Foundations: Keeping Up Kindness in the Classroom

February is the dark month of school.

The kids are over it.

The teachers are over it.

Everyone is desperate for the snow days that will likely never come.

I can deal with the missing homework assignments, lower assessment averages, and a bit more chatter during whiteboarding.  As a teacher of second-semester seniors, I expect these things.  I PLAN for these things.  That's why my regular physics course is dominated by projects at the end of the year!  I UNDERSTAND the struggle.

What I don't appreciate is when respect and kindness start to leave our classroom community.  When we return from winter break, I always feel like I am holding my breath, hoping with all of my heart that this year will be different.  This year, my endless reminders for kind language and my emphasis on the five values of physics (posted all over the room and on every packet and homework) will do the trick!

But here I am, writing this post on February 13.  My students are worried about where they're going to be next year, they're exhausted from the push of getting their first semester grades as high as possible, they're starting their senior theses, and their classes are continuing to expect them to learn new things.  When things get hard, as humans, we have trouble stepping back from our own worries and problems and seeing/responding to/caring about the needs and feelings of others.  I know this.  Knowing why doesn't make it easier to watch and experience firsthand.  I like to write posts with actual solutions to problems I've been having.  This time, I don't have a solution.  This isn't a physics classroom issue.  This is a human being issue.

So what am I going to do about it?  First, I'm going to keep setting the best example I can for the kids I teach by promoting respect and kindness through classroom norms and addressing issues clearly, immediately, and consistently.  Second, I need to care for myself.  Addressing lapses in respect is the most emotionally draining aspect of teaching.  I need to consistently make sure I'm finding balance in my day and taking some time for recovery.  My husband and kids help me out big time in this department.  There are days when I come home from school and, instead of me putting my kids to bed after dinner, my husband and my little ones tuck me in first.  Third, I'm going to keep counting down until spring break... :)

disanto physics poster if you can't be kind be quiet


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