The First 30 Days

It's simultaneously hard to believe that tomorrow will already be the 30th day of school and that tomorrow will only be the 30th day of school. It's technically the eighth week of school, but thanks to Jewish holidays and Indigenous Peoples' Day, we just made it to day 30.

This is a helpful milestone, because it reminds me that it's still early, and that much of the focus up to this point should have been on building a positive culture in my classrooms. Side note: Yes, that's plural. This year I'm teaching math in two classrooms rather than teaching all subjects with one group of kids.

Now whether I have been focused enough on building a positive culture is an important question. Because the days have been spread out, I feel like I lost focus on building community somewhere around the beginning of October. It's not too late to adjust, but it does make me aware of why certain behaviors are happening in my classrooms and what I need to do in response.

There are a lot of things in place in my classrooms that are helpful. We have daily morning circles, a "cool down" area, we have a class charter (using the RULER approach), and we have some systems for positive reinforcement. What we're still working on is a consistent afternoon circle, consistent logical consequences (with input from kids), and supporting kids with conflict resolution.

With the exception of afternoon circle, I've usually put these other things in place by now. At the same time, I have often "put them in place" but done little to reteach and reinforce them. So, I guess in a lot of ways, I'm not in a very different place than in years past.

Another difference from years past is that being a departmentalized math teacher has made my social justice teaching a bit more challenging. I'm trying my best, but I feel like there are fewer opportunities. Our first math unit is focused on sneakers. Eventually, I'm hoping to look at the hourly wages of workers in the US and Vietnam compared to the salary of the Nike CEO. In social studies, we're taking a critical look at European exploration colonization. So, I'm excited about that. But it does feel different being with two classes for less of the day. And with the daily trash fire of current events, it's hard to feel like I'm doing enough to discuss everything with the kids.

With regards to my teacher leadership work, I think that building culture has been my singular focus. But at the same time I haven't been as attentive to building relationships with my colleagues as I set out to be this year. This is ironic in a way, because relationships are at the center of building a positive culture, and at the center of all the other work I need to do this year as a teacher leader (opening up my classroom to visitors, coaching, leading workshops...).

Thankfully this 30 day milestone has reminded me of this goal in addition to my classroom goals, and I'm brainstorming ideas to connect with my colleagues. It's hard because I often use my lunch to either connect with kids or make copies or occasionally I just space out on my phone. But, I'm thinking of hosting a lunch and bringing a casserole or enchiladas or something to share.

Overall, 30 days in I feel very busy and stressed. But I also feel very focused compared to years past. I have gotten to know the kids pretty well in a short time and I feel like I really like them. I was worried I might not after spending two years with one group. They're a really sweet and funny group as a whole, and I'm excited to see where the year takes us as we get deeper into learning. Hopefully I'll have some good progress to share when we get to day 50.


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