Tuesday, September 10, 2013

WE can do it!

I knew I was in trouble the first day of school.  From the minute kids started filing in, chatter filled the room.  For those of you who are not used to the elementary classroom, the first few days are usually filled with hushed whispers as the kids try to figure out what their new teacher and routines will be like.  They are tentative and unsure of themselves.  They ease into a comfortable rhythm of what our classroom will become.

Well, this group was different.  26 eager, happy and chatty fourth graders joined me in Room 114 three weeks ago.  The bell rang, the chattiness continued.  I did the little clap thing to get kids quiet, they returned the clapped pattern, and then continued to chat.  During read aloud, one of the boys got up to check himself in the mirror.  A few minutes later, someone else got up to sharpen a pencil.  We don't even need a pencil during read aloud on the first days of school!

Now, I need to pause here to clarify...these are great kids.  Each and every one is respectful and polite.  I am lucky to have supportive families.  But there was something about the combination.  I knew I was going to have to slow way down to build our classroom community.  I couldn't assume that we were going to just slip into our new routine easily.  WE were going to have to work at it (a little like being married).

WE've had lots of conversations about what WE need to build the kind of learning environment where everyone can do his best.  WE've gone back to revise our thinking, change some routines, and reflect on how things are going.  WE've worked together to create a place where there is room to have conversations (at the right time), and get up and move (again, at the right time) that works for us.  I realize that what's worked in the past for other groups isn't necessarily going to work for us this year.

I can happily say that we are on the right track now.  I breathed an early sigh of relief yesterday as our morning ran smoothly.  "We did it!"  I thought to myself.  However, when I went to pick them up from Music, Mrs. Brandt informed me that they had been very chatty and she wasn't very happy.  Ok...so we still have work to do.

They have a sub today, and I'll be anxious to see how they do while I'm gone.  I'm going to hope that what WE've been working towards is going to seep in and Mrs. Taylor is going to have a fantastic day.  If not, WE will take a deep breath, readjust, and try again.  All is good!


  1. WE are on the right path...it takes time to build that community, right! You have also described my afternoon sixth graders - WE are having conversations, too!

  2. "During read aloud, one of the boys got up to check himself in the mirror."

    I love this line. It gives me the image of everything else going on--I bet it did for every teacher who read this.

    When I was still teaching, this kid in the mirror was always my favorite kid--and yes... WE had several conversations about what WE needed to do and be as a community as well.

    Thanks for the smile in the middle of my work today :-)

  3. We have all had those classes and survived. Baby steps along with take it slow seems to help. Hope they surprise you with the report tomorrow.

  4. I had a class like that once (when I taught 5th grade). Once I got them on-track in our classroom, the next challenge was getting them to stop chatting in their specials classrooms.

    BTW: The boy who checked himself out in the mirror reminded me of one of the boys I had that same year. Though he used to keep one in his pocket so he could regularly check himself out. (Eventually I told him the mirror had to go!)

  5. I've only had two days with my third graders, but some of your descriptions fit them clearly. The time I put into community building now will pay great dividends later.

  6. I think anyone who has been teaching for awhile, can share stories of a class like this. I posted today a quote about today being better than yesterday...may your tomorrow be a good one!

  7. Sounds as if you are on a good track, Julie, & it's great that you have a fun group, eager & (mostly) willing to make better & better choices. I bet it'll be a marvelous year!

  8. WE- a very important word at the beginning of the year. I hope they did well for your sub. How they behave when you are gone is the true test of community.

  9. I loved the way you made the class realized the importance of proper social behavior in the classroom..especially how you used We to make them realize they are a part of a team.

  10. Julie, I love your inquiry lesson in your article,"Family History Inquiry Project: Integrating Technology with Social Studies in First Grade. " Do you have that lesson written out? Some of the 1st grade teachers in my district want to try it! Thank you!


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