The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Rearranging the Schedule

There are some days that I stare at my teacher plan book and find myself wondering, “What on earth should I be teaching tomorrow?” I typically plan out my classroom schedule a week at a time. I know some teachers who have their schedules planned two or even three weeks in advance, and others who have whole quarters or semesters planned. I admit, I am not one of those teachers. I find myself rearranging my plans even from one day to the next; my weekly schedule is more of a guideline to keep track of general goals.

The week before the end of the semester and the week at the beginning of the semester are both so full of transitions, though, that it is hard to really plan much. At least, it is for me. I spend a lot of the time building community in the classroom, establishing routines, and carrying out the business of making sure that the important things are getting done. So this week, just two days into it, is one of those weeks where I am definitely trying to figure out what I want to teach next. What do my students remember from before the break? What have they forgotten? What routines do we need to reinforce? What routines need to be started? How should I change the schedule? All of these questions are going through my mind as I contemplate where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we are going to get there.

I am trying to establish some more regular routines with my class schedule. I would like to get to the point where my students can, with a large degree of certainly, look at the clock and realise that, since we have finished a particular lesson or activity, we will most likely begin working on math, or literacy, or science, or social studies, or whatever. At the same time, I know that my teaching needs to be flexible enough to change as the currents lead us, and my students need to be flexible enough to not have a complete meltdown when the currents change our course.

One of the things that helps me maintain my sanity and sense of control of my life is the leadership training I have both received and provided through my work with Operation Snowball, Inc. and the Illinois Teen Institute. We teach young people about the markers of a successful team, and we teach them about the stages of group development. One of the phrases we use to teach this is “storming, forming, norming, performing, adjourning.” Storming is when the group first gets together and is rather chaotic. Forming is when they begin to establish guidelines. Norming is when they are following their self-established guidelines and are beginning to act as a cohesive unit. Performing is when they, as individuals and as a group, are truly achieving success. Adjourning is when the group is ready to separate and move on. The goal is for a group to get to the level of performing before eventually adjourning, but the reality is that groups move all around through the stages, and that is perfectly normal.

There are days when my class is storming. There are days when they are performing. We keep returning to the forming and norming stages, and, since we just got back from a break, we are going through the storming stage, as well. I have no doubt that we will reach our goals, but I often wonder if my goals are the same as my students’ goals. I think this is going to be a mini focus-unit where we can discuss goals, set goals, and then help one another reach those goals. This will require us to rearrange the schedule some more, I am sure, but it will also help us rearrange things in such a way that we are ready to move forward and learn together. We’ve done it before, and I am confident that we will do it again!



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