Spring break ends tonight, and tomorrow marks the 40 school days countdown to summer break. Hallelujah! This year for me has been the most challenging, and at times I truly wanted to quit. It felt like the odds were stacked against me, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for this year to be over.
This year, I had high expectations for the year, I was going to try a classroom completely built on respect and caring, where learning was the center, not behavior. So I threw out my ideas of rewards/non-logical consequences. I was also excited for some new curriculum and a new whole-school management program.
My optimism and enthusiasm for the year popped like a balloon barely through the first part of the year. It seemed everything to be hitting me at once, escalated/violent behaviors in the classroom, new curriculum that was harder to teach than I anticipated, not everyone being on board with our new management program. It all came down and I was ready to throw in my hat. The behaviors in my classroom specifically were incredibly hard to deal with, and it was overwhelming. I never thought I would have the thoughts of quitting over behavior, but those thoughts were real. I was unhappy with how things were going in my classroom, I wasn’t being the perfect teacher.
I finally realized I am not a perfect teacher, and I will never be. But I won’t stop trying, and I didn’t stop trying this year. I tell my students that I am still learning too, “I get many years in third grade, but you only get one, so I want to make it the best.”
There were good and bad times in my classroom this year that I will tell you about because being honest is important:
- I took away recess for non-recess related things
- I took up small, petty arguments with students about the most ridiculous things [then realized I wasted 5 minutes of my life arguing over a pencil]
- I yelled
- I did not model respect
There are other examples, and it hurts to remember the times above. I am writing this because I need to emphasize the point that I am not perfect, and I still have a long way to go. Should have I taken away those few minutes from that child’s recess? No. Should I have stopped to think first? Yes. Should I have done any of the above? No. So why did I do it? Because I am an imperfect teacher, and I am still learning how to become a better one.
But this year also gave me something else. As mentioned, I decided to give up on what can be referred to as “traditional classroom management” which includes clip charts/behavior apps/rewards, etc. And it was the best decision I have ever made. My classroom is a classroom that thrives off respect/care/community.
Let me highlight some positives that happened this year because of that decision. Among the biggest, I was able to address roots of larger problems and solve them accordingly. [Also, in order to protect student privacy, names/identification are omitted].
- I have become a happier teacher, I am able to laugh, smile, and joke with my students
- I am able to see them for who they are, a human, with real emotions and feelings, and not a clip with a name on the chart performing at “green.”
- My students are free to be themselves
- We have been able to solve problems as a class together
- The students have more say in how the classroom is run, and thus I have more buy-in.
- I have spent less time on behavior as a whole class, and more time teaching
- I get lots of letters and drawings from students telling me how much they like our class, and I have gotten generous compliments from parents/guardians about how well their child is doing in my class, and how much their child enjoys coming to school
- A student at the beginning of the year threw fits, wouldn’t complete work, and ran out of the classroom at least once a day. As of today, that student hasn’t ran out of the classroom since December, completes work, and is one of the classroom’s biggest helpers, and has since become a very caring individual.
- A student who would backtalk, roll eyes, disrespectful, etc has been working extremely hard on respect and has become a more caring individual. This student even stood up for another student which made me very proud.
- I have grown to truly love and care for all of my students. (The word love can be interpreted to mean many different things by many different people, so I am cautious to say this word to my students)
- All of my students have grown in ways I couldn’t fathom.
I had some bad days, and I might have a few more within the 40 days. I recognize I am not a perfect teacher, and it is okay. I am learning and growing. I had some great ones, and I determined to have more of those, because I am ready to end this year strong so I can look back and say “that year was well worth it.”