In this entry I go back and review my progress on the 7 things that I identified as needing attention in my classroom from my Tuesday – I Start Teaching blog from when I first returned to teaching in October 2009.

  1. The classroom does not have a flow to it, it was a bit scattered.
    This goes along with number 1 above and while the room is 100% better than it was, I am still not satisfied with things.  I am not a fan of the modular 3 student to a table setup, I would rather have a 2 student to a table setup, I find that there are less problems.  Also they are easier to reconfigure. I did change the location of my desk and removed extra tables and desks that were unnecessary and found a  table that I can use as a center island for the LCD project and my Laptop.  I don’t sit at my desk very much during a class for the most part, which I use more as a this and that station than anything else.
  2. The present seating arrangement was conducive to interruptions and distractions.We have tried several different configurations for the classroom and while there is no one setup that does what I want…to put the students who are distractions out of the line of sight of the the other students and yet still allow for easy conversational flow.  Things are better, but with the current equipment in my classroom this is just the best that I can do for now.   

  3. The students were showing low levels of respect for each other and the adults in the room.This was a tough nut to crack, because there seemed to be such a culture of disrespect or lack of respect in the classrooms that I inherited. This continues to rear its ugly head from time to time. We have worked extremely hard on this and while it is a lot better than it was initially, it still is not to the level where I want it.  We keep role modeling respect and show that it goes both ways, not just from the student to the adults.  My assistant says that we have come miles compared to where it had been, but, still I am not completely happy with our progress in this area.
  4. There was a lack of documentation of student behavior in the classroom.I tried several different rubrics, methods of documenting behaviors in the classroom and found that none really worked effectively in these classrooms.  The best way I found was to keep a comments section on my weekly Spreadsheet in Google Docs that I use before putting grades into Infinite Campus.  I was used to a much higher level of documentation as was required at my previous school.  I have found that public schools do not require that level of record keeping and as I gained more experience, I learned what the expectations were and reduced what I attempted to do in this area. Instead I focused more on attempting to establish positive relationships with the students, which reduced behaviors much more than any behavior rubric.
  5. The majority of my students are very hyper-active males.Okay the majority of my students are still very hyper-active males – that is cool and while not easy, has turned out to be not all that big of a deal to me over the last few months. Yes they are hyper, yes they are distractable, and yes they are all great kids.  There is not one student in my classes that I don’t really like having in my classes.  Sometimes it is a lot easier when one or two are not around, but I still like them.  I just do not like what they do sometimes, especially when it is something that is done to purposely annoy my assistant or myself. It comes back to working to the students strengths and providing scheduled breaks during my 90 minute periods instead of trying to go for 90 straight minutes, plus that word Respect seems to go a long ways here as well.
  6. That all students have been provided Macs and that they are being under-utilized.Initially I was very resistant to using my issued Mac.  However, that is what my students have to use and I couldn’t help them with the Mac’s idosyncracies especially when I was using my PC in class.  This weighed heavily on my mind, so in December I accepted the challenge of using the Mac instead of my PC and started using the issued MLTI Mac more and more.  Then finally at the end of December I went out and purchased a MacBook Pro for myself.  It was the only way that I would really learn the Mac.  I wouldn’t be limited by what I could do on the MLTI Macs, if I had my own to “play” with and that way I could learn better from the students things I needed to know about a Mac.  We have used a lot more of the Mac’s Software and initiated using Google Docs extensively in the classroom since then.  I think we did pretty good on using the Macs for more than just a substitute for Pen & Ink.  I guess in a kind of backhanded compliment many students and some staff are starting to come to me for how to do stuff on their Mac.

    Side note: I now love my Mac and don’t plan to go back to a PC anytime soon.
  7. That even the student(s) that misbehave the most are redirectable, most of the time.This was the biggest difference from my previous teaching experience, the students are mostly re-directable and not verbally or physically aggressive.  It took me a few months to figure out the school’s behavior/consequence system that really exists vs the behavior management system that I was used to.  For all of my experience in Behavior Management, I felt rather lost at first with my initial attempts to modify behaviors without the school-wide behavior system that I was used to having in place. 

    I admit that I floundered that first month or so and was frustrated because there was no clear cut behavior system that I could quickly figure out or use to “make” the students behave.  The secret as I discovered was that public schools rely more on creating relationships between students and teachers to manage behaviors, than relying on a formal behavior management program.  I found that these positive relationships go a lot further in minimizing negative behaviors than any behavior management system ever did and is a lot more related to real life.  It was a definitive learning experience for me and my classes are much better now that I have learned it.

    I also did rely a great deal on the school’s behavior program supervisor to learn the public school’s system and incorporated many of his suggestions into what needed to happen in my classroom.  He definitely made my transition much easier.
For the most part my classrooms are a place where “learning is messy”, in fact I have that sign up so it is the first thing you see as you walk in my room. 
In spite of what some might look in and see as a less than ideal classroom (i.e. everyone sitting around quietly and attentively).  Learning does take place in my classroom and we even have fun. 
Overall, I think that I have accomplished positive progress in all 7 of the areas I identified back in October, that I initially saw needing work.
In Part 4 I plan to look at other things that I have accomplished this year beyond these 7 areas.
Have you made a difference today?  How?

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