Suddenly, it seems like we are cruising at warp speed through the new school year, routines in place, personalities becoming evident, work patterns being established. The start has been remarkably uneventful for all the hoopla surrounding this group of students. I know we are still in the testing the waters stage but I have been impressed at how willing they are, as a whole, to work, to learn, and to try new things. They have their moments, no doubt, but I've yet to encounter a single discipline issue other than missing work.
I sense that this group needs success more than most. They need to feel loved and appreciated and accepted by the adults in front of them. They want to know their teachers want them there, and want them to be successful. I have tried to establish a relationship with each and every one of those characters I recognize from last year, those "hall sitters" who were constantly put out last year because of behavior. By stroking their egos frequently, by talking to them about things they enjoy outside of school, by teasing them and laughing with them, sharing stories and jokes, I hope I am building a bond which will weather the academic trials throughout the year.
The enthusiasm of the group is amazing overall. They are willing to contribute and answer, take a risk of being wrong. I LOVE that in classes. It is so much easier to take them further when they just participate. I have worked to establish the "I don't care if your hand is up or not" law. They are learning to look engaged and put that hand up to avoid being called on. The amazing thing is, when they concentrate on looking engaged and raising their hands, they ARE engaged! I love the comraderie of them as a group when someone gets caught off guard. They have learned to just be honest and say, "I wasn't listening. What number are we on?" instead of hemming and hawing around.
My 8th graders, my group from last year, are still in the visiting stage, coming by every day, telling me how much they miss me, transitioning to their new teachers and their new routine. I love that they are close, that they miss me as much as I miss them.... I don't ever want to teach 8th grade again. I cannot bear them going away to high school. I need them being in 8th grade, breaking away from me, so I can break away from them too!
The routine of the school year is falling into place, and I know, soon, it will be June and I will be sending another group on their way to 8th grade with tears in my eyes. It is a never ending cycle of kids.... each unique in their own way...