Last Thursday afternoon as I sat in my classroom writing names and numbers on folders, book bins, name tags, clothes pins, you name it, I began to have something of an anxiety attack. Ever Miss Worrier, I stared down at my class list of 21 strangers (yes, my initial class was 21 students. As of today, I am up to 25 and officially out of desks and coat hooks...) and convinced myself that half of them were going to be behavior problems and that the year was going to be just as rough as last year. My basis for this? Zero. I had no idea who these children were, save 1 or 2 that I'd heard about from the previous teacher, but Little Miss Sunshine me decided that obviously they were all going to be crazy.
After working so hard to form relationships with last year's group, it was just daunting to me to have to start getting to know an entire new bunch of STRANGERS, to earn their trust, and "get them to fall in love with me" (as Fay & Funk would say in Love & Logic aka my teaching bible). At the same time, though, I was also excited to have a fresh start--a chance to really hammer home those routines that I was still figuring out last year. Anyways, I did manage to calm down, mostly by talking to my 4th grade teacher friend Miss R. She reassured me that they were overall a great group. Every class in our school has a handful of difficult students (there just aren't enough classes between which to spread them out!), so I was prepared for that, but there are of course so many wonderful students here too.
After that, I pulled myself together and stopped freaking out. My room was completely pulled together by Friday, my copies were made, and I had my first few weeks outlined. Logistically, I was ready to go. However, I still spent the whole weekend pretty nervous. Mostly I think I was/am nervous about laying that foundation of high expectations, routines, and procedures. I don't want my students to develop any habits right off the bat or think that I will let them get away with anything. Last year I knew the importance of building routines as preventative classroom management. The only problem was that I didn't know what kinds of routines worked for me! After a lot of trial and error last year (and a lot of learning on my part!), I think the systems I'm implementing this year really work for me and will work for my kids. Of course, I also learned last year how critical it is to adapt and reteach the SECOND you realize your current routine isn't working.
This morning I entered my classroom optimistic and in high spirits after a successful meet and greet last night. I was amazed at the sense of familiarity I felt writing the schedule on the board, organizing materials, and previewing my lesson plans. I have done this before. While there will be many things to learn and many surprises, I feel far less FRANTIC than I did last year. It's a wonderful feeling.
While I know we will be in the "honeymoon" stage most of this week, I know that even when my students' natural squirleyness kicks in I will be ready: I know that as important as it is to capture my students hearts and get them to love and trust me, it's equally important to be consistent, to crack down on disruptive/inappropriate behaviors immediately, and to reteach routines until they become second nature.
Most importantly, I know that no matter what, I can handle whatever happens this year. I will make it through. :)