Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Weather in Room 2

Lately, on these final frenzied days of school, the weather in my classroom has been unsettled and sometimes tempestuous. As the school year draws to a close, the kids find it hard to control their summertime desires, and so my classroom is less composed than usual. Like sunshine among clouds, free-flowing chatter breaks out more often, and shifting in seats is sometimes as steady as gusts on a blustery day. This time of year, several days can pass without one serene hour for an old teacher to take pleasure in. However, I’ve gradually come to understand the weather patterns in my classroom, and therefore the occasional tempests and droughts don’t disturb me as much as they did when I was a younger, more power-conscious teacher. At this late point in my career, I can usually sit back and quietly watch the weather of the kids’ behavior, taking a curious interest in when and how it will change. Of course, I manage the students’ behavior as much as any conscientious teacher does, but I also try to remember that teaching is a lot like sailing: the weather always changes, and you have to work with the changes, not against them. When the energy patterns in the class shift (say, from quiet to talkative and contentious), I must remember to just turn my sails a bit to benefit from the new conditions. When the doldrums settle in and something like siesta time commences, I must somehow turn the drowsy atmosphere to an advantage, perhaps by taking a five minute break from the lesson, reading a short poem about weariness and tedium, and asking for reactions. Instead of fighting the languor, I could have the kids briefly examine it by way of the poem and perhaps learn a little about where it comes from – and then, back to the lesson with (I hope) improved vitality, like a sprightly new breeze after hours of smothering heat.

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