I'm not filled completely with complaints this year. We are actually doing some good work at school. Here are some examples:
Saturday, September 21, 2013
27 first graders is too many. Student overpopulation is very much like the Richter scale. …with each additional body that enters the class, the issues therein grow exponentially. There are more low students than ever, there are more wiggling bodies than ever, there are more students in need of counseling than ever, and there are more distractions than ever. And the poor teacher who once enjoyed getting to know each child, and was able to not only meet the needs of her students in a reasonable manner…but was also able to finish sentences when she taught…is now reduced to teaching to crowds at the level of an intensive aerobic workout. ...and spending her break times weeping into her phone, and planning for a new career.
If I were a parent at a school that had this many primary students packed into one room…I’d be upset…very upset. I’m praying that my child won’t ever be enrolled in a school that so carelessly “over-books” their classes (as airlines do…in the hopes that someone won’t show up), decides to make all kindergartens full day regardless of a parent’s choice, or whether or not the child is developmentally ready, and places combination classes together not based on any philosophy of multiage instruction…but as a means to fill up classes for budget purposes...so that no classroom is "underutilized".
Yes, I pray my child won’t need to go to a school like that.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
One of my goals this year is to have a louder classroom. Yes, you read that correctly.
I’m trying my best to create an environment in which children feel comfortable having conversations, and feel open to take risks, and share ideas…and it’s proving to be difficult…for me. It’s not difficult for the children…they are getting a lot out of discussions about the thunderstorm they observed the night before, debates over whether the tooth fairy is real, settling an argument, or working with others to build a picture at our loose objects center…but it’s me. I’m having a difficult time with it because I’ve been so trained to keep kids quiet that it’s almost painful for me to just let them talk.
Of course we still have our “sacred” quiet times of day where we can read, think and reflect…but I’m ashamed that I didn’t have nearly enough times in our day when children could just discuss what was on their minds or (worse yet) when I was thinking that I could control or assign what they should discuss and when.
…but really, how was I expecting them to cooperate with each other without actually talking to each other? How was I expecting them to think critically without allowing them to feel open to share ideas? And how was I expecting them to be passionate about learning without allowing them to express their opinions with others?
I used to be so proud of having a quiet first grade classroom. …but now I see that the silence was compliance, and not attentiveness…and for the children it was an environment without joy…and without joy there is no sincere learning.
I feel a bit like I’m in rehab from having too much control. I’ve had to bite my tongue, and hold myself back from making the leaky balloon noise, “Shhhhhh…” It's truly been a bad habit to require so much silence. But I’m so proud that during this entire first week of school I haven’t needed to say it. I’ve had to ask myself throughout the day, “Is silence absolutely necessary at this time?” If it is, then I ask them to quiet down. “Is success on the task they are doing contingent on whether or not they are talking about Santa right now?” If not, then allow them form their arguments on whether or not he really exists.
It is hard to let go of control, but control isn't going to build the connections necessary for good discussions and risk taking. In the long run it will help build a closer classroom community, and make children happier and more interested in learning. I also believe that if we are all shifting to a different and deeper style of learning then our classroom management styles need to change as well.
So, this year, if you enter my classroom and they’re all talking, and I’m smiling, and looking okay with it…you’ll know why.