Mrs. Maurer is not a saint.
I know, I know. I hope you were sitting down for that.
And here comes the final blow. We did not have a great day in kindergarten Friday.
Friday will go down in our little history book as an “ugly Friday”. I sincerely hope it is the only ugly day we have this year. But I have my doubts.
Even though we had some fun activities (painting, play dough, new critters in science center) mixed in with our weekly review work half my class did not want to work. Several students got into trouble for things that we have discussed since the first day of school. A couple of them thought of new ways to misbehave. Five had to write apologies to the art teacher for their behavior the day before. This is the reality of education. It’s not all about reading and writing and arithmetic. It’s also about behavior and motivation and application.
I have already bluntly told a few of my parents that their child can’t go to first grade without completing the work of kindergarten. Kindergarten is not merely a step in the process of education…it is the foundation. If students can’t work and learn and follow procedures now, they will not perform well next year when the work becomes even more complex and the work load is bigger. Just sitting at a desk and listening to information is not enough. At some point application is necessary. My niece took an online college exam this week that stated in the instructions: "This test is designed not to test your knowledge gained, but your ability to apply the knowledge. These questions will test your higher critical thinking skills." This is the true purpose of all learning- not just the acquisition of facts and figures, but the ability to use them.
So…yesterday was a frustrating day for me and I was not my usual patient self. Yes, even though I often seem loud and demanding and unyielding I am usually as patient as the next teacher about individual students having an “off” day when they don’t want to work or learn. But having eight of them doing so was a bit over the top of my patience scale! I had a serious talk with a couple of them because this is getting to be a pattern of behavior rather than a day here and there. I gave them my worst “Mrs. Maurer is very unhappy” face and my gruff “You really need to be doing your work” lecture. I wasn’t angry, but they sure thought I was. And I think it is a good lesson for them to see that I can be unhappy with their behavior, not hurt them, and start off the next day with the expectation that we will both be back to our best work and behavior. (Just as a side note: Anger is an emotion I usually have to “fake” because the real stuff makes me nauseous. I can work up to frustrated, annoyed, or indignant, but I usually save anger for serious adult confrontations, and I don’t often have those anymore with anyone.) I want my students to use the same practices with their peers. I want them to know that it is okay to be unhappy with the situation, feel the emotion and explain their side, even in anger, as long as they do so without hurting anyone, and they start over with a clean slate. And I am happy to report that there haven’t been any physical encounters in my room, even though some of my boys have had some serious disagreements.
How to handle bad situations is a great life lesson. That’s why I made my miscreants from art class write and deliver an apology. I told them “this is what we do when we have misbehaved and offended someone”. That is also why I will spend part of this weekend mulling over what I can do differently to motivate my most reluctant students. In any situation, especially one in my classroom, my actions also contribute to the outcome. As Dr. Phil says, “no matter how flat the pancake, it still has two sides”. Even if a student is 99% to blame for not working, I can still work on my 1% of the problem.
So…rest assured that even though Mrs. Maurer is not a saint, at least she knows it!