Letting Go

One of my New Year’s Resolutions – the list is really long! – is to try not to be such a control freak about what we do in the classroom. I’m letting go of the idea that I need to be at school before 6:30 am (our school begins at 8:30) and that I can’t possibly leave before 5 pm to get things done. Yesterday I left the house at 7 am and discovered that there is a world of sunlight out there!

Well, the reform movement can also be applied to my students. Yes, in general, they are a handful, but just maybe they will step up to the plate if I shift some responsibility on to them.

Up to this point, I had very complicated management for what part of the Daily 5 Cafe each student was responsible to complete on a daily basis.  I felt the need to do this because of the requirements for small-group instruction within our school – Safety Net students must meet with teacher and literacy partner (also a teacher) twice each day. Out of a 40 minute block, that does not leave much time for self reading, does it? And when do these very needy kids get to experience (and possibly get jazzed up by) other aspects of literacy? It was a puzzlement.

So, I’ve shifted things around so that the whole group lesson is scheduled for a half-hour instead of 15 minutes. Will I spend 15 minutes in lecture mode? Heck no! I just am keeping that time so that kids can go off and start other things before they are in full small group rotation mode.  I think it will work – at least it did yesterday.

Additionally, the rest of the students who are not in a small instructional group, now have the flexibility (I think my exact words to them were: “I think you are grown up enough to handle this….”) of completing the D5 activities in whatever order pleases them. They have to make 3 commitments: 1) to read for at least 20 minutes every day without interruptions, 2) turn in their response journal on the assigned day and 3) not to spend all of the D5 block standing in front of the classroom library chatting it up.

As I was testing students yesterday (our mid-year Fountas Pinnell tests start now), I looked around the room in amazement. It was quiet, the conversations that were taking place seemed to be about literacy, and outside of 2 students who were testing whether or not I’d notice, no one was in the classroom library socializing.

It is hard for me to let go. Most of the time I feel responsible for making sure everything goes perfectly — and there’s the problem. It is not just my responsibility – it is a shared one. And as far as perfect? Well, these are kids, so I need to remind myself to park perfection at the door.

So far, so good.