I should have known better. Every year I make the same mistake. I don't listen to myself and trust my own teaching instincts.
Because of that, each day in the classroom last week started out chaotic.
I'm sure it didn't look chaotic to an outside observer. But in my insides, there was chaos. My head was spinning, my stomach churning, my mouth was getting dry, and my face was starting to burn. I could feel myself starting to talk faster and with a higher pitch.
I was getting overwhelmed. Quickly. First thing in the morning. And as a highly sensitive person, avoiding the feeling of being overwhelmed is the most important thing I can do to conserve my much needed energy.
When highly sensitive people get overwhelmed, they have more trouble thinking on their feet, saying the right things and making decisive choices. Being overwhelmed makes highly sensitive people much less effective teachers.
So what was I doing wrong?
My students knew the routine. They knew how to come in, sign up for lunch, read the message, and start their morning work.
The problem was the morning work.
I listened to what the rest of the 4th grade teachers were doing for morning work and being the conscientious team member that I am, I thought I should be doing what they were doing. Even though, deep down, a voice was telling me it was the wrong decision.
The morning work was differentiated at three different levels. It was a Daily Math packet with math problems for students to do Monday through Thursday. The intention of the packet is to cover the many different skills learned in 4th grade. The preparation for this was easy. I simply had to make the three different packets and it would last the entire week. The problem with the packet was that there were too many items that students needed help with. So it meant I needed to do lots of on the spot one-on-one teaching.
Picture this. Ten or more students standing in a line at my desk, all needing help on different problems. Me quickly teaching each problem to the students while trying to attend to other morning procedures such as attendance, lunch count, collecting notes and homework. Students waiting not so patiently in line as I thrown in little lessons of how to wait your turn and not interrupt when I am talking to another student.
The room is a buzz of chaotic activity.
Not the way I want to start my day.
A Better Way to Start the Day
After reflecting on why I came home so drained all week, here is how I now start my day.
Students have been taught how to come into the classroom, sign up for lunch, read the morning message on the board and begin the morning work that is in their folders.
The morning work takes more time to prepare. But the results are worth it.
It is never a new skill. It always a review or application of something they have learned. Usually it reinforces what we are working on during the day.
When students complete their morning work, they go to the correction table and correct their own work. They bring it to me for a quick check. If they got something wrong, I ask them to tell me why they think they got it wrong. Then, they put it into their mailbox.
Students can move onto a choice. I have a list to choose from called "What Can I Do When I Am Done?" It includes a variety of independent activities such a read, write, quiet games, draw, puzzles, and computer games.
I use this time to first attend to my clerical duties and then help individual students. I usually pull a couple students who I think made need help to sit with at a round table as I check other students' morning work.
The room has a soft hum of productive activity.
This is the way I love to start my day.