Are there things in your classroom that drive you crazy? Are any of them systems you put into place?
The second question may sound silly, but it’s worth asking yourself. Sometimes we design systems that look good on paper. Then the students arrive and the arrangements don’t work the way we imagined. Many times I’ve blamed my students when I should have tweaked my program or retaught my expectations. This is true of systems at school or at home.
For example, let’s just say that this morning I walked into the kitchen and found my daughter’s breakfast dishes in the sink again. Dirty dishes left two feet from the dishwasher drive me crazy. Has she not learned that the dishes must be in the dishwasher to become clean? I should have called her over to the sink, stated my confidence in her motor skills and coached her through rinsing and loading the dishes. But instead I did them myself because it was, well, easier. The problem is that the same thing will occur again tomorrow morning. We can expect the same result in our classrooms when we see a problem and then do what the students should be doing rather than tweak the system or re-teach the kids. This is a formula for driving ourselves crazy.
If you can identify something that’s driving you wild, consider how you can tweak it. In your classroom, a tweak might involve assigning new seats, changing the time of a given activity, creating classroom jobs, or rethinking dismissal routines. Maybe all that’s needed is re-teaching what a specific process should look and sound like.
In the long run, everyone wins when our systems work well. There are so many things in the world we cannot control. Don’t allow yourself to be driven crazy by the things you can.
When we’re adults, we tend to define ourselves by our professions. “I’m a nurse.” “I’m an insurance agent.” “I’m a teacher.” But what about when we were children? I never recall saying, “I’m a student” unless it was to get a discount at the movies. But as children we are defined by how adults see us. We believe what we are repeatedly told.
Of course, there are students we can’t say enough good things about like the kids who are hard-working, helpful, or obedient. But then there are others who are bossy, inconsiderate, and loud. It can be quite a challenge to turn their negative actions and unusual quirks into positive words. For them we must be extra intentional.
And that leads to one more way you are important. Every day you help students realize who they are.
Take Victor who regularly makes sarcastic remarks. While the comments are irritating, his strength is getting people to laugh. Maybe someday he’ll be a comedian. Encourage him to write riddles and jokes. Give him a platform for sharing them (after you’ve read and approved them first). Tell him, “You are funny, and you have a talent for helping people see the humor in situations.”
Or take Bella who is on-task but never speaks aloud in class. Maybe she’s a deep thinker. Give her a notebook and ask her to journal her thoughts. Tell her you’ve noticed that she thinks before she speaks and has tremendous self-control. Tell her how much the world needs that and ask her to share some of it with the class.
Or consider Tyrique, whose bossiness gets him into trouble several times a day. He may be a natural leader. Give him something to supervise so he can put his leadership skills to good use. Then tell him what a fine job he did.
Sometimes we fall prey to defining students by their actions and habits rather than by their talents. It takes courage to compliment the child who constantly interrupts, the one who rarely speaks or the kid who seems to know it all. But those kids need to hear your definitions of them most of all. What words do you hear yourself using to describe them? Who will you define today?