There seems to be no shortage of ideas from teachers when it comes to school:
1. Too much time is spent playing video games.
2. Students are bored.
3. Students have not had enough sleep.
4. Curriculum isn't relevant.
...and so on.
Lately, I've noticed more and more students that seem unfocussed and disinterested in putting in effort to complete work that is meeting the expectations of the lesson or program. And the talking! WOW! Many teachers have posted their frustrations.
This year, my group of second graders is that chatty bunch that you are all talking about too. Do you sometimes feel like this?:
My students have been quite awesome at absorbing the teachings this year and I credit a lot of that to the focus I put on being mindful and taking regular brain breaks. Click here for more.
Yesterday was a bit of a struggle. Students were working on their activities but were not activating the mental stamina I just know they are capable of. I felt a little like I was playing a game of whac-a-mole. Quiet down one group and the next group starts. Am I alone here?
I think part of the problem is that school is changing and society is changing and we as teachers need to change too! 21st Century learning is all about facilitating the learning of students based on their own personal passions and interests. We are needing to work cooperatively and in groups as a team more than ever.
I made the decision to go to tables this year and I am SO glad I did. I love it! I have been working hard on individual self awareness and it has extended into bucket filling. But what I felt was missing was the glue. The glue that holds us together so that we are all working towards a common goal. That goal is to not only to learn, but to LOVE to learn. How is that accomplished if the room is noisy?
I tend to be a teacher that has high expectations so while my students are doing really well, I know that there is untapped potential for doing better. I want to increase their stamina. I decided last night that I was the one chasing the possibility and that the students were just there for the ride. So, I decided that I was going to narrow the focus of the "big ideas" that I was teaching in each curriculum area and do less while carefully monitoring the activity of the students. Observation is powerful and you can't do that if you are in teaching autopilot.
I began the day with a discussion with the students on the meaning of team. I turned away from the "building of community" (which I have already spent a lot of time on) and began to focus more on TEAM. I explained that although I admire the students that could work quietly and get their work done quickly and carefully, they were not helping the group stay focused and work hard TOGETHER for a collective purpose.
There seems to be 3 types of students in my room this year:
1. Students that are quiet and work hard and get all their work done despite the distractions.
2. Students that COULD work hard and get their work done if there weren't so many distractions.
2. Students that cause most of the distraction for whatever reason (physiological, weak skills, disinterest etc.. etc...)
It would appear then, that 2/3 of any group have the potential to work harder and exhibit more mental stamina. My goal today, was to reach those 2/3 and I think I did.
So I appealed to my students in the 1st and 2nd groups when I spoke to them this morning and discussed how they could work together, how they could give chatty students a "shhhh" quiet sign. We worked on working together to keep the group table clean. Of course there were some subtle team points to help but I certainly did not want that to be the focal point.
We were able to point out successes of students who worked hard because we heard them share their work. Some of the students that finished were able to help our new ELL (English Language Learner) student as the Word Work Center or at the Ipads. Reward for working hard and completing your work was feeling empowered by being able to help others.
Today was a success. My students worked very well together and I was able to pin point some key issues and areas that needed work. You can only do this if you are kind to yourself, ease back on the day and take the time to really assess.
Now, let's take a moment to pause, be still, and breathe.