when things don’t go well, i blame myself

Actually, things went okay today, on this, our eighth day of school.

On Friday I passed out the Friday folders to the children as I was lining them up to go out in the hall to get their jackets for recess.  They started opening their folders, dropping their papers on the floor, and chatting with each other, and I had a really hard time getting them out to the cubbies, getting them to put their folders away in their backpacks, and then getting them in their jackets and back in line to go outside.

I raised my voice a few times.

When we got outside and the children were playing, I told Miss Nelson, “well, I screwed that up.”  She was really nice about it but I could tell she agreed with me that I should have told the children what to do (or not to do) with their folders, before handing them out.

I chatted with our Friday volunteer, a senior in college who hopes to teach Spanish someday, and asked him, “did you see what I did wrong?”  He looked startled, so I explained that if something goes wrong in a classroom, it’s often the teacher’s fault.  I try to look back and figure out what went wrong, and what I should do differently next time.

I didn’t feel terrible, however, and I had a very nice, relaxing weekend.

So, on to today.  It was better, but I just had a hard time recognizing that or being able to relax.  I started my day with technological problems, and a request from a 2nd grade teacher to do a Fountas & Pinnell benchmark reading assessment with one of her students, and I realized that I hadn’t finished my weekly lesson plan or gotten my room ready or switched out the books on the shelf.  I also found out that I have three new students, one of whom would be arriving in 30 minutes.  So I really had to scramble, and when I opened the door to the classroom at 9:30 to greet my students, I felt like I had been in triage mode.  Only the most important stuff got done.

Nan didn’t show up, so I figured she had arrived with just enough time to greet our special ed students off their buses.  That’s fine, but it meant I didn’t get to touch base with her before the children arrived, which is what I prefer.

I was on my own, and had to greet the children, help them find their cubbies, remind them to get their Friday folders out of their backpacks, give stickers to the ones who remembered, greet my new girl, remind everyone to sign in and move their nametags (from “who’s not here?” to “who’s here?”), and show the whole class how to draw or write in their journal for the first time.  I ended up begging another teacher to help me for five minutes, which she did, thank goodness.

On the bright side, they soon went off to Gym and I had a little time to myself (I inhaled a cookie) to get more things done, and then I went off to assess the second grader, in my role as a mentor teacher, helping other teachers with our new reading program.  He didn’t do all that well, so now I have to go back tomorrow and try again with a lower level assessment.  Then the children returned and we had a pretty nice morning meeting.  Our first time doing centers where they get to decide where to go (using clothespins with their names on them to clip to the centers time pocket chart) went surprisingly well.  I vaguely remember that last year’s class took weeks to figure it out, and these guys seemed to figure it out on the first day.

David had a really good day, and then, alas, at blocks he accidentally knocked over Leo’s building, so Leo hit him, and David punched him in the chest really hard before Nan could react.  Thankfully Leo handled it quite calmly, and Nan was able to get both boys to take time outs.  (I emailed Leo’s mom to tell her what happened; I hope she doesn’t freak out.)

Then I read Knuffle Bunny for the first time, using the Repeated Interactive Readaloud method, and it went pretty well.  Only David and a cute spacey girl we’ll call Trixie (after the main character in Knuffle Bunny) and a few other children were able to answer questions or participate in the discussion, but that’s okay.  It’s early yet.

We had a hard time getting ready for recess, so when we got out there and I checked my watch I realized with a sinking feeling that we had only two minutes left before we had to go inside.  Yes, this would count as one of those things that was my fault.  What kind of teacher gives her class two minutes for recess?

So when I blew my whistle to line up, two little non-English speaking girls looked right at me, and then ran away to keep playing.  Several other classes were outside at this point, and no matter how often I blew my whistle, the two girls would not line up.  In fact, they had vanished into the crowd.  I had the rest of the class in line heading toward the school, but David looked like he was about to lose it, and Max started pushing, and I could see Nan fruitlessly searching the playground.  Finally I told the class to stay where they were and ran to the playground, where I found the girls and yelled at them.

Yuck.  I still feel bad about that.  What kind of teacher yells at her students at all, let alone on the 8th day of school?!  I regretted it instantly.

We managed to get inside without David punching anyone, although Max was yelling, and I found a Spanish-speaking assistant to talk to my two little recess runaways, and I managed to get everyone on the bus or handed over to a parent.

I’m home now, but I felt a little twinge of anxiety not long ago.  I haven’t had trouble with anxiety for months, and I really don’t want it to come back now.  I’m trying to breathe, deep breathing, keep breathing…..I need to be ready for tomorrow.

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11 thoughts on “when things don’t go well, i blame myself

  1. We all have those days. Don’t beat yourself up. Relax tonight and regroup. That is the great thing about tomorrows , it is like a crisp white sheet of paper hanging on the easel ready for a new painting. I bet the day wasnt near as bad as you thought it was.

  2. It isn’t just the little kids that have to be told step by step what to do. I had to do it when I taught 8th grade. It wasn’t fun. They think they know what you want before you even start.

  3. That’s sounds like EVERYDAY with my babies! Don’t be so hard on yourself. If nothing else, you made me smile, although now I feel bad that you’re misery made me laugh. 🙂

  4. I agree with the title of your post. So much of what happens in a classroom comes down to us. At the same time, it takes a while to get to know a class well enough to anticipate things well enough to have a smooth day. Good luck tomorrow!

  5. Hooray for you! I like that you take ownership for a bad day! I feel totally responsible for everything in my class and I think that is right. I can’t understand how teachers blame students for not learning when tests come back failing, or poorly explained project turns out poorly, or the kids are out of control because of inadequate directions. I know when these things happen that I didn’t do as well as I should have. I know others things come into play but if I am totally with it then things turn out well. I remind myself: model with full attention, explain and then check, check , check for understanding, list steps on the board, let kids model, and then let them begin. They feel so much better when they are totally prepared and you will too. This said after 17 years, 2 in the projects at 1st grade, 2 years middle school ED all boys, 10 years of 3rd grade math and science and now 5th grade science year 4. I’m still learning and still screw up but overpreparing weighs out in the end. You are going to be a great teacher this year.

  6. Thanks for the support, everyone. I’m sure tomorrow will be better. I just hope I can relax a bit and enjoy myself more, rather than feeling so wound up. After all these years, you’d think I’d be able to handle the start of school with a little more aplomb!

  7. (((Hugs))) Remembering all the play-by-play instructions and keeping them short and simple is one of the hardest parts of the start of the preschool year. (repeat, repeat, repeat again…) I always have trouble with that too. I hope the rest of your week goes much better. Try not to be too hard on yourself.

  8. I think that it is good that you are taking responsibility for the bad times but I do think there are some things to help them go more smoothly. We just watched a video about a chool that had Cougar laws, which were some school wide rules the school had and the teachers would go over them the first day so all the students would know what was expected. Also, I find at the beginning of the year I handle the students better if I have evrything done before I leave work the night before. Yes, it involves some late afternoons but I don’t feel so overwhelmed when i get there the next day or on Monday.

  9. in your last few entries i feel like i’ve been reading my own thoughts for my last year as a classroom. if you could see me right now i’m doing the ‘text-to-self connect’ sign we teach the kids to do when the connect with the book. anxiety connections and all. that was the year i had to write myself a sign “i will not use wine as a coping mechanism” in my kitchen. hang in there! there’s a lot of great stuff hidden amongst your reflections in your entry. don’t forget to include celebrations in your reflections!

  10. Oh my God. “I will not use wine as a coping mechanism.” Are you reading MY thoughts?!

    Your reminder to remember celebrations is a good one. It has been a hard week and I haven’t posted much, but I will post soon about some of the good stuff.

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