(56 hours down, 64 hours to go)
I realized something that made my day much, much easier. Skip ahead to hour 5 and 6. My 3rd graders (hour 5) really struggled last week. I was dealing with behavior pretty much the entire time. Ditto 4th graders. So today, they came in and I said something like:
I've been a teacher for 7 years. Last week was the hardest week I've ever had. I don't know why, but our whole school had a hard time with behavior, just like you did in my class. So, it wasn't just you. (and yes, I had their undivided attention by this point, they were totally zeroed in on my face). I'm going to work to make it easier for you to manage your behavior, and get a 4 (remember, this is the highest they can get for behavior) but you need to do something for me. When one or two or three kids are off task, you need to ignore them. I know its hard, but when you ignore them, I can put a check by their name, which may lead to a yellow slip. When you don't ignore them, it becomes a class issue and we lose points. I know ignoring is hard, but its what we need to do to get a 4. And if you get a 4 today, the 25 minutes of class we have tomorrow (there's an assembly cutting their hour short) will be entirely choice time.
Needless to say, both classes got a 4. This is only the third time this year I've given this group of third graders a 4. I will say this, though, both classes had a high number of absent students, which absolutely helped. And they were 100% on task with today's assigned activity (again easy, we did Dance Mat Typing which is really fun, and a part of my curriculum).
So my revelation: Its not a new revelation, but for some reason I forget, that some times I have to step back, ease up, and just make it easy for students to be successful, if only so that their morale increases enough for them to work. When the entire school is bonkers, it is not a good time for me to start a big research project. The end of winter is not a good time to start a big project. Kids are restless, pent-up, and just need a break (our Spring Break is still 5 weeks away).
As they left class, I asked if they could raise their hand if they tried to ignore someone today in class. Most of them raised their hand. I asked if it worked (holding up their star with the 4 on it). They emphatically asserted that it did.
And will we get to that big research project? Yep, we will. But I'm going to bide my time a bit, let them get familiar with what it feels like to be on task again.
Oh, and the rest of the day went pretty well, too.