At the beginning of school last year my approach to my job was "Middle school students can accomplish more than people expect them to and if you just hold them to a higher standard and explain things well they can complete any task." That was my attitude. Not quite sure where it came from (maybe because my top strength according to Gallup is Achieve). That attitude combine with the demanding, intense, and negative voices around me telling me to command the respect of my students and be strict led to a rather disastrous beginning to last year. Adding to it also was the constant feeling of being completely overwhelmed. The whole beginning of last year felt like and remains in my memory as a blur of demands put upon me by myself.
In comparison, these last few days have been wonderful. No problems, no reason to yell, no frustration with students, no throwing, and no animal noises resulting in my room becoming a zoo. It is Day 4 of teaching and I know all first names and about half of students' last names. I know more about my students now than I did at the end of September last year. I have taken the time to enter the year by getting to know my students and spending much more time building community and reinforcing that I want to have a positive relationship with them. I have intentionally had good conversations and very positive interactions with all students who have a history of being disruptive or violent. I surveyed my students and their parents and my aide helped me organize them all into a binder, so I have 200 pieces of data on who my kids are and what makes them tick. Today I already had students turning in BeDe cards early. They are awesome. Tomorrow I will have 100 4"x6" pieces of art to hang on my wall. This year at open house I will know exactly whose parents I am talking to. And my SmartBoard and I are bonding wonderfully.
I am pretty sure my first class of the day is willing to do anything I ask them to. It is a nice way to start the day. My students just finished their Hopes and Dreams for the year. I have 100 sincere desires to be better, do better, live better, play better, and be prepared for the road ahead. As Barbara says, I hold hope for them. Some of their hopes are so fragile because they are already tired in life. Some of my students are one fight, one F, one negative comment, or one loss away from crumbling. But we are off to a great start. They are smiling as I smile at them and believing in themselves, some tentatively but they are. I know we will have our days in the 175 that are left, but I am proud and excited to start this way with the class they warned us was challenging.
Last year there were times I felt like I had turned my back on the teacher I had always wanted to be. I felt I had absorbed all the monstrous qualities displayed around me. But I think the summer did me good because this year I feel like I am well on my way to creating the classroom I have always envisioned -- the classroom that really reflects my philosophy of education.