Every school has at least one, the grade level that has been notorious since they first arrived. Stories are whispered (or louder as frustration levels grow) amongst teachers. Everyone watches that group as they moved up. You hold your breath as they approach your grade level (or even switch grade levels to avoid them).
That group has something about its chemistry, something about the combination of individuals that seem to make learning and cooperating a challenge for all.
That group is in fifth grade this year at my school.
One advantage about being in the middle grades is that you know they are coming. We knew they were coming. We were ready. Even during “Move Up Day” last June we sent a clear message, as a grade level, that we have high standards and expect those standards to be met.
(During “Move Up Day” I let two different students visit the hall, due to sheer lack of respect for others, myself included, until they could join the group appropriately.)
School started with a clean slate for all. Expectations were revealed, modeled, discussed, role played, and continue to be reviewed and practiced. We are in the second week of school and they aren’t there yet. At times I wonder if there will ever be a time that ‘one voice at a time’ is heard this year. At other times I catch them going seven, or twelve minutes, meeting the expectations – and we celebrate.
Today we sat on the carpet at the end of the day and I asked them what is and isn’t working for them.
I started with what isn’t working. (I wanted to end with the positive.) They only had three things; two behaviorally and one about the size of the carpet in our room.
I then asked them what is working. I was blown away with the list they came up with! I forget that there are things I do that aren’t done by other teachers. These things are part of the way my room has always run. These students have fresh eyes and things like “no line order”, “we get to choose where we sit”, and “lots of books” were shared. The what IS working list took up the entire side of the board.
We admired how much longer the what IS working list is than what is NOT working.
Then we set about looking for solutions for the three things on the shorter list.
This was a refreshing way to end the day, for all of us.