This week my student teacher did her solo week. It was HARD for me to be out the classroom and really hard for me to witness little “infractions” in the infrastructure. Now part of me wanted to march up and fix it. The other part of me, the realistic non-psycho part, had to recognize that these things happen in my room with my kids under my watch. I needed to reflect on my reactions as well as help her reflect on the classroom environment, the teaching, and various interactions. What I was able to convey to her, though, was that reflection is what all good teachers do. It’s not a beginning teacher thing.
I also learned, although I knew it somewhere deep inside, that classroom management is a series of small, graceful, barely discernible motions. It’s the raised eyebrow, the back rub, the quick walk next to the desk, it’s the “yes, YOU can go out for a drink of water” moment. It’s not full-scale battle to be waged mano-a-mano in front of the class. It’s a quiet line in the sand where you hold your ground and teach others to be in control as well. Good classroom management is a ballet that we spend our whole careers learning to perfect.
I learned that it’s hard to be the testing coordinator. While everyone has an opinion, and from where you’re standing you can’t see why or how this or that was missed, when you’re orchestrating an entire invasion, you don’t necessarily see everything. Our coordinator is our general. Command central was A4. The field commanders buzzed in and out all day, gathering information, clarifying their mission, then taking the needed materials and delivering the test to WHOEVER needed it. Given that she was coordinating classroom teachers, trusted substitutes many who are former teachers, our own resource staff, as well as trained classified personnel, she had to be organized. There were schedules, buckets, charts, and plans. This skinny woman worked her ASS off and still is.
It’s like knowing, but not being aware. I knew I never wanted that job. However, I didn’t know the depth and detail one person would go through to make it seem like nothing to the people in the field. I’ve learned that it’s more than a hard job and the pressure is HUGE. I’ve learned that this person is hopelessly devoted to our school, because normal people would not take on the extra pressure.
I’ve learned that it takes a lot to run a school. It was exhausting, but I wasn’t really doing anything hard or important. Being at the beck and call of whomever needs it isn’t easy. There are a million little things happening all at one time that need to be handled. I recall that Tuesday just seemed so long; yet, I couldn’t remember one specific thing about it. Crazy, huh?
I’ve learned that I like my schedule. A couple of people at school called it being in touch with my inner-spectrum child. I supposed that’s a bit true. The fact is, I’m USED to being in the classroom. Students generally give such great energy that it’s hard to step away from it. The fact is, it’s very interesting to be away and see how things run, but I prefer being in the classroom with the students.
A horrific thing I learned is that the students are much more aware of who doesn’t enforce the school codes and procedures than you might think. While doing yard supervision, the number of kids who would see me and TURN AWAY was a little scary. This, of course, means you have to investigate. Sigh. In the “wrong” place (wrong to me is anywhere you can’t get to them easily — like behind a big container in between the garden and a fence), eating on the yard like it was break, chewing gum, or hiding in the bushes. Just weird stuff. However, it completely confirms that the students know we don’t all agree with the rules and regulations of the school. They just bide their time…
Which brings me to the part that, again I knew, but I didn’t know to what extent. A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I was tired of being “the ogre”. You know, the one who ACTUALLY enforces the rules. More times than I care to admit, I heard the phrase “choosing their battles”.
I’ve learned that when it gets tough, a lot of people will consciously check out. They will “choose their battles” and then wonder why they keep losing everything. Here’s what I know for sure (ala Oprah). Kids WANT to be noticed. They might be challenging the status quo and working to break away due to adolescence, but they want to know that you actually care and pay attention. I know this because my students have TWICE pointed out that they don’t believe a couple of teachers “care” about their “kids”. In both instances, the class was observed to be out of control — hitting each other, not staying with the group, not listening to the teacher’s instructions, and throwing objects. I asked my students WHY they thought the other teacher didn’t care. Their response was that I care about what they do, I expect more, and that I don’t want people at school to think poorly of them. Believe it or not, the kids get it.
What I learned the most was the same thing I always need to learn. The kids will teach you what you’re supposed to learn. You just have to be willing to find out what it is and do it.