This school year is about over and I am more ready for summer than usual.
Let me explain.
At my school I have something of a reputation for being “structured.” What that really means is that I have effective classroom management techniques. I keep things under control.
But that can be a mixed blessing. As any teacher knows, kids are not created equal. Some want nothing better than to listen intently to everything you say, follow every rule and work hard on every assignment. Some are the exact opposite and most are somewhere in the middle.
Usually elementary teachers work pretty hard to make sure classes are balanced in terms of boys and girls, kids in special ed., English language learners and kids who are, shall we say, “high maintenance learners” or HMLs.
Most years I can expect three to five HMLs. This year I had ten.
It was better, I guess, that they were all in my class; I kept everything under control without sending anyone to the office and no one got hurt.
But I learned three important lessons.
First of all, classroom management is everything. I knew this already. You knew this already. We knew this after our first day of student teaching when we were eaten alive by normal-looking children. But we forget it sometimes. And then we remember it. Nothing good happens in a classroom that isn’t well-managed. And classroom management is a dynamic process. It has to rise and fall in intensity in response to the circumstances. This year I focused more on classroom management than I have in a long time. I worked hard on it and I was successful. I’m thankful for that, but I’m also exhausted.
Secondly, balanced classrooms are important. Maybe some of us can handle a few more HMLs than others, but that doesn’t mean we should. There’s no question that the learning in my classroom was impacted this year. There were field trips we didn’t take, discussions that didn’t go very deep and topics we simply didn’t explore, simply due to the nature of my students. That’s unfair. Furthermore, I’m not always with my students. Sometimes they went to lunch, or recess, or music, or PE, or the library. And when they did, trouble ensued. And sometimes I was out of the building altogether, resulting in sub notes that you wouldn’t believe, including three from subs who told me they never wanted to come back.
And finally, I still love this job. A lot. Even when it’s tough. I love the planning, the pace and especially the kids. Not all of them all the time, but some of them all the time and all of them some of the time. This was one of those years I’ll remember. One of those years that made me better.
This was a year.