Monday, September 27, 2010

The Learning Curve

It takes a while for many students to get into the 'swing of things' at the beginning of the school year. Because my students are also transitioning into a new school (middle!), there are that many more adjustments to make. Gone are the days of recess, homeroom teachers, and walking in lines down to lunch, gym, etc. Throw in the fact that students have multiple teachers and classes a day, and it's easy to see why so many of my sixth graders struggle to used to life in middle school.

That said, it can be frustrating to wait for everybody to deal with their own unique learning curve - some students seem to have it down by day 2; others are still struggling here at the beginning of week 4 - while also accomplishing everything I'd like to accomplish in the classroom. While seemingly benign things like bringing the wrong notebook, forgetting a textbook, or leaving an assignment at home may not seem like much, the time students spend going back to their lockers can add up quickly, taking away from the learning that should go on in class. Because of this, I usually reach a "no mas" point after the first 3-4 weeks of school; students slowly get weaned off of going back to their lockers, and start to quickly learn the importance of using their assignment planner and keeping their materials organized.

Although I consider myself very understanding of and accommodating to every student's unique learning curve, 'tough-love' has to set in, for the good of the class and my own sanity.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cathers and Pitchers Reporting...

Amazing how many similarities can be drawn between the first days of school and spring training in Major League Baseball. In some ways, teachers coming back for our six workshop days is akin to pitchers and catchers reporting shortly before the rest of the team. The first day of school is essentially the full roster reporting for spring training, with the month of September - in many ways - plays out like baseball's spring training. Getting students acclimated to a new grade, school and surroundings takes a little bit of time, along with some brief reviewal of concepts to shake off the cobwebs.

Besides some of the procedural similarities, other common aspects of both spring training and the first days of school that have always struck me are emotions like hope, enthusiasm, & optimism. Just like every Major League team feels like they have a chance to compete for the pennant, new students (from our perspective) and new teachers (from the kids' perspective) brings the opportunity for new learning, achievement and experiences.

My goals every year are simple - sustain those emotions for students throughout the year...foster that hope, enthusiasm and optimism for learning each and every day, if possible. Second, to help them grow and achieve at as high a rate as possible. Like a good manager, this means putting kids in the best possible situations to learn, grow, and achieve all year long; coaxing the best effort out of them, and helping them see themselves in the best possible light.

That said, I suppose I'll keep the polyester pinstripe pants at home...