My being out sick on Wednesday, followed by snow days on Thursday and Friday, meant that the students were a bit nuts today. Not just my classes, but the halls were buzzing with pent-up energy.
I knew this was going to be the case and I mentally prepared myself for it.
I didn't lower my expectations of my students, but I made a mental note to remember that they were a rambunctious group of 13 and 14 year olds who were coming back to school from 5 days without me and 4 days without school.
Some might argue (and have) that I should do this every day. They are right. One of the weird things about teaching middle school is that the students are at a very bizarre stage in development where they show bursts of maturity and responsibility, but are still, in reality, children.
In any event, I came in today with a very high level of patience and tolerance and made a conscious effort not to let age-appropriate behavior annoy me. So what did I do?
I kept my voice at a slightly lower volume than normal. I kept a patient and sincere smile on my face. I took 5 minutes to answer questions of the task I left them to do on Wednesday. I assigned a new task which allowed them to work (or not) at their own pace and told them I would be available for any questions.
Then I sat with a group of students and we got to work. I helped them with a question or two, encouraged them to explain their thinking and reasoning. I let go of their hands and moved to another group to do the same.
I checked in with all of the groups. Some were working better than others. Some weren't working at all. I encouraged them to attempt the problems and asked if they needed help starting. This worked for some, but not all.
I allowed myself to be ok working with the students who wanted my help.
I strive for 100% engagement, but I need to be ok with less. Much like what I expect of my students, I need to do my best and be proud of the effort rather than just the results.
I will not get every student every day.
But if I can get most kids, on most days, I think I'm doing alright.