Dan Adiletta is a first-year teacher at Explore College Preparatory Middle School in East Oakland.
So there I am, fighting for control of a classroom against students sloshing knee-deep in disrespect towards each other and towards me, and all the while my observing school coach is clacking dourly on her computer. I know what my lesson and my classroom management is lacking; I need to include greater academic rigor and better routines and instructions to minimize disruptive behavior.
Tomorrow will be better, I say, I’ll work my tail off to make tomorrow better.
I come home late because of a flurry of mandatory meetings and student requests. I was at school an hour and a half early to prep. My lunch break was 20 minutes. I taught five back-to-back classes that were all a grueling struggle. I sit on my couch, my shirt untucked and left eye twitching, with my head in my hands feeling miserably guilty for failing the students whose education is in peril. I only have three or four hours to eat dinner, grade papers and prepare a better lesson for the next day before I pass out. It’s not a particularly stressful day, it’s just Tuesday.
I can’t work any harder (I’ve been making a stand for a while now), so I need to start working smarter. I’m using this memorial to our veterans and to the end of World War I, hooray for Armistice Day, to ask a fantastic online community for feedback (Sorry Cranky Teacher, your sage advice to relax can’t work if I’m dreading the next day. I need to take it head-on).
The feedback I’ve been getting from my administration consists of them asking me how I thought my lesson went and what I need to do. And my school’s professional development is focused entirely around developing learning targets, (LTs are great, but they don’t address the glaring holes in my performance). I’m not yet in BTSA because I don’t have two hours a night for extraneous paperwork. Stress has eliminated my ability to self-analyze. I record myself but I can’t stomach reliving my classes right after work. I need someone to frankly tell me, “Your performance is ______. You need this and this. You’re doing well here.”
These are the ideas I have so far:
- Recruiting students to grade papers before and after school
- Increasing my usage of team points in class. Perhaps students will be more focused if their group is immediately rewarded for compliance
- Lining the class up until the late bell rings. All my classes start chaotically because I’m required to monitor the hallways and throw myself between the occasional fights. I can’t be in the classroom to initialize appropriate behavior. So while I’m forced to wait out in the hall, perhaps my students should be as well
- Trying to adjust the school’s class rotation so perhaps once a week I can team-teach with the science teacher, another first-year teacher with whom I enjoy working
- Sending letters home to request parental volunteers to function as teaching assistants
- Suggesting a total rethink of the seventh-grade curriculum. I’d love to center the class around a single, continuous game using the electronic student response system I have. This exciting facade would be a mechanism for not only teaching the seventh-grade World History content, but also ethics, appropriate academic expectations, and methods to develop greater self-awareness
Ideas I still need:
- I have to find a way to develop lessons faster so I can spend my time reviewing them to clarify instructions, increase the pace and accountability, and include extra material to help scaffold
- I have to find a better system of consequences. I have a policy that five disruptions warrants a referral to the office. But with most of the class earning three or four disruptions, it’s a non-stop fight. Detentions are a joke. They last half an hour, and assigning detention to a student is a hassle. I gave my own detentions but only one out of ten would show despite the consequence of a referral. Contacting parents is awesome and I try to do so but more often than not I can’t find a working phone number or the parent will simply hang up on me. I can include more carrots to encourage appropriate behavior, but don’t I also need a stick?
I refuse to be anything but great at this job and I’m outraged that I’m not there yet. I thank you in advance for any thoughts you might have. And please keep an eye out for a BBQ invitation this summer. My wife and I can host a crowd quite pleasantly when we’re not over-stressed.