Community

Community is everything. The community within my classroom is the center of all things we do. It is made up of the students, the classroom teacher, and all the other teachers who work with our students. Here you will also find resources on classroom management. I don’t use term anymore and use the classroom community instead. Besides, we don’t actually “manage” students. We encourage and inspire, and build connections.

When they are healthy, kids feel safe, secure, and ready to learn. Of course, then, when they aren’t reliable, or kids don’t know expectations or boundaries, they don’t feel safe, secure, and ready to learn.

Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Have you ever returned from a day away from the classroom and noticed your class needed a major reset after a substitute teacher? Some of these situations might sound familiar to you. 

You’re out of your classroom for the day. You walk back in the last 10 minutes only to find your kids going bananas and your room is in disarray! 

Or maybe…

You get a text from a friend while you’re out for the day. She shares all the shenanigans your class has been up to in your absence. 

Or maybe…

You get back from a day out of the classroom to find notes from a sub that it didn’t go well while you were out. 

Can you imagine any of those situations? If you’re an elementary teacher, I bet you can. I bet you even have some more stories of your own to add on to these examples. How do you pull things back together and recover as a class after a wild day with a substitute? Sometimes you have to freeze and reset after a substitute teacher, which is, of course, easier said than done. Here’s how we reset as a classroom community after a crazy day. 

Have the Students Reflect

I always have my students reflect after we’ve had a sub, even if everything was terrific. This way, when I have them reflect when things weren’t too great, it is nothing out of the ordinary. 

I currently use the reflection on the right, but I have several other versions of this available on the resources tab or by clicking on the picture. 

My all-time favorite part of the reflection is the last question at the bottom. Sometimes after you’re gone, kids have a million things to tell you. When you are resetting after a substitute teacher you don’t have the time to listen to each and every story. This reflection takes care of it. They can write or sketch out whatever they need to say on the back. They got it off their chest, and you can read it and take any necessary actions. 

One time a student wrote that our class made the IT teacher’s day because we followed all the directions and asked good questions. One time I found out that another student’s feelings were hurt because of something someone else said. Once I found out that the sub threw a kid’s shoes away. TRUE STORY!!! 😲😲You never know. 

This reflection can be such a great help in piecing together what happened while you were out. I find that if your class is pretty knowledgeable about reflections, they’re pretty honest about their behavior. 

I have the kids complete these reflections before (or after) morning meeting when I return. That way, they can get everything out, and you can figure out what you need to. 

Prioritize

You don’t need to get to the bottom of every incident that occurred. That would take forever, and I guarantee there would be a few unsolved mysteries in the bunch. What are the things that went wrong that you must address? What happened, and what must be justified?

Do a little investigative work (but not too much). Talk to the teachers next door to find out more information if you need to. Talk to a few students in your class. Read the notes from the sub (although sometimes they just said the day went well). Read the class reflection sheets. Find out what you can and then address what you need to. 

THINK: What are the pressing issues that need to be addressed? What do I want to reinforce? What is the best order to handle things?

Decide How to Address the Issues

Sometimes I want to give lectures to my students after something like this happens. I don’t know why I feel that need, but I do. The thing is these lectures really only benefit the teacher who feels like she’s accomplishing something. The kids usually aren’t listening, or it goes in one ear and out the other.

So, I try not to give in to the urge to lecture. Depending on what happened, some reteaching may be in order.  Some apologies might have to be given out. Perhaps some notes to parents might need to be written. Maybe your admin already stepped in and handled some things or maybe you’ll need them to step in.

THINK: How are you going to handle these pressing issues? What can I do that will be meaningful to students and help them grow into caring and considerate community members? How can I help them learn not just for this situation but for the rest of life? 

Address the Issues

If you are going to address concerns they have to be addressed straight away. Maybe the community needs to come together and apologize to one another. Maybe a review of class expectations needs to occur. My tip to you is don’t wait too long when addressing the issues. I try to address all sub concerns before snack but realistically before lunch recess. I don’t want to lose an entire day of learning because our community is out of sorts. 

THINK: When can I address these concerns? Do I need to address the whole group, small groups, one on one? Do we need some healing as a community? If yes, perhaps Tap Someone Who could be an activity for your morning! 

Set Up For Success

I follow a fashion blogger on Instagram, Fancy Ashley. During back to school a few years ago she talked about her family routine to set up for success. The night before they prepare all the things so their morning is a bit less hectic. I loved the phrase set up for success and stole it. Thanks, Ashley! Next time you’re planning on being out, set your classroom up for success. 

Take time to preview the schedule for the day and preview the different activities they’ll have. Let them know who their substitute teacher will be if you already know. My greatest tool is a behavior map I made with my students this year. A blank version is available by clicking the picture on the left. This isn’t a poster you’ll want to make ahead of time. The real value isn’t what is even written on the paper but in the conversations, we had as we worked through the social story. I put this anchor chart up each and every time we have a sub and I plan to have the kids share different pieces about it during our morning meeting. 

Also, just a little tip- Treat yo sub! I always let my substitute teacher know where the chocolate drawer is in my classroom (don’t act like you don’t have one). When I remember, and when I taught in the US, I would also leave a few quarters to grab a soda from the vending machine. Those little touches can make your subs day a bit better. Nothing brightens up my day like a bit of chocolate and all those bright smiling faces! 

Share Your Ideas

I once attended professional development where the speaker shared that two heads are better than one, and three heads make a genius! Let’s put our heads together by sharing comments on things that really work for you when the class goes bananas and any questions that you have about resetting your class after a substitute teacher. 

Please share any of your thoughts below. Personally, my best teacher learning comes from the teacher down the hall! Join in the conversation! 

Weekly Wisdom

Quote: "Children need practice resolving their "childish" disputes so they can become grown-ups who can peacefully resolve their adult disputes. -How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen

Weekly Wisdom

Children's Emotions

Flexible Seating Reflection

Flexible Seating Reflection

Flexible Seating Mistakes

We all make mistakes. Here’s a little teacher flexible seating reflection- I didn’t launch flexible seating as well as I should have. I made a lot of assumptions I should not have made. Each class you have is different and comes in with different experiences and background knowledge. While I applied that to my content teaching, I didn’t think about flexible seating! 🤦‍♀️Things weren’t working. Instead of flexible seating providing powerful choice and agency it was standing in the way of our learning. Instead of learning conflict resolution we were constantly tattling. Finally, we just needed a fresh start. 

Adding IN a Flexible Seating Reflection

We scaled it way back to a new launch. I made all of the decisions for my students. Every few days, I assigned students a new seating option to learn about how to work in that space. The student who sat there before taught them a few tips about their new spot and at the end of their time, they rated their seating options and reflected on their learning while sitting in a particular spot. This flexible seating reflection was precisely what they needed! It provided the structure that they still needed and provided “choice” even though I was doing the choosing. They also had input in the choice through their refections.

After a month and a half, we were ready to try to fly free again and make our own choices. I wanted them to do one more final reflection about their learning before we got the decision back. A reflection that would remind them that we exist in our classroom to learn (and have some fun). I developed this fun reflection that we completed on Seesaw. It was simple, but it was just what we needed, and their thoughts blew me out of the water!

Using the photo tool in Seesaw, kids took pictures of the spots that worked well and didn't work well for them. Then they added words using the label feature to the final section. We then recorded a short verbal explanation and clicked submit!

Reflection Conversation

Once we finished our flexible seating reflection, we had a conversation as a class. It turned out that most students said they preferred to work alone in a quiet spot. They only liked 1-2 people sitting near them. Most kids didn’t like sitting in a place where the air conditioner blew directly on them. Kids loved sitting on the couch and didn’t like sitting at tables, particularly the big tables that were supposed to seat 6. 

We posted this information on our whiteboard and worked to make improved flexible seating choices. From time to time, some assistance is needed in making choices, but for the most part, we’re doing well. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to launch flexible seating in this way before. I will 100% start the year off with something similar next year. 

Feel free to steal the image above and upload it into Seesaw for your learners! 

Changing Our Thinking: Parents Don’t Care

Changing Our Thinking: Parents Don’t Care

Rethinking what we do is what teaching is all about. This series looks to bring up those practices and offer ideas that are more relevant in today’s classroom. I know parent/teacher conference time is coming up, and today we’re discussing how we talk about student’s families. Sometimes we act like parents don’t care about their children- that isn’t true. 

We've All Heard It... Or Said It

Parents Don't Care

“I can’t believe they don’t even care about their child.” 

“____’s mom couldn’t bother to show up for parent/teacher conferences again.”

“We waited for an hour, but ____’s dad never showed for the meeting.”

I know that I have said some of the things above, and I have heard other teachers saying them as well. It didn’t strike me as something I shouldn’t say and were said out of frustration until this parent/teacher conference story from long ago.

 

Parent: How many other parents actually showed up for conferences today? I heard from ____’s teacher that she only had four families show.

Me: I’ve had most families show up.

Parent: I mean, I just can’t believe that these parents don’t care. Showing up for parent/teacher conferences is the least they could do. If you have time to go and get your nails done, you have time to show up here. I’m a lawyer, and I even managed to clear my schedule today. So if I can do it, someone working at McDonald’s can do it. Have a great rest of your day!

WHAT? How many of us have heard this conversation with the belief that if they cared, they would show up. 

What's the Problem?

All parents care about their children. I believe that parents are trying to do what’s best for their children. True, there is a small percentage (read: super, super small- teeny tiny) of parents that aren’t doing what’s best for their children, but that is not the majority of parents. 

PARENTS DO CARE ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN.

Ok. let’s unpack this “If I could clear my schedule as a lawyer someone at McDonald’s could too.”

Uh, no, they can’t. Have you been to McDonald’s? They can’t just take a break whenever you like! There is a schedule to stick to. Your work schedules you for specific hours, and it’s expected you work those hours. 

I like to think about my mom and my dad. My mom has always worked in retail, and my dad is a financial analyst and works in business. I don’t visit my mom at work, and I know that she is often only available to respond to my texts during her break. My dad is much more open. I can text him, and if he ever looked at his phone, he could answer it. I’ve popped into my dad’s office on a whim and taken him to lunch. My dad needs to notify his secretary that he will be back later, that’s all! My mom doesn’t have that luxury. 

To say that parents who work at McDonald’s (or wherever) don’t care about their children because they don’t have the luxury of leaving work to come to school isn’t ok. They are showing they care for their children because they’re working to provide for them. They’re doing their best, and they don’t need hate. Maybe we need to rethink the structure of parent-teacher conferences to allow more parents the opportunity to attend.  

Stop the Parent Shaming

We, as teachers, shame parents all the time, and we might not even know it. Usually, it happens out of frustration because we care deeply for each and every one of our students. The parents we work with also care deeply about their children. I’m not a parent, but I hear that the love you feel for your child is unreal and super deep. So, we could make a little argument that parents care about their children more than I can even imagine. We need to listen for the tone and messages that are sent by our words.

We’re doing the best we can as teachers and parents are doing the best they can as parents. Let’s work together! We each are concerned with the best interests of the child, and let’s focus on that. Sometimes I forget about meetings after school and only realize it as I see everyone on their way. Sometimes I forget to take attendance in the morning. We all mess up, and we’re all doing the best we can do. A bit of understanding and empathy might better serve our parent relationships better.

What I've Learned

If we care deeply about the children in our classroom, then we also care about their families. Families are doing the best they can. When people ask me questions that I know have negative connotations, I do my best to help rewrite this story we’ve written about those parents.

We’re all doing the best we can. We all support the student and their learning. That support looks different based on so many various factors. If parents don’t show up to parent-teacher conferences, it isn’t because they don’t care. Try reaching out in other ways. Connecting through Seesaw might be one way to show and communicate student progress. Whatever you do, don’t give in to the parent shaming!