Slice of Life Tuesday: Stay calm…and be consistent.

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

We don’t have many rules in our classroom.  In fact, there are just three that cover all our needs: be kind, be respectful, honor each other’s right to learn.  From September through December, we journey as a class to understand the point of these rules – they create a learning community built on safety and trust.  It is a long and sometimes difficult journey for my ebullient and impulsive sixth graders, and it’s a long and difficult journey for me, as well.  For no matter what we’ re in the midst of, or how well the lesson is going, if someone calls out, interrupts, laughs at someone else, puts someone down, or (in short) crosses the line with any of our three ground rules, I have to:

  • ask the class to pause
  • wait until the student in question has acknowledged the breach
  • name the issue, accept the apology on behalf of the class
  • move on

If it happens again, I simply pause and wait, and on the rare occasion there is another repetition, I ask the student to leave our room until such time as he or she can collect themselves and return to our learning.

As I said, this is a long journey. September and October see many occasions when we find the need to go through the above rigamarole time and time again.  And then, just as I begin thinking – Will they NEVER learn? -they do.  And we are off and sailing through calm waters.

Until January.

Because in January, some of my kiddos decide it’s time to test the old lady teacher, to see how  much energy she still has to survive the CONSISTENCY TEST!

I felt the first rumblings last week, our first week back from break.  It took a little longer to transition from one thing to the next, to settle into work without a hundred and one pokes, shoves, and smirky comments.  This week, they’ve upped the ante: interruptions, calling out, laughing at classmates’ contributions.  By “they”, I mean the ones chosen for this mission – the few who feel brave enough, ready enough, for the throw down, the crossing of the line.

When it happens, the class grows furtively watchful: did she hear it? see it? will she ignore it? will we have to go through “the drill”?  A part of each student (I think) wants me not to respond, to pretend I somehow missed what was happening under my very nose, to allow our rules to slacken.  But, a greater part of each student (I really believe) wants me to notice, to follow through.  As much as my kids crave the chance to break rules and have a go at mayhem (they are sixth graders, after all) they also need the assurance of structure, the security of consistency.

So, we had our first throw down today.   Out in the hallway, at the end of our little “talk”, I asked X. what had gotten into him? why???  I confessed to being exasperated, perhaps my voice was an octave higher than necessary.   He smiled sheepishly, shrugged, and mumbled, “I don’t know…I just couldn’t help it, you know?”

I couldn’t say it, but I did think, yes, I do know – it’s testing season now…we’ll get to February before long, and it will be smooth sailing again.  I just have to stick to following through, to being consistent.




21 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Stay calm…and be consistent.

  1. Oh those little buggers! They do try to test the consistency of rules. You are strong and have been through this many times. You will win this battle. Carry on, my friend! 🙂

  2. Oh my gosh, it is both exasperating and predictable, isn’t it. I love thinking of you and your keeping calm and consistent-ness. Great post for January. Helps me remember it’s happening everywhere.

  3. Fabulous. Thank you for sharing how you handle this. I think most of us are seeing this now too. Only 3 simple rules… perfect! It really does come down to …choose and be kind. With that, that intention to direct behavior, all else falls into place.

  4. Haha, I can relate to every syllable in this slice! My favorite line is, “…some of my kiddos decide it’s time to test the old lady teacher, to see how much energy she still has to survive…” My 7th and 8th graders take things a step further…sigh! Thank you for writing about this and reminding me of this “testing season”. Sometimes in the middle of it, I forget and can’t understand what’s going on!!! Here’s the consistency and the fruits of your labor, my friend!

  5. This idea of test season.. laughing with tears in my eyes. This is definitely a thing, they just can’t seem to help. It is something they do until they tire or we do. This happens and I am so glad you wrote about it, so we can all realize… this happens. Hang in, I’m right there with you!

  6. I think too that most want you to “be consistent”, to “keep them safe”. Hope that they settle in soon. Returning after the freedom doesn’t help. Tired and restless, they “carry on” in a different way. Good for you for not ignoring!

  7. I think something happens to sixth grade students over Christmas break because mine would do the same thing. Maybe they feel that with all of the tests they take why not test the teacher as well. Congratulations on passing with flying colors.

  8. Tara, testing the teacher to see if she caves-seems to be a popular game by a few. Sometimes, teachers cannot withstand the heat and then there are those like you who without undue drama calmly provide the structure, routine, and norms of the class that allow for a safe environment to exist for the good of all. Soon January will turn into February and your class will sail on as you well know.

  9. I think that some years, January can be the hardest month to teach–especially when you have students for the entire year. My 8th graders wanted to test me a bit last week too. But I headed them off at the pass. As student centered as my classroom is, sometimes, I have to head ’em off at the pass 🙂

  10. I am so happy to hear this because somehow I thought you waved a magic wand and your kids became angels in your presence, but it is hard won with patience and consistency. Ugh! Why can’t they just do it?

  11. I love how you’ve described these days and I got such a great picture as I envisioned the throw down party. Good luck these next few weeks!

  12. Hang in there, Tara! It’s amazing that kids of all ages need reteaching of behaviors and expectations after a long winter break. You got this!

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