Yesterday was the last day of the 1st 9 weeks of the year. I am really excited to get a "new" batch of kids. I haven't had the luxury of being "done" with certain behavior problems in just 9 weeks in a looong time. On the other hand, I wish they were in Art year-round. . . And, when I really reflect on it there are SO MANY kiddos I'm bummed I won't get to hang out with everyday.
I wrote in my "Ouchies" post that teaching in my current environment seems like a day-to-day thing. Some days are awesome, some are less than awesome. And, well, that is true. Yet, I'm trying to make everyday awesome. What I've come to realize is that right about the time I feel totally overwhelmed and/or think "I'm not qualified enough to teach these kids" something happens to make me change my mind.
I've been working hard to make Art visible in my school as this has never been the case. The kids love (LOVE!) seeing their artwork on the walls so much that it is a huge motivator (and this has never been the case anywhere else I've taught). The teachers also love seeing the artwork on the walls and they make a point to tell me how much they appreciate that. And, wow, you guys just hearing that someone likes it makes me not only proud but hugely validated. It has made me realize it is critical in environments like mine to positively "cheer" on others.
I also made a Shutterfly book showing off some of the strongest accomplishments from Quarter 1. The artwork isn't necessarily the best or strongest, but it represents students who gave it everything they had. I put a copy in the front office for parents to check out while they wait for kids/meetings etc. And, I gave a copy to my principal. This also has been a huge positive incentive for the kids (and me). The principal is thrilled with the book and loves how we can show off to visitors etc. I researched and found out that schools can set up their own Shutterfly accounts from which parents can buy merchandise online. . .And the school can set the prices. Meaning, hello minimal effort fundraiser! I do teach in a Title I school, so I was unsure if kids could afford the book, but after asking around I feel quite sure we could make some money. And now there are plans to make a calendar and holiday cards. Woot! (You can see the book below, it cost $15.00 to make and we plan to sell for $18-$20).
Shutterfly offers exclusive photobook layouts so you can make your book just the way you want.
In the midst of all of this, the Special Ed. department has been conducting yearly conferences to review student accommodations and modifications. Something really great happened in those meetings. Almost all of the parents made a comment of some kind or another about how happy they were that their child was in Art class. AND, the parents made comments about me and the accommodations and modifications I made to make the class accessible.
Then, last week I got some new Art Supplies (my orders had been placed and arrived!). Super Woot!
So, things are really looking up. I feel as if I'm not just merely treading water anymore.
I know we've all been sharing about classroom management in at-risk kid environments and I wanted to also share with you some of the changes I'm making for the 2nd Quarter:
1. I got rid of all the rules! Ha! I know a lot of you thought there were too many. And, that number has worked for me in the past, but I'm simplifying down to 6.
2. I have 3 concrete reflection areas in my room instead of 1. The primary area is beneath the rules and has some motivational posters.
3. I'm organizing the clean-up procedure. It will likely take 8 minutes instead of 5, but I want the kids to be more personally responsible for material clean up.
4. I'm controlling bathroom visits. The students like to leave everyday and I'm culling it down. I'm not going to do "only 3 per quarter" because I don't want to monitor it. But, I am writing down their visits in their agenda, so when I do say "no" I can prove that it is a habitual way of avoiding class.
5. I'm sending home artwork every 3 weeks. My state standards require the kids keep a portfolio. But the work just got too bulky and would jam the storage drawers and art would get lost and torn. So, they can still keep a portfolio but take home older work regularly.
6. I'm tracking down the social worker to help me get phone numbers of students whose listed phone numbers have been disconnected etc.
7. I'm giving the students a weekly warm up sheet instead of them keeping track of it in a binder. I started this a few weeks ago. Too many kids just won't do it if I don't give them a sheet. It is a lot of sheets for me to run weekly, but it is worth it to see the kids come in and get started.
So, what about you? What have been your successes so far this year? What classroom procedures and/or rules are you changing to better suit the needs and demands of your students and your classroom?