Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 11 2007

Positive Things and Things to Improve

That is the TFA tagline for “things that you suck at doing.”

Or, in my case, classroom management while giving second graders math diagnostics on the second day of summer school.

To be fair, pre-recess wasn’t that bad. The kids were very respectful about listening while I was explaining the consequences, following my instructions, and answering my questions. We did a 15 minute break from diagnostics entitled “things that make me special.” We each wrote a sentence on a piece of paper about what makes us special, and then got to color a picture about that. I explained to the kids that I’m from Colorado, which they all described as “really far away.” Here are some of the kids’ examples of what makes them special (spelling and syntax intact):

“I am reading to: 4-forth grade”

“When I went to this school I liked.”

“I went to third grade”

“I am rrespeshobe quos se” (I really don’t know)

“Wat make me spEciAl is my Birthday.” (Her birthday is on Friday)

“What made me speciAl nots berry farm.”

And, my personal favorite, “green.” That is all it said. My collab member and I had a long, good laugh about that one. She says, “Maybe don’t show our CMA that one.” Although, I probably shouldn’t laugh because the girl who wrote that can’t really read.

Recess was fine. We played a game where somebody stands in the middle and we have to try to run past them. Except, there’s a fence at the end of the playground. Recess ended with tears. Not a good segue into my wonderfully unprepared math diagnostic.

And, of course, my CMA chooses then to do my in-depth observation for the week. (Each week, our CMA observes us once for 30 minutes and twice for 10 minutes.) He wasn’t there when the lesson went really well. No, he was there when the kids were wound up from recess, still wanting to finish coloring their pictures, and not at all excited about taking yet another ridiculously long math diagnostic. Actually, it wasn’t even supposed to be happening then. We have been informed that when giving math diagnostics, you must read each and every single question out loud with the kids and then wait for each and every single one of them to finish that question before moving on. The kids are not allowed to move on on their own, even if they want to. The reason for this is that we aren’t assessing their reading ability; we’re assessing their ability to do math. I really don’t know why the kids are not allowed to move on. As a result, it takes for-freaking-ever to do these diagnostics. So, we were trying to catch up with the one that didn’t get finished yesterday after recess.

The day after recess went something like this: students enter classroom from recess and are instantly reminded of coloring project that didn’t get finished. All immediately run to start coloring again.

Me: Take two minutes to finish your coloring.
S, a student: Miss? I need a new paper.
Me: Why?
S: I messed this one up.
Me: What’s wrong with it?
S: I don’t like it.
Me: We only have a minute and a half to finish our coloring so I need you to just work with what you have.
Me: Ok, what can we do to solve this problem?
S: I don’t like it.
Me: Can you take it home and finish it tonight?
S: I don’t have no crayons at home.
Me (kicks self in head): Ok, can we think of creative ways to work with what we have?
S: NO! I don’t like it!
Me: We only have thirty more seconds to finish this.
S: I need a new one.

I ended up giving her a new one and she put it in her desk to finish later. My CMA told me later that I should have just explained that there weren’t enough for everyone to get two and so she was just going to have to deal with it. He says, “She’s a second grader. She’ll get over it.”

Thing 1 I need to work on: realize that second graders WILL get over it, and that I am the teacher, they are the student, and they WILL do what I say because I said so.

Moving into giving the diagnostic. The kids could have given two shits about this test. Who can blame them? They’ve been doing nothing but taking really long tests for two days. They’ve been taking tests about stuff they can’t do. (A very small few of them can do it, and they’re frustrated by how stupid the process is, so they screw around as well.) They disengage in the test process. They start playing with the supplies in the middle of the table. And they stop listening to me.

I repeated myself a bunch of times. I tried to use my proximity with the kids to get them to work. I gave some of them verbal warnings, which is the first consequence. The second consequence is they have to remove themselves from the group and fill out a behavior reflection sheet. I never got to that second consequence because I felt like I had to get that stupid diagnostic done, because TFA said I did. Removing the kid from the group doesn’t accomplish the goal of getting the test done.

I also don’t accomplish my goal if my kids are F-ing around the entire time. The classroom was chaos. Nobody finished. We have to give another assessment tomorrow as a result.

Thing 2 to work on: be consistent in giving consequences. Or, give consequences at all.

Then, I had to have my debrief session with my CMA tonight. After every observation you have a debrief consistent with the observation. The good thing about the debrief session was that I was already quite aware of everything that I had done wrong in the classroom today, so I was prepared. The bad thing about the debrief session was that I had not done anything good in the classroom today.

Thing 3 to work on: don’t take feedback personally.

That last one is the hardest of all.

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    "All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

    Bay Area
    Elementary School
    Elementary Education

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