8 days in

I have not posted in a while because life is busy and I am typically exhausted when I get home. I want to do better though. Even if no one reads this blog I want it to be a place where I can reflect on what I am learning, what I can do better, my successes and my challenges. I hope to find myself in June reflecting back on these early posts and celebrating how far I have come in teaching these students. I also hope I can celebrate how much they have learned.

Right now I am just taking it a day at a time. Literally. I plan a day’s lesson at a time. In the past I have always had a week’s worth of lesson planning completed by at least the Monday of that week. Now I am lucky if I complete the plan the night before. It’s hard. I am teaching academics that I am not used to teaching and mostly to first graders even though I thought I would have mostly kindergarteners. So I spend time looking up math and literacy activities that will engage the students and help them learn the concepts I am teaching. I find a lot of the formal curriculum confusing and not always that interesting. Perhaps I am reading it wrong. So, I am pulling from many different places and putting together lessons that I hope will engage my students.

On top of that I am easing into the Second Step curriculum and today I started with MindUp. I have also introduced my students to Maximo the monkey on GoNoodle who leads them in yoga. My early childhood autism class loved Maximo and I am amazed again as I watch what can be a very challenging group of students all standing with their hands at heart and breathing in with Maximo in preparation for the next position. I am incorporating community building, sensory and choice time into our schedule too and still trying to figure out how to work science and social studies in (and what I am supposed to be teaching in those areas).

I have had extremely hard days like this past Monday when I don’t think I taught anything and my students were fighting, climbing furniture, throwing toys and chairs, and running in the halls. I felt defeated at the end of Monday and I wondered if I had made the right choice in taking this position. I wondered if I would ever reach my students. As the week has progressed things have improved and today has been the best day so far. Of course, it is only Wednesday and our day still had fighting in it but no one climbed the furniture! 🙂 It is the little things I celebrate. One of the strategies I think has helped is posting a visual schedule on our Promethean board. The kids seem to reference it often and understand that first they need to complete their work in math or literacy before they can have choice time. Another thing that is helping is that I am not letting any of them off the hook. If they run out of my room or have challenging behaviors within my room they are still expected to complete the entire lesson they have missed while they were upset. Sometimes that means missing out on choice time and maybe some of recess if they haven’t finished. I do not believe in taking recess away but I also feel like a shortened recess is a natural consequence of not having done your work earlier.

I have also been trying to follow the point system the school has set up. I am not a fan of extrinsic motivation but the points and levels system is what we are to use. I am not using the levels. I do not like the idea of a public posting of how good or badly you did today. I am using the points. I give kids points when they are being safe, respectful or responsible. Sometimes though I just tell them they are doing a great job and I don’t always give a point. I do not want them to think they always deserve points and that is all they should get for doing a good job. Currently the point system is working for me to a degree and I am trying to teach social and emotional lessons that will hopefully take the place of these points. Some good reading about extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation is Alfie Kohn’s Punished By Rewards.  Perhaps I should read it again…after I read all of the other books I am reading for teaching this class!

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