So far this year, I have something that teachers dream of having: well-behaved students who are interested in learning. They have done well on the assignments I’ve given. They do their homework. They are kind, to each other and to me. I have high hopes and I sense that they do too.
It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve just started my tenth year at MS 145 in the Bronx, with sixth graders. Prior to that, I spent three years at the now-defunct IS 147, also in the Bronx. Fortunately, I am not superstitious about the number thirteen. I love to read and write, so need I mention that I teach English? Ironically, I’d intended to teach at the high school level, but discovered that I loved working with middle school kids.
Maybe I shouldn’t even write about my good fortune for fear that one day very soon, I’ll find that it was all in my head. I’ve been enjoying teaching a lot and I look forward to each day. I am wiped out at the end of the day, but it’s an accomplished kind of tired. The kids have been so easy to work with, which means that I’m not investing as much energy as I did last year trying to combat bad behavior and motivate the students. But I am spending more time planning, trying to make lessons more hands-on and trying to maximize every minute.
I’ve also been trying to rethink my approach to classroom management. Upon reflection, I realized that I was a control freak last year and wasted too much time on trivial things. This year, I’ve been reminding myself that passing notes and sneaking candy does not make a child evil. I’m not letting these things go, but I take a deep breath before I say anything. So far, the kinder, gentler approach seems to be working, but it helps to have kids who are more receptive to rules and order. That was not the case last year, but I’ve decided not to focus on the past.
And so I hope to embrace the challenges that this year will inevitably bring. From time to time I’ll be sharing these challenges here on GothamSchools, and I hope you’ll follow along.