Going silent for the day. Not going to speak to the kids. They'll have to follow my detailed directions on the board and I've set up a few classmates to help others. I'll probably doing some written directions through the day, but I'm going silent.
My first stint in teaching I was notorious for not planning and certainly not preparing to teach successful lessons. No surprise that I felt less than effective and soon left the profession. Well, God's grace and His sense of humor has me back before a group of students who themselves are like me when I was in teaching the first time. They don't plan or prepare to be successful in school. Somehow I'm going to have to change that.
One thing I found out from honest interspection is that if I don't Pray, Plan, Prepare and Expect I won't do well. Flying by the seat of my pants is a recipe for failure for me. Also realized that I dind't give myself enough tools to be successful as a teacher. I didn't read enough about how to be a better teacher. I personally am a reader so I need to read a lot in order to keep my mind fresh with new ideas and to solidify ideas I've already grasped. Needless to say I will be filling my Kindle and my iTunes libraries with some teacher specific books. If you know of any particular you found helpful please send me a list.
I've been beating my head on the floor trying to figure out how to get some of my kids to learn their multiplication facts. It's not productive to try to get them to learn these complex methods if they're still burning up their paper drawing tick marks for 4 x 8. I don't fault them, but there is a place for "Drill and Kill". Drill the skill and you won't Kill yourself trying to get them to learn it later.
Suddenly it hit me. I learned most of my fact via School House Rocks. Yeah, it's old school and it's not flashy. So many of my kids will say it's childish. I'm sure I'll get a call from a mom or two going off on me by challenging their dears with this. All that's true, but I'm confident that they'll learn the tables after a week and if nothing else they'll learn the ideas and want to make sure they don't have to keep listening to these "uncool" songs.
If you're reading this 4th grade get ready to meet SHR!
Most of us have some bad habits we'd like to cease if we could. Most of our kids do, too. They just don't know they're bad habits. I've been thinking about what I can do to help my class want to learn more. Thankfully the thought of building a habit of learning came to me.
Recently I started having them jot down on an index card what they learned each day as a "Ticket out the Door." I was pleasantly surprised how some of my more difficult students picked up the concept. If only they knew that I was using these tickets to see where they are and what I can help them with moving forward, they'd probably sabotage my ticket drop. Anyway, that's a small habit. I wonder if I can get them to pick up other small, useful habits before Christmas break. Doing homework would be fantastic, but I can't shipwreck my faith just yet.
What I would like to see is my student's writing more, listening to adults and seriously seeking to learn their basic facts. My homeroom is so short. Getting them in, settled and pen in hand would take the entire time. I could have them write two things they heard from our morning announcements and give out something tangible as they leave for doing so. That would at least in theory encourage them to listen. I already penalize them for rude behavior, but I need to find a way to promote being children and not just highlighting the bad behavior. They write some already. Some how I need to increase that several fold by the next break.
I've had some high/low light this week, but this was the most informative of the situation that the boys have at my school.
I'm in my room while my class is in gym class. I'm feverishly making sure all my lessons will flow and that my new Best Friend the Promethean board works/sounds good. In walks a 5th grader.
"Son, what are you doing in here?"
"Miss D sent me in here."
"What did you do to get sent in here?"
"She said I was talking."
"Well, were you talking?"
"But nothing. You said you were talking so SHE didn't say it. You just did."
"Don't waste my time son. You were talking. You broke her rules and got on her nerves so much that she didn't want you in her room for the lesson. You didn't do the right thing and you need to take responsibility for that. The sooner you do the sooner you'll make more progress."
"Man you're mean Mr. Whitaker."
"Thank you. I do my best to be as mean as I can. But I'm not nearly as mean as life will be to those that don't take responsibility for themselves."
(Deer in headlights stare)
"Now go sit down in the corner and please be quite. I have work I'm responsible for."
This just isn't a problem with the boys, but the entire student body. Very few know how to or want to take responsibility for themselves. It's much easier to point the finger for their issue than to say "hey I didn't do my assignment and that's why I don't know this subject." They fail to see that when they take the onus for not knowing they can also change it around next time around. "I did my assignment. I didn't goof off and now I have a grade that shows just how hard I worked."
If I'm able to help most of my 4th graders embrace responsibility for themselves this year I know I'll have the highest math scores in the building. It's the only thing holding my students back, themselves.
No, I'm not sending homework home over Thanksgiving week. That would be crazy. Who does that? I'm sending each of my hungry learners home with an "Keep Your Game Tight Pack". Each one is chock full of neat math games and skill builders that are going to help them keep their minds sharp over the week off.
After doing my grades this week I know who NEEDS a pack and who will DO a pack. Shocking and sad those two people aren't the same. There are some who'll do any extra work I send home. I really heart those kids. They want to get the most out of 4th grade. Then there are those who need every extra bit of help I can give them. I really have a heart for those kids. So I have the packs ready and during Family day tomorrow I'm going to roll up on mom/dad/grands and put said package in their hands. I'm certain they'll appreciate the help. My kids that will do the work will just get their pack on Friday. Since I haven't received one phone call to complain about the work I've sent home I guess I'll just keep piling it on. Surely I can get one call my Christmas.
The next 4 weeks is going to be tough. We have Thanksgiving week then 3 weeks then Christmas week. It's going to be tough keeping them all in the game. If this week was any indication I'm going to have to keep my own game tight. I start back at Crossfit South Cobb Monday. Can't wait! The game plan for the kids is to keep them going. I have a ton of out of class activities and we're going to exhaust them all. No long term sitting and getting antsy. We may bundle up and get outside or we maybe in the Kindergarten class teaching a 5 year old how to multiply. Something, but what we're not going to do is give me 1 more gray hair in my beard.
I've been taken back by how little my class desires to learn. Sometimes it's really a struggle to get them to settle down and dig into the lesson. So I've challenged myself to do whatever it takes to get them to "Yearn to Learn". I've pinpointed students who can only benefit from being catered to. So I'm going to keep rolling out ideas and challenges to get these kids excited about learning rather than everything else that's kept them where they are. The rules are; no sugar. no music that I wouldn't listen to myself, I have to stick to the lesson plans. Let's see how well I do.