1st Graders vs. Clean up vs. Mean Teacher

Okay it was one of those days with one of my 1st grade classes - I don't know what happened but MEAN  teacher appeared....  It is not a moment I am proud of, and I actually intend to make it right with the kids I had today, it was one of those moments that was just not pretty.

My 1st graders had a GREAT class - they worked really hard on their projects and when they were done they went to the 'done' station as normal.  They were busy and having fun - doing their thing.  I gave them warnings about clean up, as normal..... then it was time to clean up and it happend... no one cleaned up.  They walked around talking to friends, getting out MORE materials..... I stopped our song and told them it was time to stop and clean up - if not they would not be taking their 'free draw/builds would be recycled'.  It didn't phase them... I could have been speaking Greek for how many of them followed my warning.

Sure enough the song was over and kids were out of their seats, pencils all over, paper all over, glue bottles on tables toppled over..... I have no idea what happened.  We have been cleaning up with the song since fall - more often than not they stop what they are doing and put everything away. Often times they race to see what table can be done first.  However, not today.  Today I was shocked, frustrated, and honestly a little upset.  I had 3rd graders standing in the hall waiting to come in and they were goofing around after our song was over.  I had reminded multiple kids with personal reminders during clean up with things like, "Put away the clay please" "Check your table.  Is it clean?" "Where should your body be?" "Put away the glue please." Greek I tell ya, I learned and was speaking Greek.

That is when it happened - MEAN teacher broke out - I haven't seen mean teacher in years and BAM there she was.

Mean teacher had all of them place their free made projects in the recycling bin as I had warned them.  At the time this felt appropriate based on how they were playing/building them instead of cleaning -- but when I got home tonight and thought about it -- it just wasn't necessary.  In my mind those 5 minute projects they made with left over papers were nothing overly special - but perhaps to my kids they were the Mona Lisa and a gift for someone... I was an adult in that moment and decided those scraps were nothing more than scraps -- which wasn't my call.

I made a mistake today - I over reacted.  I am human.  I plan to talk that class and apologize for my actions and explain why I made them and why they were wrong.

Next time they come we will be practicing how to clean up (which is a far more appropriate consequence) and while we do that I will let them re-build what I asked them to toss.

This will be a lesson for me as it will be for them -- that even teachers make mistakes, teachers/adults can apologize when they are wrong.

I don't know what came over me in that moment.  I am not normally so rash about things - but I think the combination of surprise, frustration, and the need to get them out so my 3rd graders could come in was just a bad combination.

So, to my 1st graders I see on Thursdays -- I am sorry.


Nellie Mae said...

It is nice that you want to apologize....but I think you were justified. I have definitely been in your shoes and I have most certainly overreacted, but I think sometimes consequences are a result of students not meeting expectations and you are justified in taking away a reward (free time artwork). Don't beat yourself up, we have ALL had a similar experience, it is frustrating and you don't always have time to practice, especially when a class is waiting in the hall. The first graders were disrespectful to you and the other class by ignoring the classroom expectations, you chose the simplest consequence possible a the time and it was appropriate. Maybe you were being 'mean' or harsh, but our job isn't to sugar coat the cotton candy, we have to manage hundreds of students and a multitude of materials in order to make things run smoothly and stay on schedule, we can't be suzi sunshine every single second, it isn't realistic. Most of them won't even remember that by next week....the most important thing you can implement and enforce are procedures and routines.

Ms Novak said...

Thanks Nellie.

I think it wasn't just that I wanted to say sorry to them, but to myself if that makes sense.

It just wasn't me - that isn't who I am as a person or a teacher. And yes, that was the simplest solution at the time. I will make it into a teaching moment for everyone - about how their choices to not clean up had consequences and such and so on.

I talked to a couple teachers at school today and they said the same thing you did -that sometimes they have to be disappointed and hurt. Life isn't always perfect and easy, and they have to learn how to deal with those feelings as well as the happy ones.

So all in all - no one died, everyone left with all their limbs, a few tears were shed, and life will move on.

Miss said...

I've been in the same situation- especially with the young kids. It's like they think if they ignore me when I announce clean-up time, they'll just get to stay.

Or I say "time to clean-up" and then they just start working FASTER on whatever free project they're doing- lol!

Sometimes mean teachers needs to emerge During my practicum (I trained for secondary) one of my profs said that sometimes if you just can't get the students attention, to kick it old skool style and pick up the heaviest book you can find and SLAM it onto a desk- you will defininetly get their attention! ha! Haven't tried it yet but I've always wanted to ;)

Jennifer Matott (Sigmagirl) said...

You can't beat yourself up about it. You gave directions, you gave a consequence and in the end you had to follow through. End of story... I have done it too. It doesnt' feel good but they remember the point and won't do it again (we hope)... sometimes it's a full moon, bad day, or just 1st graders being 1st graders. I'm sure they will forget the extra projects that were recycled and come in ready to work next time. At least it wasn't the main project that they had to recycle. No worries.

Ms Novak said...

Jennifer you are very right, as has the other people who have commented. Next class I even pulled them all together to discuss their choices and mine in response to theirs -- the best part was, was I asked how art class went last time and with big smiles they said "GREAT!" HA! They didn't even remember what had happened. I stressed about it and they didn't even remember. We still practiced how to clean up which ended up being a good choice because I could use situations that were happening as examples!