I am on a cloud right now. Today I received two affirmations at work, which made me feel that all of my hard work has finally been noticed and is paying off. Earlier this week I was informally observed by administration, and they complimented me on my strong classroom management. I was floored by this because classroom management was one of the areas I struggled with the most since from the very beginning of the school year.
Working at an inner city school has not been easy, especially for my first year. Behavioral problems made it very difficult to teach. I spent most of my time for the first half of the year breaking up fights, hiding laboratory equipment from students to prevent unsafe situations, and wondering if I had enough courage to stay for the rest of the year. I cried a lot, and yes I am ashamed to admit, I was a screamer. I was lost, had no experienced mentors to turn to, and had to deal with many things on my own.
Things began to change when I began to reach out to students and build relationships. We had Friday lunch dates, I attended students’ after school events, and I even choreographed and performed with my students in a school pep rally. Most students still fought, most students still didn’t do their work, but at least it was no longer a you vs us situation. We were a class, and we were beginning to look out for each other. Things were expedited with the change in administration and policies, and the staff began to receive more formal training on classroom behavior management.
Small changes like writing detailed scripts, planning out procedures and systems, and creating a list of go-to things to say and do in different scenarios have really made a drastic difference in my classroom management. I don’t scream anymore; in fact, my body language says it all for me now. For the first time in months, I can actually teach and now I can focus more on improving my instructional designs.
Which leads me to the second affirmation: pushing my students to do more inquiry through weekly labs. Now that I do not have to worry about behavior as much as I used to, I can set parameters around labs and know that students will meet the expectations. Several students wanted to do more, so we created an informal all-girls science club where I provide them with design challenges and they build or create a solution. It is wonderful to see such curiosity and a healthy appetite for challenge in these young girls, especially in science.
So yes, I feel good knowing that people are noticing my efforts and improvement at work. It may be almost a year late, but a gold star is a gold star. Sometimes all we teachers need to hear is a good kind word, something positive about what we do every day in school. We crave gold stars just as much as our students do.