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The week before I began my first year as a teacher, I walked into my first classroom and noticed there were no student desks in the room. There were no books, supplies, shelves, people, or anything other than a large, wood-fading teacher’s desk. Upon that mammoth teacher’s desk sat a concrete sculpture of a very realistic turtle with two glass eyes, about the size of your standard pet turtle.
Whatever the reason for your leave, it’s not easy handing over your students to a new teacher. It’s even harder coming back after someone else has been leading the class in their own style. I recently returned to the classroom following maternity leave. Everyone was anticipating the transition but no one capitalized more than my homeroom students who took the opportunity to create their idea of a new normal for the classroom.
That ultra-basic approach—fed children learn better than hungry ones—has a counterpart in the realm of individualized strategies for dealing with struggling students.
A few weekends ago, I was playing music with some friends and we tried out the old standard, “Teach the Children Well” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Singing the lyrics reminded me that the teaching mandate goes two ways; the parents need a little guidance along the way as well as the children.
We hear about the “school to prison pipeline,” and “trauma informed care” at a time when budgets are declining, and perhaps the students we receive at school are more challenging than we remember. Most teachers and administrators I work with agree with this, and yet we are all left wondering, “What are alternatives that work?”
This first-year teacher sauntered into the school year with grand plans for community building, establishing norms, and a seamless implementation of a fool-proof classroom management strategy. Well, can you guess what happened?
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