This is the first in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By: Lindsey Lamm
I know #thefluencyproject has eight values, all of which are equally important to successful implementation of our goals. But, man, I’ve had a very difficult time moving past the “relationships” value since the beginning of the school year. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I have the most needy group I’ve ever had this year in all facets (behavioral, emotional, and academic). We do not have a prayer of accomplishing Fluency goals if these student needs are not met. That is why relationships are the focal point of my classroom right now.
In The First Six Weeks of School, by Roxann Kriete, Paula Denton, and Mike Anderson, one of the goals is to teach classroom routines and behavior expectations. Yes, other rules are laid out in the book, but these take precedence for me, as expectations need to be put in place before we can be successful in any aspect of fifth grade. Another caveat: Yes, parts of The First Six Weeks of School are not practical for my classroom. That’s OK. The discipline part and the teaching of routines and expectations warrant the reading of the book, especially for the fifth/sixth grade setting. Setting rules and logical consequences for actions (instead of just taking recess all the time) are paramount in building an equitable classroom environment. The book details logical consequences at all elementary levels, but I have found much success with the upper elementary examples.
I delved into rules and logical consequences because this year (more than any other year), students need to be held accountable for their actions at all times. If the class is too noisy lining up, we sit down and try again every time. When basketball isn’t fixing itself after a warning at recess, basketball ceases for the day every time. When students refuse to cooperate with a group, they are asked to leave the group every time. Is this time consuming? Absolutely. Are there times when I get discouraged and think in that moment things will never get better? Weekly. However, I’ve noted an improvement from daily, had you asked me that question about six weeks ago. I’ve been told multiple times by multiple colleagues in the last twelve years that I “run a tight ship.” I’m OK with that. Why? Whether the kids believe it or not, they crave equity. Is a kid thrilled when he/she is the person being asked to re-practice the skill or routine? Of course not. But, if the student was breaking one of our rules, he/she deserves the logical consequence and learns from the experience. Multiple parents have shared with me that I’m “tough, but fair.” This is, by far, the greatest compliment I could receive. I interpret it as the kids are challenged (but not discouraged). More importantly, the classroom climate of fair and equitable is evident because, let’s be honest, ten year olds tell it like it is with very little filter.
This blog post topic has become one of my “soapbox” items. It takes time to build these routines and rules/consequences. The process does “take away” from instruction time for the first two-three weeks, if you look directly at the numbers. However, once transitions are mastered, “wasted time” is kept to a minimum for the rest of the year (the narrative that is more important in this case). We are able to maximize instruction time while setting an example for positive behavior in all aspects of our day. I cannot stress enough the importance of high expectations that are enforced every time for every student. It sounds easy. It’s anything but easy. Consistency matters and is an important element in treating students with equity in the school setting. Learning how to learn in a classroom setting with a new set of classmates each year is a difficult task for students of this age and we work hard together to set positive expectations for a great year.
Last year, I set a goal to journal my experiences each day. I wish I could say I did it everyday, but we all know that didn’t happen! However, it has been encouraging to look back on this year when I get discouraged with routines just not happening. I’d recommend it to anyone to help with sanity! I’m thankful every day for the learning happening within The Fluency Project.