It has been a rough week. I know that our readers come to this blog looking for passion, positivity and inspiration about their classroom community. But, for the past three days, I’ve left school feeling frustrated and discouraged. Rarely do I wake up and feel worried about going to work. But, this week is wearing me down.
First and foremost, it’s state testing season in Ohio. Enough said.
Secondly, there has been a drastic increase of behavior issues in the classroom, in the cafeteria, on the playground and on the bus. It seems like students are being more disrespectful to each other and to me. The quality of work is diminishing. The enthusiasm for reading and writing seems dormant. When I think about how much time and energy my students and I have put into building our a solid classroom culture, it frustrates me to think that I see it starting to crack. I’ve spent a great deal of time this week asking myself…why?
Maybe some of these fifth graders are starting to realize this is the end of elementary school.
Maybe they are frightened and intimidated by the unknown bigness of middle school, unsure of what awaits them.
Maybe they sense how close sixth grade is and can’t wait to get there.
Maybe some are getting a surge of hormones and they don’t know how to handle it.
Maybe they are apprehensive about the summer where there will be less structured days at home.
Maybe they are worried about not being guaranteed a breakfast and lunch every day like they get during the school year.
Maybe they’d rather be outside or exploring sound and light energy projects instead of sitting for two hours taking a state test.
Maybe they are worried about the lock down drills that seem just a little bit more real these days.
Maybe they’re worried about what their families’ future in this country will be like.
Maybe some feel “targeted” and treated unfairly by me or other teachers.
As teachers, we all have our rough days, rough weeks and maybe even a rough year. What this week is teaching me is the importance of having a strong classroom culture. With the increase of behavior problems and struggles, I am thankful that we have a solid culture that we can fall back on. We have our mission statement that we created together which reinforces our purpose for coming to school, even for the last two months. We have our five essential agreements, which act as our “bill of rights” and outline how we treat each other. We have our collaboration norms anchor chart that we created together in September.
While we are experiencing some challenges lately, nobody can deny the expectations and structure or the classroom. When we forget how to act towards one another, we must return to our community mindset that we’ve spent seven months establishing. I am starting each morning by reviewing our essential agreements and mission statement. These tools provide a common language–a safety net to catch us if we stumble. While we may fall or stumble, our classroom culture will prevent us from getting hurt further.
The power of this website Classroom Communities is that it reinforces just how necessary it is for teachers and students to work at strengthening their classroom culture on a daily basis. We must put the time in at the beginning of the year to set up our classroom norms. We must practice how to talk to each other. We must train ourselves how to collaborate. We must learn from each other. We must push through the tough times. We must work and fight for our classroom community so we have something to catch us when we fall.