Monday, October 15, 2012


Remember last year when I described teaching kindergarten like having to manage a room full of cats?  They all had their own agenda and didn't give half a crap what my agenda was.  Just like cats.  Well, after a few weeks of teaching sixth grade I can honestly say that unlike a room full of cats, they are like a room full of puppies.  They are all eager and frantic and playful and have whippy tails and sharp little teeth, and their play looks a lot like fighting.  Just kidding. (They don't have tails.)

We had a teacher workshop the other day about "Learner Engagement."  There are five levels. Level one is "authentic engagement."  The student is truly interested in the topic at hand, wants to participate, and wants to learn.  I can't remember what the fifth level was called, but basically the student is not at all engaged in the topic being taught, and is causing problems and distracting other students.  Levels two, three, and four were something between the two, but I didn't really pay attention to those because I have found that my students are either at level one or at level five.  There is no in-between.

The funniest thing about them is that in my class, I seem to have a gravitational pull.  This is what my class setup looks like every morning:

The kids all have their own desks and I have a kidney shaped table at the front (I don't know how to make a kidney shape on Microsoft Paint) and a side table where I keep my lesson stuff.  Our room is nice and big so we have lots of room to spread out and I have a microphone and stereo system so everyone can hear me.  The kids actually only spend about 30 minutes at their desks, and the rest of the time we are all moving around.  I started the year mostly teaching from the front but I found that by the end of the day, this is what my room looks like:

The kids have all moved closer to the kidney table, in fact some kids who were in the back are now sitting at the front tables, and the side table is pushing into my side because it has been moved so close to me.  The kids still sitting in desks are complaining that they don't have any room to push their chairs back and the kids left in the back are complaining because they don't want to be "waaaay back here!" when in reality they are about eight feet away from where I am sitting.  I have tried to watch this happen, but it must be like watching a plant grow; you know it's happening, but you can't ever see it in action.  I have started teaching the first half hour of class - when everyone is in their desks - while walking around the room to see if this has any effect on the migration of desks.  It doesn't.  I end up moving every desk back about two feet every day after school.

They are just as fun as a room full of puppies, but they are also as exhausting as a room full of puppies.  One day when we were discussing whether the word "consistently" is an adjective or an adverb one girl raised her hand and told us, "I have ADHD."  Then about five other kids said they did too and before I knew it the conversation was no longer about vocabulary, it was about who does and who does not have ADHD.  I wrangled them back in and taught them the word "analogy." I told them that our class is like a train, I'm the conductor, and everytime someone blurts something out, or says something totally off-topic, it's like they just jumped off the train, and then I have to stop the train, back up, and pick them up.  They are so funny because now whenever someone says something off topic, the rest of them say, "GET BACK ON THE TRAIN!"  It's the ADHD Express and it's a pretty wild ride.


  1. I love it! "Get back on the train!"

  2. Ohhhhhhhhh gawwwd. I just read this and kinda forgot I'm a retired middle school teacher. It just brings it right back. I do love puppies.


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