Thursday, November 1, 2012

Deep Breaths

I apologize for not having more posts lately. Although, I've taken lots of pictures and I could blame our network for being down or slow, I have felt extremely overwhelmed.

Charlotte and Henry, married elder mentors in my class.
When I want to complain or think negatively, I've been working on saying nothing at all-- a skill I've been trying to teach to this new class. However, I might take the next couple minutes to get a few things off my chest. My seemingly never-ending patience has started to run thinner in the last couple weeks and my stress level has been rising. My class has most likely had more character education lessons than any other class on the tundra within the first couple months.

I feel like a computer malfunctioning. I have repeated so many times, "Please listen the first time." and
"When I start talking, what should your voice do?" and
"How would you feel if __________ called you a __________ and made fun of the way you ________________?"
"Please think before you say something."
"What might be a better way to solve this situation?"
"Next time you're upset, what could you do next time instead of punching/hitting/shoving/shutting-down/name-calling/knocking your desk over/ripping your paper up/etc.?"
"STOP. Think about what just happened. What can we do now?"
"Okay, so you made a bad choice. Now, would it be a good idea to make another poor choice and make it worse, or would it be a good idea to make a good choice now and try fix it."
"Excuse me. I hear people who are not being respectful listeners. When someone is talking, what should we do?"
"Why are people up? Did I finish my directions? Did I say you can start? Sit back in your seats."
"Oh _______, I'm sorry but I have to put your clip down for that. You know the rules."

So, it sounds like I never use positive reinforcement or any comments related to content areas, but I get around to that, too. And sometimes I just let them know, "If you are wondering why I have helped two other students, even though you've had your hand raised it's because sometimes I purposefully ignore bad behavior."

It's hard when behavior and academics are so interwoven and linked. Low-self esteem from large percentages of absences in their schooling (some have been over 50 days absent per school year), the need for control or power, frustration, the inability to decode words, lack of reading comprehension and vocabulary, and more, are all reasons why some of the students act out.

However, with all that being said, I do love my job. I have seen students who were labeled one of the "bad kids" by classmates who have improved significantly. From a group of students who showed practically no leadership skills, almost all have some form now, and know how to utilize it to benefit everyone around them. Their academic confidence is increasing as they complete more and more tasks.

Through allowing them to create their own rules and reward systems, they have created a sense of ownership. They have built community within small groups and work to earn group points. Individually they have the clip chart system for behavior. Each day they get to place a sticker on the chart if they were on "green" at the end of the day. Stickers equal five minutes of computer time each week. As a whole group, the class has the option to work hard lining up, or doing whole group activities to earn animals. Any staff member who compliments the class results in five plastic "animals" which go to fill up a jar. A full jar of animals equals a class party. Reward systems work well and are usually worth the work. However, I'm a little out of practice because my class last year "outgrew" them in a way. We had a very different working relationship and understanding within our class as a whole since I had looped with them.

Recently, we reached the end of the quarter and I had many positive parent teacher conferences. Many of my students are of families that I have yet to get to know, so I've enjoyed meeting and talking with all of them.

However, there are many situations that I have had lately that I cannot discuss that leave me speechless.

 Let's just say that due to my unique class, this year has proven to be by far an extreme challenge which will do nothing less but strengthen my career. It's a good thing I enjoy a challenge and truly love each and every student so much. They are a very special group of students and I am blessed to learn from them.

Pumpkin Carving

A halloween party at the pilot house inspired me to carve Mr. Pilot Pumpkin.