Back to school is always a time of contradictions for me. While I love the ‘clean slate’, fresh new group of fourth graders, eager, smiling faces and loads of possibilities, I’m also feeling frustrated about having to re-teach the rules, start at the beginning, and remember everything takes longer than I think it will. I want to be diving into curriculum, having great group discussions, watching partners work with each other, and reading astouding fourth grade thoughts – NOW! I want that hum of a busy and productive classroom that was my favorite part of last year.
But I know that all these amazing things come with a lot of hard work and time. It takes time to establish routines, behavior expectations, and most importantly, trust. Some students will walk in your room ready to take risks and dying to share. Others will come to the conversation over time. Each deserves the best education I can give them. And that takes patience. Right now I’m reminding myself daily of the importance of slowing down. I know that an effective classroom takes time. Time to build reading and writing stamina, time to grow relationships with and between students, and time to acknowledge our mistakes and learn from them. One day last week, I had to stop independent reading after only five minutes because a student got up to walk across the room. I didn’t ask why, or single out the student for reprimand. I just stopped the session, explained why we had to stop and told students we would try again tomorrow. Their disappointment was almost as deep as mine. But the next day we made it to our goal of 10 minutes – easily. These are the lessons that are so very important. Sure, I want them to read for 20 minutes right off the bat so I can start conferring, but I know that if I don’t take the time to do it the right way now, my quietly humming classroom full of hardworking, engaged students will never exist.
Every day, I’m chanting quietly to myself, “it takes time, it takes time, it takes….time”. I’m stopping to enjoy the smiles, handshakes and stories that greet me at the door and giving a few extra minutes of partner sharing about the weekend. I’m starting over when I have to, and reminding myself that in end these small moments are what will make our classroom the special place I will miss when I begin again next year.