Some days are harder than others.
Some days, even though every part of the day is well-planned, the materials are all at hand, and you eagerly greet each and every smiling child at the door, things can go awry. At the start of the year, it is common to have days when you wonder where it went wrong or how they could have already forgotten all that you carefully modeled, practiced and had under control. You wonder if maybe you should never wear the pink T-shirt again. Or that the colleague down the hall who has been warning that it was "only a matter of time before they show their true colors" may have been right.
Do not under any circumstance believe it. First because if you never wear the pink shirt again, you and little T. will never match, and that really made her day. But mostly because the colleague down the hall--and maybe a little voice way in the back of your head--are leading you down the path to negativity and cynicism. Kids are not inherently bad, and they do not come to school for the sole purpose of making teachers crazy (even C. who says he can tell I love him even when he's bad).
Remember that they are kids. They get tired. They like to play. And besides, it's only been 12 days. Twelve days filled with tons of new names to learn and lots more rules and procedures and routines and reminders that most adults would be able to handle in such a short time.When I think about it, I guess I'm lucky there hasn't been some sort of full-blown mutiny!
That does not mean we excuse inappropriate or disrespectful behavior. When A. looks me in the eye and deliberately grabs the unifix cubes I had just told him to give M., I cannot pretend I don't see it. This is for sure the time to reteach and above all remain consistent in our expectations. Kids do need to know that if we said that we are going to expect certain things that we will follow through...every time...even if we're tired and hot. I would be lying if I said I didn't consider just letting things slide a little today--or maybe even a lot. It would certainly have been easier for all of us if I had pretended I didn't see S. deliberately disobey another teacher or anything that happened in the lunch line(what happens in the cafeteria...). But I know better. This was exactly the time to keep my cool, maintain my expectations, and to consistently remind, reteach and practice again. As we ease into the 3rd week of school, the rhythms of the daily schedule should provide a sense of stability and even comfort. Knowing what to expect and when helps, and that goes not just for our schedule but also for our expectations. Someone wise once told me that "the least you accept is the most you can expect". Think about that for a minute...it will come to you.
And while I'm reminding the kids that I will be consistent, I must remind them that I care. I care about the big and little things that they are carrying with in their hearts and minds. I care about them as individuals and as a group. I should remember that at day 12, the sense of community we have been trying to establish is still pretty new and needs to be nourished. I should remember that they need to know I care about each of them even when what I want more than anything else is some sort of calming mist to be sprayed from the ceiling every 20 minutes or so. It would mostly be for me.
So take a couple slow, quiet, controlled breaths together. Reach slowly to the sky and then sink back to the floor. Smile--a real one, not a fake one or one that hides a thinly disguised warning. Use the one that lets them know that you really are glad to be there, even today.
Today was one of the hard days.
What are the odds tomorrow will be another?