacher?
I’ve asked myself this question a lot lately, and it boils down to the kids. I teach because I want to help students who don’t feel they have a voice or value find those things. I want to show them how their story affects others, how it is important, and they are needed. I love spending time with them, hearing what makes them happy, what breaks their hearts, how they have become who they are and who they dream of being. I love that moment when their writing speaks to them, and they suddenly see possibilities that weren’t there a minute before. That is why I teach.
It all comes back to relationships. We have a basic need to be seen and understood. My parting questions for you are these: Why do you _____________________ (fill in the blank)? What are you intentionally doing to build the relationships inside that?