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Ten Things I Learned from my First Two Weeks in Gr 1-2

10) These tiny humans need direct instruction and continuous feedback about self-control. They may need to be reminded every day before every transition that you expect them to respect personal space. They may need you to control the “traffic” flow in the classroom. They may need you to scaffold their routines such as classroom clean-up so that not so many tiny humans are moving chairs, or brooms, or materials at once.

9) Teach them to ask you if they want a hug, otherwise, you will have little hands and clingy bodies in your personal space all the time. They can say, “Excuse me, I need a hug please.”

8) Tiny humans have big feelings. And they often do not know how to cope with them. This manifests in tears, outrage, raucous laughter, and pushing/shoving/grabbing, etcetera – sometimes all at once. What can you do about this? Well, just like your own children, they are entitled to their feelings. Let them have their feelings, but teach them some strategies for coping appropriately. At school, appropriate options might include “take a break” strategies that allow students to leave the room for a drink, a walk or some other change of scenery; using a tool kit with fidget tools or drawing materials to calm down in a designated area of the classroom; and direct instruction about how to use words to solve their problems or describe their feelings.

7) Vigilant supervision is required if any of the students demonstrate impulsive or mischievous behaviours. Constant vigilance is exhausting and high-maintenance. Sometimes you will need help because some groups require more supervision than possible with only one adult.

6) You run the behaviour plans, the behaviour plans don’t run you. If the systems you use for encouraging desirable behaviours and diminishing undesirable behaviours are too complicated you won’t use them consistently and therefore, they won’t work. Keep it simple and select strategies that you can actually maintain. I choose strategies that enforce individual accountability (like 1-2-3 timeout) and group rewards (points to the cleanest, quietest group).

5) Hands-on activities will go over best when you explicitly teach the students the procedures for using the materials, and cleaning up afterward.

4) A little goes a long way (also known as Keep it Simple, stupid). I have found that a little bit of information or content can be taught, retaught and approached in different ways throughout the week. For example, we read stories, had discussions, watched videos, dramatically acted, and did drawings all on the concept of push-pull forces. One idea. In many ways. Now they truly get it.

3) Tiny humans don’t get your sense of humor…but keep trying. I think it is important for a teacher to share their personality with the class in ways that build bonds and allow students to see your humanity. We’re not robots, so don’t act like one. I tell them about my weekend, my dog, my family - and I am not afraid to make fun of myself occasionally. Little students won’t get the joke as quickly as older ones, but if you keep being personable, someone will eventually catch on.

2) Parents are your allies. Not long ago, these tiny humans were even tinier. You have someone’s babies in your class. Talk to families about what students are learning and doing. Talk to families when students are not doing the right things. Talk to families when students ARE doing the right things.

1) The one thing you can count on is change. I know I did this to myself by changing provinces, but teaching Grade 1-2 has been especially full of change for me. Two new grades, two new curricula, new materials, new school, new principal, new reporting system, new e-portfolio, new team and 20 students who are new-to-me. It has been…a lot. But it has been a welcome challenge and a learning adventure. In the long run, I am not destined to be a Grade 1-2 teacher, but I have been grateful for the opportunity. My hat’s off to you lifers!


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