Hello! I’m Emily, a 2015 ECE graduate. Two weeks after walking across the stage and receiving my diploma, my husband and I packed up and moved to Tennessee. After submitting over 40 applications for schools near and far, I received an interview for a third grade interim position at an amazing school. The day after my interview, I received the call that the job was mine! There was so much to do- planning, arranging, preparing my classroom- I was ready to start my teaching career!
At this school, third grade was co-taught. One teacher taught math and science, and the other taught language arts and social studies. I had my homeroom class in the morning, and then we switched after lunch, and I got my next set of kiddos. Within the first month or so of school, I was able to recognize the quirks, the strengths, and the problem areas of my two classes as a whole. Though I delivered the content by following the exact same lesson plan and doing it twice in a row- I was amazed at the differences in how the lessons were received. One class might speed through our mini-lesson with complete engagement, showing respect and enthusiasm, while the other class would look at me like I was losing my mind for being excited about the multiplication tables, and there would be almost no engagement or respect.
This led me to do some research- I needed to build classroom community in one class, eliminate chattiness in another, and help my students to be intrinsically motivated!
I went straight to Pinterest and began my hunt- that’s when I saw some titles like this;
“3 ways to have the perfect first day of school,”
“7 things you MUST do in the first week of the school year,”
“10 classroom procedures that will save your sanity,” (Teach 4 The Heart Blog, 8/3/10)
and I stopped. “But wait,” I thought…“I didn’t do all seven of those things in the first week of school.” I kept looking…
“How to calm a disruptive class,”
“Tired of discipline problems? Learn how to prevent them.”
“Oh man”- I have yet to play classical music to calm and inspire my kids, I’ve only introduced one attention getter, we haven’t had a chance to do our classroom jobs, and I haven’t even started the (school-wide) ticket incentive! I grabbed a notebook and a pencil. For hours I laid in bed by the glow of my laptop writing down ideas and “teacher hacks” for how to make my first teaching position easier. I had two pages full of ideas written down that I found from articles written by seasoned teachers.
- Never talk over students
- Never respond to a student who doesn’t raise their hand- it will make the other students think that it is acceptable
- NO clutter- classroom clutter shows a lack of pride and can result in less than desirable behavior from students
- “Quiet spray” use an empty spray bottle with air to calm the class when it’s time to work
- TO BUY:
- Plastic cups to place on desks to remind me when they are gone for speech, RTI, etc.
- Individual pencil boxes to hold tissues, sanitizer, extra erasers, etc. (to avoid disruption from students getting up during instructional time)
- Clothespins to put on papers once they are handed in to see who has not submitted their work without having to sort through them
- Washi tape to put around pencils to know which ones need returned
The list continued…
The following Monday, I came in ready to rock- I spent the whole weekend preparing and cleaning our classroom. I had new attention getters. I got clothespins ready to quickly spot missing work. I had a PowerPoint presentation and a science experiment that was going to blow their minds. The bell rang, and the kids were in their seats- I had a ticket box in my hand (to follow the school incentive), the clip chart was ready, and I began. I introduced new procedures. We discussed how to use the new materials. I modeled it–the kids practiced. I was feeling so proud. By about Wednesday, my mind was spinning. I began to notice the effects that these “hacks” that were supposed to be making teaching easier, in fact did the opposite! While these are all great ideas that work for many teachers, I saw that my students were more worried about where their clip was and what color their extra eraser was than they were about our content! I saw that I, myself, was so worried about putting the cup on the desk of the child who had left, and making sure I sprayed the quiet spray, and handed out the tickets for great behavior that I found myself missing opportunities to slow down and notice the moments I had with the little people in my classroom.
I began to weed out some of these practices and realized that most of these things added more to my to-do list and less to the value of teaching my students. I was taking conversations and opportunities for learning right out of my classroom! They no longer had to learn about appropriate times to get up to get a Kleenex or how to kindly ask a friend to borrow an eraser when theirs was gone.
In this day and age, we are bombarded by information whether we want it or not. Though sometimes helpful, this information can cloud our ability to use the discernment and intuition that we, as teachers, must possess.
Using what we know about development and best practice is so much more beneficial, and when we focus on those things, the classroom management piece becomes less complex. Do your research, find methods, find ideas, find theories that you believe in and hold onto those- implement them, teach them, and discuss them with other educators. The most important thing we can do as teachers is to pay attention to our kids. Pinterest is a wonderful resource, but it is not the whole picture. The lists aren’t all inclusive–there aren’t just ten classroom procedures that will save your sanity! Each teacher is different. Each classroom is different, and not all stressors are the same!
This year I have learned so much about trusting my instinct and letting my intuition guide me as I have taken on this journey as a first year teacher. I am gaining insight on what I believe my own theories on classroom management are, and I am learning more about myself as a teacher every day. I am currently teaching PreK at a private school in Tennessee, and I am embracing these teachable moments every day. You are the one who knows your classroom and your students best, so use that to your advantage! Trust your instincts, teachers- you are doing your best!
This post is brought to you by Emily Guth ’15. Emily is an ISU ECE teacher graduate who now teaches PreK in Tennessee. This is her first post for ISU ECE Teacher Talk, and we’re so glad to have her!