OK, I love my eighth grade class. Maybe TOO much. Last year in seventh grade we had such a good time. I was so happy to see them walk into class on the first day of school…all 39 of them! Yep! 39 13- and 14-year-olds!! We acquired three new eighth graders, a sixth grader who has lived in Morocco and wants to keep up her French, and three kids who had been with my previous eighth-grade class, and the class was big to begin with, cause last year there was just one section of French 1…so, it is jam-packed with kids. Kids are everywhere. In every seat, and two in the middle.
So, there are ISSUES. You might find some of these familiar.
Kids are talking. To their friends! In English! I stop, walk over to the rules, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait…
And when I ask a whole-class creative question, like in making a OWI, they dither and debate so enthusiastically that it wears me out despite having a “close debate” signal and two Professeurs 2.
Kids are slumping in their desks. A couple like to get their books out.
Kids are not answering my whole-class comprehension (not creative but just verifying understanding) questions with a strong response, even though I am pretty sure they understand.
I find it hard to go slow enough because there is just SO MUCH ENERGY in the room, with 39 14-year-olds…well, 39 14-year-olds and one 11-year-old. Also, there are about five Spanish-speaking kids in the class and they want to go faster, while the brand-new-to-languages kid who just joined our class feels lost.
It is the last period of the day and 30% of the time so far this school year it has been just too hot to think. On days like that I have pretty much called off class from time to time. It’s like the kids arrive and then fifteen minutes into class it hits us all that it is too hot to go on, and we just stop. This has not exactly set the proper tone.
One might ask oneself, WHY give this poor teacher a mixed bag of 39 kids from 2:44 to 3:45 every day? It is a challenging class and by that time in the day I am super-tired and I can feel that my “smile at the class while pointing to the rules” smile is far from genuine. And also that it takes like eight hundred years to get them to quiet down while I am pointing at that rule.
I have two options here. One is to switch to more pencil-paper work. The other is to redouble my efforts and train them up in how I want them to behave.
I will edit this more on the bus today. Stay tuned for updates.
So on the bus I watched the video from yesterday, and I realized that class SEEMS worse to me than it actually is!
This happens all the time. I am so grateful for my videos. They comfort me. They allow me to look at myself through a fresh lens. It’s like being a visitor in my own room.
In the video, I noticed that during French time, they are mostly focused. I noticed that I am going slowly enough. I noticed that even though I’m worn out and not feeling truly like smiling when pointing to the rules and waiting for them to get quiet, that I look calm and happy.
So, it’s going better than I thought. They just are requiring more of me. They’re challenging me a little more than they did as seventh graders. That’s normal for eighth grade.
The main issues are actually classroom routines. And they’re not so terrible, actually.
At the start of class, I want them to get their books from the bin where they keep them and get to their seats within two minutes. But I’ve also taught them that good readers sometimes change books. So I’m finding myself doing mini-booktalks with my readers as they enter. That’s slowing me down and we aren’t getting down to reading time as quickly as I want. But they are working on finding good-fit books, so it’s probably actually time well-spent.
At the end of class, I want them to help me clean the room then sit quietly and let me ask a couple of questions before saying goodbye. This is different from how we did it last year so of course it’s going to involve some retraining. That’s ok. It is a chance for me to assert my leadership in class. The thing is, we get so busy in class that I haven’t been leaving enough time to execute the closing routine, and then we’re late, which makes them resentful. I just need to be more on top of shutting down class so we can successfully prepare to leave before the final bell.
Watching the video, I noticed that the One Word Image was super-engaging to them and it just reinforced my strong belief that the first component of a strong classroom management system is an engaging, creative, student-driven curriculum.
Also, it’s very comforting to know that the creative, high-energy activities just set us up for more mellow literacy activities the next day. Today we will read a text on the bat we created in the OWI activity yesterday. To keep my sanity, I plan on pre-writing the text and just doing resting options with it. Ben prefers to almost always pre-write the text. I do like doing Write and Discuss, and I see huge learning benefits in the students’ seeing the words and sentences take shape before their eyes, but when we want to take it easier in class, pre-writing the text makes for a much more relaxing, less-interactive lesson.
If I thought I had to be “on” every day, I would probably run away from Crazyville, USA, otherwise known as Room 23. With a nice mix of “on” days like yesterday and reading options days like today.
And thank goodness for the videos. They put it all in perspective. I highly recommend taking videos of yourself, even if it’s just for your own consumption. It’s like having another pair of eyes.