Things were going better. My students were beginning to work independently, I was able to meet with small groups for guided reading. I don't know what shifted, but something is different. It might be me; I don't even know anymore.
I spent yesterday afternoon sobbing in the guidance counselor's office. I think I just reached the end of my patience, the end of what felt like hope. I got worn out from the kids acting like I was an annoyance that got in the way of their fun.
A good cry can really help. After Maren and Chris, the counselor, told me what I really needed to hear (that I am a good teacher) and then got all that frustration out with the tears, I was able to look more clearly at my class than I have been able to. I was able to look at myself more honestly than I have been able to.
What I had to rethink, very deliberately, was:
I am desperate enough to move away from some of my fundamental beliefs. Here's what changed:
- Seating was planned to be deliberately balanced at tables; students that can not work in a group setting were moved to quiet places within our working space.
- Table supplies were streamlined and consolidated. Everything the students need are at hand, eliminating the need for helpers to fetch crayons or markers.
- Water bottles were sent home - they were proving to be too distracting. Despite deliberate teaching and retraining often on bottles, spills were too frequent and upsetting. Less hydration means less bathroom breaks, a good thing when the kids can't use the restrooms unattended.
- Decluttering; the cleaner the lines the less visual distractions. Things were put into cupboards or out of view.
- The bunnies are getting fostered by a 5th grade classroom.
- Daily 5 choice was removed. I will now instruct the students what they will be doing during this time, and most of it will be whole-group work. It kills me to take choice away from them; we just can't afford the time this demanded.
These were major restructures. Ideals I had worked hard to put into place over the last 4 years had to be dismissed so that I could teach my students. I feel like I have stripped down a complicated mechanism so that the bones are finally visible.
I am so weary, and so wary. Nothing about teaching feels right this year.