We all have them, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching or even the grade. They sneak up on you and seem to jump out from nowhere knocking you to the proverbial ground. It doesn’t seem to matter how well you plan, the ground rules you set, or the day of the week. When they happen you leave exhausted, feeling a bit defeated and gloomy. Tuesday was a day like that for me.
It started off all right. It was the last day of state testing with just an hour and the students would complete the assessments. Once they were over I knew we could return to our normal routine and learning. After the last test, we spent some time in writer’s workshop writing in character as we traveled on our virtual trip to Oregon in 1855. A parent dropped off cookies to celebrate the end of testing and the students were happily writing and munching. I was impressed by their work on the wiki and their willingness to add voice to their writing. Afterwards they went to gym and then on to foreign language before heading to recess and lunch. Things seemed normal, the calm before the storm.
After lunch, the students returned and we began our simulation work. Students were in “family” groups and had to work together to decide what to do when faced with a challenge much like those pioneers would face. This time they had been confronted with a group of Indians who demanded food and an ox from each family. It took a while with lots of discussion but they finally decided the best approach was to meet with the leader and work out a compromise.
Math was next and it was our early “Pi” day. Students would spend 20 minutes in each of three rooms working on pi activities that included calculating the circumference of six different cylinders, “Pi-Ku” and making paper chains with each color representing a different digit from 0 – 9. We split our three classes into groups so they would be with the students from other rooms. This is when the storm began to approach. One of my most loquacious students began to forget the rules for working with others, being nice and following rules. He made some decisions that required reminders and still continued to make poor choices. This didn’t bode well for him or the learning for other students that joined in to be “cool.”
Afterwards, as my class reconvened, a girl who for most of the year had listened and been focused, but as a fifth grader is beginning to become a bit sassy in her responses decided to further set the tone. She made a comment joining in to support the loquacious boy, which required my attention. Her remark didn’t go unnoticed by her classmates either and many found her words entertaining. I told her “let’s talk after school” since we needed to head down to our scheduled visit to the library. This brought her to tears and she couldn’t understand what she had done. I walked the class down to library and then went to retrieve her from the bathroom only to find four other girls powwowing with her when they should have been in the library. I sent them on their way and spent some time talking with her. She knew her words were not well thought through and that I’d need to let her mom know. Her mood was frosty as the day ended.
I couldn’t condone the behavior of either child. They have morphed into pre-adolescents testing the limits, attempting to bring others into this world with them. My heart broke as I saw this transformation. I want them to enjoy school, to respect others and to focus on their learning. I know that those are high goals, but most days they rise to meet them. Today wasn’t one of those days and I left feeling exhausted, a bit defeated and gloomy. Some days are like that, especially in spring. Here’s hoping Wednesday is a better day.