Year Two, Week 8: Planning matters.

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(Eighth grade AVID students engrossed in a “silent Jigsaw puzzle competition” as a “Fun Friday” teambuilder activity. Happy campers, I might add…)

I can’t believe the first quarter is almost over. It ends in one more week. Recently the subject of discipline has come up in some teacher meetings, with some colleagues questioning the request by administration to send a referral with any student who is sent to the office, or to send it by the end of the period. People have bucked this request, saying they don’t have time to write six referrals as they are trying to teach, each of them saying “disrespectful.” I learned yesterday that a couple of colleagues have sent 30 referrals so far this year. I have found these revelations shocking and very discomforting. I don’t send referrals unless something huge has happened like last year when H. went after R. with a large pair of scissors. That seemed justified and I needed her to be out of the classroom. For good. Apart from those big events, it feels like I’m giving my power away when I send a student to the office. And if they are too busy to deal with my student and his or her issue promptly, then I have given away any chance of things getting better between that student and I beause my consequences mean nothing other than a break from the chaos.

I think another thing that has shocked me about the referrals is that it is so early in the year. I feel like I’m just getting started, just getting to know my students. I am just getting ready to make the first phone calls home for the year, and until I’ve done that I can’t in good conscience send them off to the office. Am I thinking backwards? Maybe, maybe not.

I will admit my classroom is pretty raucous at times. I am not always in complete control of things, but I credit the level of noise and on or off-taskness to my own quality of lesson planning. When my lessons are tightly planned, one thing transitioning into another, my classes are so much smoother. When I get loose so does my classroom. No big revelation there. So why, you might ask don’t I plan better to avoid so much of the annoyance? Good question. I like my weekends too much, my new computer too much? Yes and yes. But I also am a little frozen mentally right now. All the things I know to do, that I’m good at doing seem to be locked away for some reason that evades me. My goal is to access that part of my mind that used to be sharper than it is now. Better planning, better follow through.

Interesting enough, the last two times the Principal or another teacher have come into my room the kids were completely quiet and on task. In one instance they were writing, answering a survey I’d made up about what their families had taught them about how to behave in the world. The second time they were doing silent reading on a Friday. (Not everyone was actually reading, I’m sure but it was quiet and most of them were reading. I hope it catches on over time.) Notice that neither of those activities were standards based or part of the adopted curriculum? Yeah. Go figure. Anyway, I am dedicating myself to better lesson planning from here on out. Cause it matters. It really does, and I’m determined to actually plan something workable that uses that oh so hard, oh so disconnected from the real life of my students’ real lives adopted curriculum. I am. I will, and I’ll keep you posted on how it’s working. I will.

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