Friday, March 25, 2011
Today, the day before spring break, the last day of the third marking period, I'd like to offer you a little magic dust.
The school year feels as if we've finally hit our groove. The kids and I understand each other. We've found our ways to get along and git 'r done, so to speak.
Some of that is attributable to them, and their determination and perserverance. I am constantly 'magic-ed' by the tenacity of some of my students and their unwillingness to let their limitations limit them. I love the excitement in their faces when they GET IT, especially when they thought they couldn't. I love the pride that shines when they earn that hard-sought, definitely earned A on an assignment, particularly a difficult one, a chapter test, or something other huge obstacle.
Some of the groove is me, finally finding my pace with them, this hodgepodge of differentness compared to years gone by. Learning to accept, but challenge, encourage but not overwhelm, be patient but relentless.... it is always a balancing act with any group of students, without a doubt, but in special ed, it seems that balance is even more tenuous than in the regular classroom.
It's been a winding road this year, with obstacles I thought I'd never climb through without dynamite.
But here we are... in the home stretch. And... we're going to make it. :)
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Sometimes, a little extra one on one attention can change the reluctance to willingness, with some students. For other students, it is almost a contest to see who can hold out the longest in the head to head competition.
There are those who think it is simple... sit next to the student and make them do the work. Sure, that might work, but what about the students who also need, but want the help as well? What about the increasing number of reluctant learners/workers in the typical classroom? Is it possible to solve all those problems all the time just by sitting one on one? In my experience, not always. While I as a teacher may be able to encourage and get a student started on an assignment, I cannot always get them to the independent working stage.
Others swear if we give students choices and options in their learning, we can engage them more readily. Sure, I agree! But reality says, I am told what I must teach by the state, and those topics are not always easily attached to some topic that interests each and every student. Sometimes, they truly must learn it because they have to. I can work to make topics relevant, real life and meaningful, as much as possible, but again, some topics lend themselves more readily to this approach. Realistically, we just don't have to explore how peripherally topics may relate to each child's individual interests.
School should be engaging. Learning should be fun. But sometimes, students just have to learn because we, their teachers, tell them to. They have to do the work because we are told we must teach it to them, because THE TEST will test them on it.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Developing those relationships successfully depending on the grade level you teach. With middle schoolers, it is all about knowing them as an individual and acknowledging their uniqueness. They want you to ask about their life outside of school; they want you to comment on their new hair cut or sneakers; they want you to laugh at their jokes.Middle schoolers want to know about your life outside of school; they want you to share bits of yourself with them; they want to laugh at your jokes.
Yelling, demeaning, threatening, intimidation.... have no place in a classroom. Humor, reasoning, logical consequences go much farther in establishing order. Choices, conversations and praise work in almost every situation.
Some teachers think by ignoring students, they can eliminate problems. In certain circumstances, sure, picking your battles, letting the little stuff go, is definitely the right option. But allowing students to rule the roost, do whatever they want, with little or no regard for the good of the all, will set up a pattern of behavior that will soon snowball out of control. Nip insubordination in the bud early, before it is out of control by establishing your role as the classroom leader, not allowing an unruly student to run the show.
If you establish your classroom as a safe zone, a place where all are accepted, all are valued, and all are treated fairly, classroom rules become irrelevant as the class itself determines the norms. The daily routine ebbs and flows with little interruption or disruption. Relationships flourish and academic achievement clippity clops along.