Last week, in I’m going to hurt you with this knife, I wrote about a student who went after me with a knife. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from several teachers, both in general and special education, about how their students are having difficult times in class right now. I have had several students acting out as well. It is interesting, the questions we start to ask ourselves; is it a full moon? Is it something in the water? Will Spring Break ever arrive?
Last Tuesday, six out of my twelve kids had difficult days. I spent a huge amount of time out of my instructional day trying to calm kids down. Two ended up in the dean’s office; one of them was able to get it back under control and was not suspended. Another one, who rarely needs to come to my class, had to come in and rip up paper (a WONDERFUL strategy for minimizing anger) and then use a stress ball. One student hit another student when she threw a water bottle in my classroom, used colorful language, and threatened to hit yet another student in the throat. To top it all off, my adult aide had to leave in the middle of the day for a family emergency and then was out all week.
However, there were also great things that happened in my classroom this past week. These same kids were able to get themselves back under control and work well together, helping out while my aide was absent. Once again, they have demonstrated to me the importance of a well-planned, highly structured routine. They took over certain jobs and ran themselves through the routine and we were able to maximize our instructional time the rest of the week. As far as behavior goes, because I use the very structured and thorough No Bull 5-Tier Level System, everything took care of itself and I did not need to get mad or yell at the students in frustration to get them to comply with our classroom’s rules. The system is the system, doling out both positive and negative consequences and the system alleviates me having to take any affront personally.
Before I left school Tuesday night, I took a critical look at myself and wrote down several things that I felt I needed to improve. These were items of concern, that over the past few months, I feel I have become complacent about within my instruction. I don’t like complacency in myself, but with the barrage of day to day duties (correcting papers, inputting grades, lesson plans, pressure to prepare students for the proficiency exams, Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning meetings, various committee meetings, answering emails, responding to parent concerns, keeping track of all sorts of data, testing for and writing IEP’s, and actually teaching…the list goes on!), is it any wonder we become complacent about the small stuff that makes a BIG difference? Yet, after a day like last Tuesday, I felt I had to review my own behavior to see what I could improve in order to help my students improve.
Here are some of things I came up with. You may find this list helpful to yourself, too.
- Using timers in my classroom more routinely. Next week, I’ll write a whole post dedicated to the usefulness of timers.
- Explicitly communicating how I expect the transition from one thing to the next to occur. Providing a goal or “road map” will help everyone stay on the path to success.
- Be more aware of how I give praise. Am I just saying a general, “good job,” or am I saying a specific, “you did a great job answering that question; a lot of good ideas shared?”
- Am I treating the students how I want to be treated?
- What does my voice tone and volume communicate?
- What does my body language communicate?
- At the end of the day, am I leaving enough time to interact with each student, or is everyone feeling rushed to get on the bus? Again, in the next few posts, I’ll write more information about this activity, too.
On Wednesday, I reviewed my list again and deliberately went about my day focusing on these things. Everything went much more smoothly that day, as did the rest of the week. Complacency is easy to slip into. It is our job to catch ourselves and slip right back out, whether it is in our classrooms, our relationships with our significant others and children, or in life in general. I challenge you to take a look at yourself and see if you have become complacent in some area of your life. If you have, I challenge you to make the small changes that in turn can have BIG results!
Until next week, be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and make it a peace-filled week,