Taking a break from the blogging challenge so that I can think through one of my classes yesterday. It was one of those classes that you wish you could hit pause and then rewind and try again. There was a small vocal minority of the class that were behaving in a way that, I felt, was rude and disrespectful. And I let them get the better of me.
I have expressed how challenging this year feels. Class sizes are larger and student needs are diverse. I am truly taking it day by day. But yesterday afternoon, I was running low on patience and I allowed my attitude to mirror that of those few students who tried to steer class in a different direction.
I have decided that tomorrow I will offer an apology to that class. First to the majority who sit patiently, who actively and appropriately engage in class, and who not only have to suffer through when other students act up but when I allow those students to upset me. Why is it so easy to let a few negative people take hold when the majority are positive? I want those kids to know that I let them down yesterday, and I am going to not do it again.
I am also going to apologize to those that were acting up. If I expect them to come to class and respectfully interact and participate, then my losing my cool isn't really the best way to model that. I am sorry for not being able to handle things differently yesterday. It won't happen again.
I am also going to offer the kids a chance to let me know how they felt about yesterday. I plan to offer them to write me, anonymously if they so choose, about their role in Wednesday's class and what they plan on doing differently. I will begin by offering up my own mea culpa, but I am not taking the full blame. Everyone one of us who was there contributed to the attitude of the class. From those that chose to not act appropriately to those who gave attention to the negative behavior and, knowingly or not, reinforced and made it acceptable by laughing and smiling. We all have to commit to making a change or nothing will.
This might sound like a simple discipline issue but for me it is more than that. I structure my class in ways to try to create a safe community where we can talk and listen to each other. Yesterday was not that. It was uncomfortable and at times disrespectful. At so early a point in the year, I need to see if we can get back on track or else that class might have to look very different from my other three. I don't want to see that happen.
I took this as an opportunity to look back at the evaluation my students last year filled out on me and my class. I was feeling pretty low yesterday and thought maybe my previous kids would give me some insight into how I might need to make things better this year. I found a lot of great constructive criticism that I had already realized in my own reflection on last year. The trouble was that the very structures they praised, like the freedom to choose things in my class, are the very things that I am now questioning. Am I throwing the baby away with the bathwater if I make changes due to the actions of a few? I'm hoping for a redo with this group so that we can move forward and learn from the situation instead of having to create restrictions.
Lastly, looking through last year's evaluations was definitely something that helped to buoy my spirits. And I want to hold on to all the positive things those kids had to say. One question had them choose one word to describe me as a teacher. I created this word cloud to save it as a reminder and not get so discouraged: