Ch-Ch-Changes

So I’ve made a shift. From intermediate to primary education. I stepped into a great first grade team with three incredible teachers. Two have varying levels of special education “consultant teacher” rooms, the other is an ENL/ELL room. My room is general education, first grade. However, the vast majority (13 out of 18 students) are reading at a Fountas & Pinnell/Guided Reading Level “B.” Since my background and passion is literacy, I take this as a formidable, personal challenge.

If I was continuing in third grade this year, the wheels would have been in motion a lot more reflexively. However, I had to “dust off my first grade mojo” and jump back to primary with both feet.

Noto Bene: There were a lot of changes district-wide with how classrooms were structured, and many veteran teachers found themselves placed in entirely new grade levels they have never taught in before. I was originally supposed to change buildings AND grade levels, but in the end I was able to shift from the intermediate hallways of my building to the primary building. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a scramble to unpack with the amount of changes to my ultimate placement this year, but every day I feel a bit more settled in.

I did one of my student teaching placements in first grade, and always hung onto the materials that my cooperating teacher gave me. Thank goodness! It is like the Holy Grail! I was also fortunate to sit in on a presentation by a former colleague who teaches in a Montessori classroom, to refresh myself on some pedagogical techniques that I can translate to my gen-ed classroom. (More to come on the Montessori ideas later….stay tuned!)

So, I’ve done my running records, sight word assessments, primary spelling inventories, and I’m off to the races! I am slowly guiding my students toward independently accessing educational technology on our 1:1 iPads, and seeing how I can pair up tasks with our New York State first grade curricula.

So here are my “elite eight” thoughts for my first quarter back, which are going to be topics for further blog posts:

  1. First graders respond much more to positive behavior management systems. Negative reinforcement directly damages their self-esteem and self-worth.
  2. Walking down the hallway in one straight line can be really hard, especially in the advent of The Floss and The Shoot dances!
  3. I need a tattle monster to take up residence in my classroom.
  4. Flexible seating is really tricky to establish with super-wiggly kiddos.
  5. Parent communication in the primary grades is even more critical for students’ success. Finding the right streams of communication with each parent/family is equally as critical.
  6. STEM/STEAM/STREAM offers engagement that “sage on the stage” pedagogy can’t always offer.
  7. Primary education requires a modicum of cuteness that intermediate-level students don’t subscribe to.
  8. Teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers have become such fantastic resources for teachers – albeit most are not vetted and one should proceed with caution!

Thanks in advance for coming on this journey with me! Stay tuned for more fun… and as always, please share/follow this blog! Your comments, questions, and discussion ideas are welcome too.

Kirsten

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Angry or Sad?

Anyone suddenly experiencing particularly bad behavior in your classroom???

e056ccd28de3079e1c0b64d71ef689ddThe school psychologist and I had an interesting conversation the other day:

  1. The end of the year is coming.
  2. For some kids in our population, school is the only structure in their lives.
  3. It is also where they are fed, loved, etc.
  4. A lot of kids are anticipating the summer recess as a loss of that structure.
  5. The instability creates a feeling of being upset.
  6. Instead of becoming emotional, students become angry.

The gist: It is easier to be mad than upset.

Here is an article from Psychology Today that outlines these phenomena. As for the classroom, I found the most applicable part to be:

“…just behind the anger that is so evident, and often encouraged, in our lives, are two emotions that are much harder to express: fear and sadness. Both of these very common feelings are seen as weaknesses and are hard to tolerate for long. One way to escape them is to get mad and allocate blame. If we can find a target, we can indulge our outrage and assign responsibility for our misery to someone else. Now we are a victim.”

My belief is that several kids are using this coping mechanism at this point in the school year. However, that does NOT make it okay to be rude, nasty, or mistreat others. My heart hurts when I hear mean things. I take it just as seriously as a lapse in academic performance.

I want my students to take much more away from my classroom than academic knowledge. I want them to be better people because they were in my room.

So how do we, as educators, tackle this? I feel as though addressing this issue is important, beyond classroom management and counting down to the last day of school. Not addressing this specific behavioral phenomena would be a lost opportunity to a monumental “teachable moment.” After all, this is one that a person will experience throughout their lives, right?!

My mom will be the first one to tell you that I was a textbook case of this phenomena. Precisely the week before I would head 330 miles back to my small, liberal arts college in Ohio, I would become easily agitated and incite arguments over the most ridiculous things. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was an undergrad that I had it pointed out to me, and was then able to recognize when I was doing it. 

The Solution

IMHO, the solution should involve explicitly teaching students about vulnerability. (Yes, I am a raging Brene Brown fan. If you don’t know her, please take a few moments to acquaint yourself. Here is her first amazing TED talkHere is the follow up TED talk.)

I tell my students that I have been observing an uptick in anger. I tell them that I have been through a lot in my own life, and use the going-back-to-college example.

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Anger and sadness are basic feelings. Kids get that. Even younger kids can discuss the differences between being mad and sad.  Giving students permission and opportunities to express their sadness, and vulnerability is another part of it. Whether it be in their writing journals, during reading/writing conferences, during transition times, class discussions, etc.

Do you see this in your classroom? In your life?

How do you handle it? What is your approach?

Thanks for reading all the way to this point. And please feel free to create a dialogue below. 😉

 

Namaste,

Kirsten