Today my students took a quiz, read their novel silently and took notes, and browsed books and stationary at our school book fair during the 41 minute period. Tomorrow I will attend a local reading conference, and the guidance counselor will lead an activity in my classes. I think about the rest of the week - graphic novel lesson (continued from 2 weeks ago) Thursday, then nonfiction SSR (sustained silent reading) Friday - and the week's done.
I feel twinges of guilt that I'm not working harder this week. Then I think, why should I work harder? I'm not the one trying to pass 7th grade. You teachers know what I'm talking about - something's WRONG when the teacher works harder than the student.
Teaching my curriculum is not hard work. It's engaging, creative, challenging, trying, rewarding, worrisome, etc. But it's not hard work. Helping kids make friends is hard work. That's been gnawing away at the back of my mind ever since last week's parent conferences. We all know what to say and do when students have academic struggles - organize, work harder, study, encourage, reward, consequence, blah blah blah. But what do we adults do when students have trouble making friends? And I don't mean "the right crowd" - I mean FRIENDS.
There are over 1300 students in my school - grades 6, 7, and 8. I think a quarter of them pass through my hallway each day. I teach 97 students (added a new student today!) each day, for 41 minutes each, in groups of about 20. The average 7th grader attends 6 or 7 different classes each day.
The New York State Learning Standards for English Language Arts includes "reading, writing, listening, and speaking for social interaction". That's why my subject is crazy and wonderful at the same time. I should and I can and I do create opportunities for students to make friends, but so far, it's the hardest part of my job.