On the first day of my school year, I was appointed to my ‘first class’; yet, as I explored in A Teacher’s Story, this position was destined to last a mere six days.
In this post, I share my memories of Room 11, and the lessons I learnt in those six hectic, stressful, yet wonderful days.
It is a tribute to my students, and the class that never was.
My apologies – this is a rather long post.
Being appointed on the first day of school is no way to start a class. This was an intensely stressful time, as I worked to translate my ideas about classroom organisation, curriculum planning, and behaviour management into reality. I sincerely hope and pray I’m never called upon a job on an hour’s notice ever again.
Nevertheless, I was able to learn a great deal about establishing a new class.
Determining my Classroom Organisation
My classroom was a small physical teaching space; and unfortunately, this limited the extent to which I could arrange it to my liking.
When arranging my space, I needed to consider the location of my desk, students’ desks, and storage tubs. When I arrived, the desks were positioned in rows facing the front; an arrangement which a) I dislike and b) I found extremely difficult to navigate (walking around the class).
I wanted to establish a central floor teaching space where students could sit, and rearranged students’ desks accordingly. This arrangement was changed three times in response to classroom dynamics, as I had to separate several conflicting personalities. These photos show my final, workable arrangement.
I was also able to create and laminate a class visual timetable (schedule), as well as my students’ personalised nametags for their desks and supply tubs. Sadly, I never got a chance to use these labels for real - they became my parting gift to my students as we parted.
- Consider student dynamics when creating seating plans – and don’t be afraid to change plans if they aren’t working
- If space permits, I’d use a horseshoe seating arrangement with my next class.
- An empty classroom & bare walls can be quite confronting! It is important to establish student work-displays as soon as possible.
- My laminated visual timetable & student desk labels were an excellent idea. The students loved the personalised nametags, and I think they helped give them some ownership of the classroom space.
- In time, I’d like to bring in cushions or an old couch for silent reading. Realistically, there was no space for these here.
- I also realised the need to develop a recording system to keep track of students’ contributions of classroom consumables – those tissues are worth their weight in gold!
Developing our Classroom Rules & Expectations
Faced with a wide range of ability levels, personalities and challenging behaviours; classroom management in Room 11 was always going to be a challenge.
It took me some time to learn how to manage the ‘dominant personalities’; and to conform to school expectations regarding the use of extrinsic rewards (sticker charts and prizes) and classroom management forms.
I’m no fan of extrinsic rewards, as I prefer group reward systems. I had contemplated the idea of establishing a whole-class reward time on Friday afternoons (jokingly called the “Friday Free-for-All”), for students demonstrating good behaviour during the week. I would like to try this with my next class; for based on my relief observations, 30 mins reward time can make a huge difference to class morale and behaviour.
In these early days, I spent a great deal of my time learning about my students; building positive relationships and sharing a little bit of myself (including my horrendous sense of humour). I put a few photos and funny cartoons up alongside my desk (to cheer myself up), and made a point of learning students’ names (no easy feat!). This would later prove “time well spent”.
- This experience was a valuable opportunity to implement my management approach, which I have blogged extensively about in the past (see The 3R’s of Effective Learning Environments and My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management)
- I realised that I have sound classroom management skills (and an ironic sense of humour) which stood me in good stead as I worked to establish my classroom community.
- This was the first time I’ve ever negotiated classroom rules, taught routines, and established my behavioural expectations – and the process worked well. I was surprised at how quickly students began to settle and bond as a group.
- I also realised the importance of adhering to whole-school classroom management plans – whether I particularly like them or not!
Teaching Room 11 for those 6 days was a transformative learning experience. It was one I had to undertake, and I know I am now much better equipped to establish a new class in the future.
Yet, so many good things came out of what was, at the time, a deeply traumatic event. So many opportunities to learn, grow, and connect. I have no regrets, no ill-feelings. But I will never forget my Room 11, the “class that never was”.