Starting to fall into the routine a bit, despite earthquakes, hurricanes, and now the remnants of Lee soaking the shit out of the Mid-Atlantic. I'm back to waking up at 5:00am without the alarm clock, and cursing because the alarm is set for 6:00am, and then I get to school at 6:15 or 6:30 and I work my ass off for two hours and I'm barely ready for the kids at 8:30 and then I'm there after school and I'm like "When will I get this stuff done?"I'm moving painfully slowly with the kids, being super intentional about everything, modeling everything, then having a student model it, then asking the class to critique the student model, then having another student model based on the critique, then critiquing that. And then every time the class flubs something we gather on the rug to debrief and discuss and reflect while discussing our NORMS and our Habits of Work and Learning and the kind of community we hope to create in my room. So, not much content yet, just basic stuff like a few parts of speech--but that's fine. We built in 3.5 weeks of open calendar space for this kind of laborious structure building before the true academic adventure begins. I'm getting to know new kids, and getting another chance to re-format the students I had last year. They're going a bit bonkers with me because I'll pull out a magic marker and say "What is this? What are its appropriate uses? Where do I put the cap while I'm working to prevent it becoming lost? How should I hold it? Where does it live in the room? How do we put it away? What are some inappropriate uses for this marker? What problems did we encounter last year? What should I do if I want to use red and La'Clark is using red? Can somebody model what might happen in that situation? Let's critique their model." And then the kids get antsy and say "Dag, Mr. G we know how to use a damn marker 'n shit" and I reply "Obviously you don't, because last year you were throwing them, leaving the caps off, mixing them up between sets, fighting over them, stealing them, losing them, losing the caps," etc. And they accept the truth of that, and we slowly, painfully, go through this explicit teaching process with each procedure and tool and material. And then I call them to the carpet and say "Here's what I heard. I heard a student say "shit" in my class. Was this student following the NORMs? Which NORMs were not followed? How can we build a compassionate, respectful, and emotionally safe community if students swear at the teacher," and then we discuss, debrief, role play, reflect, etc.
I'm kind of liking this approach; I've never done it this way before. I'm hoping it nips a lot of management problems in the bud now so I won't have to keep re-directing behaviors once we get into the academic shit later.And speaking of academic shit: we're teaching Nazism/WW2/Holocaust, which is terribly exciting for a guy like me who's a language arts teacher who loves history. But we're finding it terribly difficult to frame and organize this material for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We don't follow the school system curriculum, we create our own from scratch. This is a blessing and curse, because we really get to focus on what we choose and what we want the kids to know and understand, but it's a dreadful burden to figure out how to whittle down something so multifaceted and complex into a couple of months. But it's also an interesting challenge, and I'm fortunate to have on my team thoughtful and creative people whose strengths and weaknesses compliment my own.We'll get it done!