So, when you are being driven a little batty, here are some helpful reminders for regaining your sanity while keeping your students' engagement high.
Keep Your Expectations High
I know you have high expectations for your class. I know that you explicitly taught them the first few weeks of school. I know that your students know them, but they also may need a reminder that you know that they know them. Still with me?
Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean often, students know the expectations but will push them just a little bit further each time until you are no longer anywhere near the expectation. I am absolutely guilty of allowing this to happen. The most important element of this is recognizing that it is happening and taking the time to reassert your expectations. Most of the time students respond almost immediately which can be a serious sanity saver!
Think Through Your Challenges
There are very few classroom challenges that occur that we don't see coming. Does it happen? Yes. Does it happen often? Not so much.
If you take a moment to think through what your specific challenges are, then you can pre-plan what your reaction will be. I am a big fan of having multiple action plans in my back pocket so that I am prepared for a situation.
One year I had one student that it did not matter where they were they were talking. In fact they didn't even need someone to talk to, because they were fine talking to themselves.
I sat down and thought through the situation and came up with a multi-step action plan, because this was about to throw me off my rocker.
My plan was to first use proximity. Next I would provide a whole class with a verbal reminder. If it kept up I would place a hand on the shoulder of the student as a nonverbal reminder. After that I had a prewritten sticky note asking the student to save their conversation for later.
Luckily in this case I only got through the third step, but I understand that there are situations that you get through the whole alphabet of steps before making any progress.
This one can be the absolute hardest. Sometimes when I am worn down and not at my best it is easier to just let the little things slip through, but this is how it gets worse.
Instead, try your best to be consistent. Don't allow your students that extra inch, because it will become a mile which will make a minor annoyance a major battle later. There are no two ways about this.
As human beings we crave consistency, and so do our students, even when we don't think we do. You and your class will both be thankful for the consistency, even if it isn't in the moment.
Pick Your Battles
I know, I know, I just said to practice consistency and now I am telling you to pick your battles. This may sound as though I am being inconsistent now, but I promise you that both can be done together.
This is going to look different in each classroom, with each class, and with each teacher, because you essentially have to decide what isn't going to bother you and what will.
I have absolutely no problem with students chatting while working, so long as they are working. My neighbor teacher required an absolutely silent classroom while working, because the buzz of chatting drove her up the wall. However she did not mind if her classroom was a bit cluttered, dare I say messy, while I could. not. stand. it.
We were both consistent in enforcing our expectations.
My room had a low buzz of chatter during work, but was clean and organized.
Her room was silent, and at times a bit cluttered.
Both of our rooms worked well and our students were engaged in their learning. We picked our battles of what we could live with, and our rooms functioned flawlessly.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to get started and restore a bit of peace back into your classroom life.
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