Friday, October 31, 2014

10 Tips for Weathering Stormy Days in the Classroom

Someone said that "teachers make the weather in the classroom" and it has always resonated with me. Sometimes, as teachers, we feel out of control, but this is saying we have a great deal of control (and responsibility). So, if I make the weather in my classroom, I want every day to be sunny.

Sometimes, though, my students aren't in sunny moods when they get to me. They're cranky or looking to pick an argument and get into trouble. So what can I do when this happens? I can choose to let their moods affect me or I can choose to make the sun shine and have my mood affect them.

Today was one of those days. In between classes, I saw students arguing with teachers (myself included) about following basic rules about how to act at school. They were heated and frustrated and it was just about time for class. Here are a few things I did:

  1. I gave the most frustrated kid a break. One kid was ready to blow, so I gently suggested he sit in the office for a few minutes to cool off. He could tell by my face and my tone of voice that I wasn't mad at him. He was up there a few minutes and when he came to class, he was in a great mood.
  2. I played music as the kids came in - something happy and upbeat that they would like. Think Top 40 (clean version/radio edits). I asked them to have out what they needed by the time the song was over.
  3. I went around talking to kids about nothing in particular. This shows I care about what's going on in their lives.
  4. I smiled, laughed, and joked around.
  5. When kids were rude to me, I calmly told them that I understand  why they are frustrated. I stayed calm and asked that they talk to me the way I was talking to them.
  6. I gave them a little snack once they started working. Empty tummies = cranky kids. A couple saltine crackers can go a long way.
  7. I talked about how important what we are doing is. I made them feel like I was helping them out in reviewing this concept to get them ready for the next thing.
  8. I let the little things go. I'm always an advocate for choosing my battles. 
  9. I thanked them for their patience. Today I had to give about 20 minutes of direct instruction before kids could work independently, so I made a big deal out of my gratitude for them sticking with me. 
  10. I played more music while they worked and went around helping everyone. 
These things are pretty simple, but, trust me, they don't come naturally when a kid is being rude to you and talking back. It takes a conscious effort to smile and be calm and friendly. When the kids are cranky is when they need us to be happy and warm. Otherwise, they make the weather for us instead of the other way around.

All of this was possible because I do this regularly and build relationships with my kids. It takes time and effort, but it makes everything else easier. It's all about RELATIONSHIPS!