Lughnasa Harvest Moon
Second religious school last night. I’ve got a lot to learn. I’m ready to discuss, to innovate, to present, to lead exercises; but, I’m apparently not ready for classroom management. Classroom management is an antiseptic term that I assume replaces discipline. Anyhow, it means maintaining an atmosphere in which learning is possible. I failed at that last night.
Two examples. First, Alan and I, though mutually respectful and with an agreed upon plan, let the order of things slide, taking too much time with sign in, snack, and the transition between class and the mini-service that Rabbi Jamie conducts each time. Too, somehow, and I don’t understand how, the kids got into a feisty mood, probably because they come to religious school right after regular school.
Second. When I introduced an exercise using beach balls to imitate juggling their worries and their parents expectations, it got rowdy and out of control very fast. I’m getting to know the kids on an individual basis, snatching moments to talk with them about basketball, living in Israel, dogs, being bored at school. One girl, exceptionally bright, had covered her hands with felt tip marker dots. But as a group I’ve not figured out how to calm them down and help them focus. Our responsibility, Alan and mine’s.
This class does represent my first teaching of this age group, so I now know I have a steep learning curve about how to maintain an attentive environment. I need help and I’m going to seek it out from Tara, Rabbi Jamie, Jon.
I know about learning plateaus intimately from my study of Latin. I would learn, learn, then seem to find a spot I couldn’t move beyond. I kept at it and eventually whatever barrier the plateau represented would fall away. Until the next one. This is similar, I’m sure. Sort of.
Feeling a bit impotent, not up to the mark. Not an unusual feeling and I’m not totalizing it though that is a challenge. I can’t keep the kid’s attention; therefore, I failed and therefore, I’m a failure. No. I’ve not yet learned this skill, this particular skill. I need to learn it; and, not knowing it, does not mean I’m a total doofus.
One idea I have is to do what organizers call one-on-ones with each kid. Not sure how to accomplish that quickly, but it would involve sitting down with each of them and discussing what they hope to get from the class, what motivates them, how they might get what they need out of the class.
Next class we are going to do a norms setting exercise, something I learned to do in my organizational consulting work. It involves determining a group culture, what we can expect from each other and in turn what all of us can expect from the group.
One issue I need to wrap my head around is the tendency, well begun at middleschool age, of pulling away from adult authority in favor of peer authority. I understand it intellectually, have experienced it personally and with Ruth and Joe, but figuring out it impacts a classroom? Not there yet.
Others have figured this out. So will Alan and I.