#SOLC17: I like you better now, too…

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community.

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The bell had already rung to signal the end of lunch recess, but a crowd of  kiddos still hung about my desk, joshing and jostling in the high spirited way of sixth graders.  I had not intended to be a part of any of these hijinks, but my kids had drifted my way anyway and just stayed.  Our conversations circled around all kinds of topics, swooping here and swerving there, with bouts of laughter and the occasional back thumping and elbowing among each other.  As everyone began to drift back to their seats and get ready for writing workshop, Tim turned to me and said, “You’re different than you were in September. I like you better now…”.  As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he looked mortified.  Before he could say anything, though, I shot back, “That’s okay, I like you better now, too.”  And then we, in sixth grade parlance, cracked up.

I thought about that little scene as I was driving home from work.  It made me smile, but it also got me thinking…because it was true!

In those first months of the school year, even as we lay the groundwork for reading and writing workshop, we set the tone for expected behavior.  It’s a quid pro quo, a mutual understanding of the give and take that will come to define our year together: we will listen to each other, we will work as hard as we can, we will respect our learning space, we will understand that mistakes will be made and that forgiveness and moving on will be essential.  We don’t have a long list of class rules, but the few we have are grounded in trust and good will.

This sounds good, of course, but takes time and patience to see through.  In the early days of the school year, all learning comes to a halt when someone calls out, interrupts, or steps over the line in the sand – that boundary we have created between what we aspire to and what we know to avoid.  There are a lot of coming to a halt moments in those early months.  This is sixth grade, after all, and sixth graders are rule benders – they live for such opportunities, even though they feel instant regret as soon as the words have been uttered, the act completed.  It’s in that instant, of course, that I feel compelled to react. Wait,  and the moment is lost; defer, and it will come back again in the next half hour.

Through these fits and starts we journey, my kids and I, in those early months.  It’s hard work, dreary work, but must-do work.  Some days, the difficult and mostly “coming to a halt” ones, we are all weary of each other.  You may even say that we don’t particularly like each other.

And then, sometime in December, you begin to realize that it’s been days since you’ve had one of “those” days.  And then, sometime in January, you begin to realize that you can’t even remember the last time you’ve had one of “those” days.  You may even say that we’ve come to really like each other.

It takes a long time to build a classroom community; and even at its best, it is never quite perfect and smoothly running every moment of every day.  They are children, still learning about what makes them tick, and I am just a person, too, with many flaws I am trying to rise above.  Together, we still make mistakes, still have our moments of regret.  But it’s different now that we have learned to like each other, to have earned each others’ affection and respect.

It’s a lovely thought, now,  that we have until the end of June to build on this affection and respect…until that last group hug, when we want to hang on most to our sixth grade year together  just when it has come to an end.





15 thoughts on “#SOLC17: I like you better now, too…

  1. It takes time to build a community, truer words were never spoken. That’s the crux of the matter and if there’s no community, the learning won’t matter. How wonderful that the student realized there’s a difference from then and now. There will be days 😦 , and then there will be days 🙂 .

  2. It’s a lovely thought indeed…and this is a lovely piece. You have captured the goal of relationship building and classroom community! Enjoy your time remaining while you like each other.

  3. How true, Tara. Kids need to know the boundaries then can work within. Once they are established and everyone knows the limits, dynamics change and it’s all ab bout moving forward.

  4. This is one of the reasons I have loved looping with some classes in the past. I’ve never done a complete loop, but I have taught lots of split grade classes, and my 3rd graders came back to me in September as 4th graders. I loved that my community was already partly established, and the new 3rd graders fit in to the gap. Instead of the scene you described above happening in January or later, it was in October for us.

  5. This totally makes me smile. It makes absolute sense. The relationships that are so necessary take time. The room is so rich when they have fully happened – when everybody likes each other better 🙂

  6. Tara, I have followed you and your class this year through it all. I honor the way you bring your students into a larger community of respectful learners. Life in the classroom is not paradise every day but it is real as it moves toward being a true community. The good days outweigh the rough ones. You are in the home stretch now so enjoy the children as they have grown to admire and enjoy you.

  7. It’s a sweet and true slice of how it works. Once again, I wish that new teachers particularly could read your words.These are rarely said in a teacher program, but they would be immeasurable helpful. Love these wise words: “Wait, and the moment is lost; defer, and it will come back again in the next half hour.. I still remember my son having a tough 4th grade teacher, and after the holidays, he looked at me and said “Mrs. T is much nicer now.” I really don’t think she had changed, but the community was there. Good teacher!

  8. That beginning work is crucial and so hard. But because of it, students will spend the majority of their time together with you, learning together and growing as a community. In the end, they will remember nothing but that.

  9. I love the way you capture the moment in this post, the way you lead with a story that moves into the important points you make about the trajectory of the year. Your reflections remind me a bit of Lisa Keeler’s post today–celebrating the smooth running workshop that is happening at this time of year.

  10. As always, Tara, this slice is filled with so much wisdom. “Trust and good will” are so crucial to building a classroom community where learners grow and thrive. You’ve created that space. Thank you for inviting us to be part of it!

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