Slice of Life: Not Yet Grounded

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

So much of the start of the year is about finding out more about who our students are as learners, as writers. I’m still figuring that out, particularly now that I have a short story project underway that involves multiple steps (planning, drafting, etc.) and involves more critical thinking and effort that anything we have yet done this year. One of my four classes has quite a mix of struggling writers and behavior issues that stems from the grouping of students, and some of these students already seem disinterested in what we are doing (five weeks into the school year).

I lost my patience in class a bit with one of the students yesterday who was being disruptive, even after some warnings and moving to another part of the room. I knew in the very moment it was happening that calling them out was the wrong approach. This student clearly needs a more personal approach, and other ways to engage, and I am going to make time to today for a one-on-one chat, to both apologize for my approach and to try to brainstorm ways to deal with that behavior if it comes again. That doesn’t mean the disruption is acceptable. But I could have figured out a better way to address it.

Much of the behavior issue stems from a resistance to writing (so, it is going to be a long year, since writing is a key feature of everything we do) and struggles with learning. The behavior is clearly a way to divert attention, to provide a front for peers. I get it. I’m going to have to work through all that cloud to get to the real kid in there and help them make gains with their writing.

It’s on me, as much as on them.

I wish every class were this well-oiled machine, where everything flows perfectly. It’s not. Almost never is. And that’s one of the most challenging elements of being an educator — the unpredictability of kids and their lives, and how what happens in expected moments of the classroom changes the dynamics of the space  — and one of the things that makes being a teacher so rewarding when breakthroughs happen.

Peace (finding my ground),

  1. I’m sure we can all relate to those times when we lose our patience or don’t handle things the way we would prefer. I have also experienced that “in the moment” knowledge that my action or reaction was not the best way to proceed–like maybe yesterday. Dealing with ongoing disruption is exhausting. I admire your honest reflection and your determination to revisit your student and initiate a conversation about how to move forward. Here’s hoping today’s better!

  2. Your post reminds me of my resource room days, when finding the function behind the behavior was an ongoing daily process. Kudos for recognizing the needs of this student and meeting them anew today. Good luck in your endeavors!

  3. As always, keeping it real! There is so much to consider and you are thoroughly reflective. I am sure your next day with this group will be better, but also sure you will have more hard days! You are right, building that community is work!

  4. Peace Kevin! I am sending good vibes out to you and your writing buddies. I know that this is a tough time of the year. I remember last year, my first teaching IB and 7&8, really struggling this time of the year all the way through October. At the end of the year, it was so hard to believe that we had the isssues we did in the beginning cause all is well in May. Then the first quarter rolls around and boom! The tough work begins. So I keep my manta in my head: I am sowing seeds I may never see grow but they will grow indeed. Yet. Students aren’t doing _____ yet, but it will happen soon!


  5. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve lost my temper. But in 15 years of teaching I have definitely learned to apologize for it and brain storm ways to do it better next time. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

  6. I agree with the previous commenter that your approach to this situation is very admirable. You realized that you did not handle the situation as best as possible, made apologies to the student (I hope that was appreciated), and are working to help the students be better writers. You deserve much praise for working so hard to “get it right” for your students. Thank you. I hope your hard work begins to pay off. I think your straightforward, honest, one to one approach sounds wonderful. Draining, but wonderful.

  7. We’ve all been in that moment of having words come out our mouths while knowing we’re taking the wrong approach. Sometimes the narratives about teaching get in the way of our knowing no classroom runs smoothly all the time.

    In my room I try to talk honestly about my own love of reading and writing and desire to help students experience this joy, but I’ve had to eat my share of crow, too, when I mishandle a situation.

    Wishing you good days henceforth.

    • Thank you, Glenda. There are times when I feel as if my blogging is all about celebrating (which is fine) but doesn’t always capture the crazy truth of our teaching lives. I like that Slice of Life sometimes gives me an avenue …

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