I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea.
Early in the school year it was always about getting into the rhythm of it. I would spend my summers writing, planning, hanging out with family. And then no matter how hard I tried to be prepared in advance, September always felt like I’d been shot of out a cannon with no flight plan.
The problem was that so much of what happened in teaching was unexpected. When working through issues, pros and cons lists never worked for me — they just seemed to muddy the situation. Routines were essential, and yet the best moments in my classroom always came when I was willing to break routine when something surprising came up that was an infinitely better “teachable moment” than anything in my plans and notes.
The older I get, the more I realize the launch of the school year isn’t like being shot out of a cannon — it’s more like a dive into the ocean. Nina Siegal explains it best:
A meditation teacher of mine once described life to me as a series of waves crashing along the shore, and we’re like people swimming in the ocean. Just when you think the water has calmed, another wave comes to crash over your head. If, every time it calms, you think, Ah, now I can relax forever, you’ll be disappointed when the waves crash. But if you spend your life preparing for the crashing of the waves, you’ll be in a constant state of stress. The key is to remember to ride the waves; to float in the moments when the waves aren’t crashing, and to take the waves as they come.
By a month into the school year, every teacher knows some of the waves she is facing. A defiant child whose parents never return phone calls. A more experienced colleague who challenges your reading workshop. A narrative writing unit that worked perfectly last year that is falling flat with this year’s students. And on the list goes. Even if you do break through with a phone call or heartfelt conversation or stellar minilesson, the problem isn’t fully resolved. You know it will keep returning in waves.
The Germans have a word to describe that feeling of riding the waves: gelassenheit. It translates roughly to letting something be as it is, and letting go of the constant urge to fix it. Classrooms are a lot like oceans — sometimes the waters are calm, and some days it’s so choppy, we wonder why we’re even swimming in it. The fall is all about finding a rhythm — not just because you don’t want to drown, but because you want to enjoy as much time as you can in the water.
This week we look at dealing with the choppy waters of challenging behaviors and management issues in classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Katherine Sokolowski advises teachers to ditch the search for the perfect management system, and instead focus on building relationships early in the school year:
Heather Rader works with a young teacher to establish a better management system:
Amy Wade shares strategies for teaching students to self-check and monitor their own behavior:
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Franki Sibberson realizes there are some bad days in literacy workshops that hold no great life lessons for teachers and students, and that is okay:
Mary Lee Hahn is a bit flummoxed when a parent asks about her management system at an open house. The experience sparks reflection on what makes a classroom community gel:
Justin Stygles wonders why a love of books doesn’t necessarily translate into a love of reading for his fifth and sixth graders:
Is bad behavior ever okay? Author Jennifer Richards Jacob asks a class of fourth graders who have read her novel Small as an Elephant in this week’s video:
Finally, we’ve posted the second video installment of Heather Rader’s lesson on teaching revision and editing skills in fifth grade. In this installment, the focus is on partner work:
That’s all for this week!