Today was Draft Day in English Language Arts. We had two different drafts, one in Third Period and one in Fourth, with opposite results.
Third period’s draft was awesome. Everything went the way that I had envisioned it. The kids were so hype over the draft, that some even found theme songs and made dances for their teams. We even “squad[ded] up,” i.e. took team pictures. They were pretty into it, and we ended that class period on a high.
Fourth period’s was a fail. Looking back, I’m kind of glad it was.
It wasn’t an epic fail, but it easily could have been. Still, we have our work cut out for us. I’m looking forward to it.
What was the difference?
- Third period: 15 kids. Fourth period: 22 kids (with one absence).
A difference of six kids may not seem like a lot, but it’s just enough to turn a class with a high level of excitement from easily managed to “OMG!” One of my strengths is that I know how to hype a crowd. Calming them down, not so much 🙂 Next time we do something with so much inherent excitement, we need to go big or go home…it would have been easier to take this outside or to the gym, where the kids could spread out, and not have to watch their noise level.
- Third period: uninterrupted class time. Fourth period: interrupted class time.
In third period, I taught straight from 11:15-12:15. No interruption. In fourth period, there was a scheduling issue where I had to take time out to handle kids being in the wrong place. This led me to skip both of the videos that set the tone for The Draft, in the interest of time. The whole thing felt rushed, and the atmosphere just wasn’t right.
- Third period: seats were in rows. Fourth period: seats were in groups.
I share my room with another teacher this year, since we have more staff members on our roster. My “roommate” is awesome, and she has been very accommodating. We’ve agreed that we can change the seating arrangement however we want, but to default back to the rows when we switch off. Fourth period, though, the desks were already in the clusters of six, since that’s how we moved them in third period. Again, I didn’t explain to the kids why the seats were suddenly different, so they sat with their buddies. In groups. Of six. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.
- Third period: it was new to me. Fourth period: it was a little stale.
Ok, I know that I didn’t have the same enthusiasm that I had for The Draft, the second time around. The difference was probably imperceptible to the students, but I definitely felt it. I guess it’s human nature.
- Third period: I kept my cool. Fourth period: I responded emotionally.
It wasn’t like I cried or anything, but I was definitely losing my temper by the end of class. I think I was a little hangry. It was much harder to be patient closer to lunch time. I made a promise to myself to try not to raise my voice this year, if at all possible. I really want to model appropriate behavior for the students, and it’s definitely not appropriate to yell. Of course, we’re human, so I may slip up, but in general, I would rather keep calm as much as possible.
By this time, I’ve probably succeeded in my mission to build tension. You’re probably wondering what happened during fourth period to make things go a little bonkers. I would also write about third period, but it rolled out according to plan, which I detailed earlier this morning. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Fourth period started out great. Kids went on Edmodo and used No Red Ink. They loved it. I was just about to launch The Draft when I was called to my door to direct traffic consisting of about fifteen sixth graders. When I got back in five minutes later, it took an additional five minutes to repeat what I had just said to introduce Draft Day. Le sigh. In our profession, you have to be flexible and able to roll with the punches. This is an area where I can improve. I’m a Virgo. I like order. I like schedules. I don’t like disruptions…but such is life.
As I said, everything felt rushed. We skipped the NBA and WNBA video, which in hindsight, I never should have done. Those were my hooks. That’s what the kids subconsciously craved. They needed to really feel like they were in an NBA draft.
We began the draft, and it went smoothly for a while, until the captains began making secret deals among themselves for draft picks. When one captain violated the oral agreement, the other captain wasn’t very happy. Drama. Scandal. Trash talk. It would have been entertaining, had it not been happening in my classroom.
I gave the students a verbal warning about the noise level, doing so in a calm voice. They didn’t hear me. I raised my voice about ten decibels, in order to be heard. They settled down, but it wasn’t long before there was yet another scandal from a secret deal gone wrong. I sent the students back to their seats.
They finished the draft from the desks, which wasn’t nearly as fun. Finally, we started to pick team names. One student asked me if their team could make a trade. I told them they would have to wait until they earned enough points to do so. Then another team asked about a trade. I figured that it may save some pouting, drama, and major unhappiness to let those two teams trade one player each before we actually got started. Big mistake…I should have stuck to my guns. All of a sudden everybody wanted to switch. “It’s only fair.” Go figure. I told them they had ten seconds to switch and that we would stick with whatever teams they were in when time was up.
By the time the ten seconds were over, there were four teams: two with six, one with eight, and one kid by himself (we had one absentee). I told them that they needed to be in teams of five or six, and asked for volunteers to join the team of one. No one wanted to move, so I started to split up the team of eight myself. Lots of protesting and adolescent angst ensued. This, my friends, is when I lost my cool.
In a calm voice (although I was erupting below the surface), I told the students that this obviously wasn’t working, so we would scrap the idea, because we already spent too long on it. Then, I asked them to line up for lunch. While they were in the line, I began putting back the desks to get the room ready for my co-worker’s next class. I needed the time to cool off, and to figure out what our next move would be. I decided not to give them the bad example of someone giving up at the first sign of failure. After all, my PLN had taught me to “fail fast.”
A few students left the line to help me straighten up, without being asked. This lifted my spirits a great deal. After about two minutes, I addressed the class once again. I told them that things didn’t really go the way that we had planned, but that we shouldn’t give up. I asked them how can we make working in groups go more smoothly in the future. One of my students (who had a few minutes earlier said Draft Day was “stupid”) suggested having more kids per group. I told her that’s a great idea, and that we will add that as a reward they will be able to buy with their group points. She smiled a little.
Collectively, we decided that whatever they had done and submitted before, I would honor. However, they were each invited to send me a list of students with whom they would like to work, and that I would do my best, even though it wouldn’t be 100%. They thought that was fair.
After reflecting, I think I actually appreciate what happened in Fourth Period today. Yes, it was a bit messy. No, it didn’t go according to plan. However, I learned so much about what works and what doesn’t with my classes. My students also learned that their opinions are valuable, and I think it was an unexpected bonding moment. We were able to solve a problem together by collaboration. I think next time I decide to plan a “best…day…ever!!!” I will also include students in the planning process.
Thanks for reading. Nacho Mama out. (P.S. they loved her!)