Two sides of the same coin

Today was day six of my full-time teaching block. It was terrible…or at least it started out that way.

I started the day feeling completely exhausted. I had stayed up til nearly 3am the night before desperately trying to make an interesting and engaging lesson on the power of the media through advertising for my two literacy classes and reading student writing work, and running on just over 3 hours of sleep was not making for a great start to the day. My students also seemed a little sleepy, or at least a little “out of it” first thing, but I couldn’t really be certain that it wasn’t just my over-tiredness fogging my judgement. Regardless, our numeracy class to start the day off seemed to go all right. The students were making progress on their latest Explore +4 menu, and I was checking in with each of them, and also pulling the last few details together for my literacy lessons. I thought things were going to be ok.

Then the grade 7s returned, the volume increased, I tried to quiet the class, and waited….

…called for the class’ attention, then waited more…

…It was actually quite ridiculous. Students noticed, then paid attention…sort of.

We got into a discussion about advertisements versus brands, which seemed to go, well, ok. It wasn’t great. Something felt off. Some of my students seemed really restless and unfocused, which then threw others off too. I re-set the class, re-focused and we tried again. I felt like I kept having to keep a close watch on a couple students, which then distracted my brain, and threw me off. It just didn’t feel quite right, and we didn’t get through what I had planned. Not even close, so I planned to continue my lesson after recess.

After recess we did a carousel-style activity of looking at how media is constructed, and who it’s intended audiences are. It did not go as well as I’d hoped. I think it was partly that my instructions and prompts for the students were not as clear as they should have been (likely due to my late night creating combined with my rushed gathering and assembling of things before class), and also this unsettled feeling I was getting from the students. I think that it would have been a lot better if I’d had them go to a station, watch the quick video, then move on to another spot to do something else, then to another to do some questions, rather than expecting them to stay at one place for 12 or 15 minutes and just change materials with a group beside them. I think they really needed short tasks and some movement within the room to help them focus.

We didn’t even get to the other lesson I’d spent half of my evening planning. By lunch time I felt a little exhausted, drained, and defeated. I tried to chalk it up to an “off” day, but my co-op encouraged me to look at is as an opportunity to develop more strategies for working with my students. Over lunch we discussed some ways that I could have handled some of the student disruptions. I outlined my plans for the afternoon, which felt even more vague, and I was feeling less than confident going into my social studies lessons with the grade 6s then with the grade 7s.

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Photo Credit: MorboKat via Compfight cc

Surprisingly, both lessons went extremely well. Though I didn’t get to the video that I’d planned to look at with the 6s, we got into a great discussion about social justice. The students had never heard of the term before, so it was important to look at that before we started our discussions about inequalities and lack of power. I was very impressed that the students were really into the idea that we could discuss openly about the injustices they see in our society. Later, my class with the grade 7s was also just excellent! The students were completely engaged in the lesson on privilege, and demonstrated great maturity as we examined our privileges and discussed the poem “White Boy Privilege“. The 7s also had some excellent questions and throughout the lesson had even all brought their chairs all together so we were one little discussion group. This is a big step for them as they rarely even want to sit at a table together and only do so with much disdain.

In all, I felt like my day was really two sides of the same class. The morning felt so draining, chaotic, and just without flow, whereas the afternoon felt sort of effortless, smooth and engaging. I’m not sure if it was because I just really had the time at lunch to readjust my focus, or if it was because the students just settled in the afternoon more, but whatever it was it was great.

Here’s hoping that tomorrow (last day before a long weekend for students) goes well!

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