Monday, December 7, 2009

Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story"

Now here's Paul Harvey with "the rest of the story" . . .

Ok, so it's still just me. :) I thought I should update about how things are going, since I am currently doing a terrible job of posting very often. :/ New goal: post once a week, at least.

When my kids came in that Wednesday morning, D-Day, they were shocked. I mean, jaws dropped when they walked in and saw new seating, followed new procedures, and were not allowed to talk to their friends. My mentor teacher walked in and said, "Wow, what's going on, wicked witch?" She knew exactly what had been happening and was supportive of the temporary changes. The special ed teacher also helped me out and we were mean together. Someone brought up something about the word "mean" that I used in the last post, with a very good point. Mean is probably the wrong word--I would never be degrading with my students. Very strict, very firm, and and very different expectations about behaviors--that's what's been going on. Not mean, just necessarily firm and strict. It was time for change.

Since then, some behaviors have improved . . . less extra talking and more attention given to procedures. Some behaviors improved for about a week . . . defiant behavior from a select few students is still going on some. I pulled a few of them from specials to practice procedures last week and had a discussion with them about their choices of behavior in my room. One of them actually admitted that he thought I was "the new teacher who was nice and wouldn't do anything mean." Really, exact words. I also had my first-year residency meeting with my principal, mentor teacher, and university supervisor today whose only suggestion was to make sure that I "put my foot down."

Translation . . . I am still not being as strict as I need to be with these students. I honestly feel like I am being mean sometimes, since I've made the changes in my room. But it was encouraging to hear that I still have room to add firmness to my tone of voice with them. Again, it has been so strange to move from my school in Stillwater where yelling was just not needed, to this school where I am expected not to yell, but as my principal puts it: "put an edge in your voice. They have to know you mean business." I worried that they would disapprove of how I have been handling my class (again, I feel like I've been mean!) but I now know that they understand the difficulty of these kids and the need for zero tolerance on disrespect and defiance must be put into place. Translation = Miss Swamp is here to stay for awhile. :)

On a sort of side note . . . I feel like this is sort of a first-year teacher's worst nightmare . . . I had a parent request to have his child removed from my class. Were my feelings hurt and was I embarrassed at this? Absolutely. But let me provide some background on this "innocent little girl" as her father sees her. She was a new student to the class, and was able to behave for about a month before her arguments with both her classmates and me escalated to office visits and parent phone calls. She could absolutely not get along with anyone and was more disrespectful to me than my other serious problem kids. When I tried to call parents, they didn't answer. But I heard about it when they directly called my principal (without talking to me first) to complain that I wasn't doing anything when his daughter was being "bullied" in class. Now, I had openly spoken about this girl with my other team teacher, my mentor teacher, the special ed teacher, and the principal about how best to handle her and her behavior in class, and took their suggestions. When the parent called to request to have her moved, my principal supported me, I think, for the most part. When I spoke with the other 4th grade teacher, he said not to worry about it and that he would have handled things the same way. I don't know if that's true, but I must say that life has been much easier since she left my class. Is it bad that I don't miss her? What a relief. My only worry was that my principal would see it as me not knowing how to handle my class and students, and also why I was a bit nervous about my residency meeting.

So, back to my residency meeting . . . I was pleasantly surprised, after how I feel like my advisors have seen some poor classroom behavior when they have come to observe, that they really had a lot of positive things to say! My principal commented about my ability to "reach all learners" and "use positive reinforcement so that all students in your class feel successful." At the end of the meeting, she even used the exact words that "she hasn't regretted for a minute that she hired me" and considers me "a great asset to the faculty." Might there be a bit of exaggeration in her words? Yes. But it was still an encouragement to hear.

So, there was a lot to tell about the last month! Someone asked me last week whether teaching was harder or easier than I thought it would be. Without hesitation, my answer was "harder," but I said it with a smile on my face as I've come to realize that this whole year, whether grades and tests show that I and my students have been successful, has been and will continue to be the greatest learning experience of my life. I can only rely on God to continue to teach me and bring me peace and wisdom as I try to keep my head above water for the rest of the year. :)

Ending on a positive note, Christmas break is 9 school days away . . . and then I'll be half done with my first year of teaching. Crazy!

Thanks for all of the advice and encouragement! I hope you are enjoying your Christmas season!

From the Christmas light-strung desk of,
Miss Davis

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