Ah, back to school. The flurry of paperwork and last-minute grouping or scheduling snafus. The scurrying to finalize plans and that sick anxious feeling in the gut that you're forgetting something vital. The constant checking to make sure your fly is up, that your shirt is tucked in, that you don't have food on your face.
I got to school at 6.30 as usual, and by 8.00 I was ready for the kids to arrive at 8.30. Confident, secure, well-planned, I sat down to fire off an email to my boss and spilled a cup of coffee down my new Van Heusen shirt and tie. After a few seconds of panic, however, I touched up with a wet paper towel and everything was dry and A-Ok fifteen minutes later.
The first two periods were 7th graders, the same kids I had last year as 6th graders. They were great, but surprised at how slowly I took things. I modeled how to use a magic marker. I modeled how to put a magic marker away. I made a student model how to use one, then we critiqued that student. Then I modeled how to use the pencil sharpener, how to push in a chair, how to get in a circle on the rug. Each thing we did was modeled two or three times and critiqued with warm and cool feedback. I was explicit about everything, and told them "we wasted too much time last year. I want you to know exactly how to do everything this year. We will spend a few weeks learning how the class works before we get to real class work."
I had a little push back on this during last period, when my new 6th graders were smart alecs and jerks. Well, not all of them--five out of 21. Vermicelli was snide and commented about everything. Keyontae was distracted and talkative. Deyshunconfused kept talking with Nacho and Brickhousa. I kept the five of them after class, and Vermicelli's dad happened to show up and wonder why his son was being detained. I let Vermicelli tell his dad why, and when his answer was unsatisfactory I filled in some forgotten details. I think the three young ladies were proud to have been kept after school. Power need? Love and Belonging need? A few more days and I'll work it out.