Mondays right after lunch, I see a first grade class whose behavior I'll charitably describe as "a disaster." Individually, they're sweet kids. As a class, they're a whirling dervish of can I go to the bathroom, he hit me, she's writing on my paper, he ripped my paper, can I get a drink of water, my pencil broke, I am going to quit my job if the period doesn't come to an end. (Oh, wait, that last one is me.)
I've been having trouble planning lessons for this group because it takes so long to get them settled down that there's barely time for any of us to accomplish anything before the period is over. They're also ESL kids. What's the point of teaching a lesson on how to put a period at the end of a sentence when no one finishes writing a sentence by the end of the class?
Today before we started class I held up my "Class Behavior" stoplight (green = 2 stickers, yellow = 1 sticker and red = no stickers for you, say it Soup Nazi style) and issued a proclamation. It is going to be a green day, I said. I am so confident that it is going to be a green day that I will give you not one -- not two -- but three stickers on your class sticker chart if we're having a green day by the end of the class. You can do it!
Maybe it was because it's Monday, and they chilled out over the weekend. Maybe someone put Xanax in their food at lunch. Maybe it was because I looked them in the eye and dared them to behave. But praise Harry Wong, my first graders had a green day.
They weren't perfect. We still went through our usual round of can I go to the bathroom, he took my pencil, she's writing on my paper, I need to drink water. But it was turned down, like, forty notches. And Amber -- Amber -- who's usually out of her seat and at my side pestering me and talking out of turn -- spent the entire time writing, pausing only to display for me her handiwork. Literally my jaw dropped open: "Amber!" I exclaimed. "I am so impressed by how hard you're working today!"
She beamed. I beamed. Then Danny kicked Andrew and Eddie knocked over a chair.
In the end, I gave them their green day and three stickers anyway. And according to their classroom teacher, they talked about it all afternoon.