(I refuse to call you “Dear Failure” because you most definitely are not!)
Just like every human can tolerate different levels of pain, so too can adults can handle different amounts of classroom chaos.
Your tolerance level appears to be higher than your admin’s.
But just because you can tolerate disorder doesn’t mean it’s the best learning environment for all of your children. You have two people telling you on two occasions that your class is crossing the line to “out of control.” And these two people get to see the management in every room in your school, so their opinion is not to be dismissed out-of-hand.
Oh… and these people are also your bosses. Have you asked them for specific details on what they saw and what their concerns were? It's time for you to take a look at what you're doing through a different lens. Literally, a “lense” – as in video.
You have to want to improve
But first: Are you serious about getting on top of this? If you are, then I have a solution. If you are just looking for commiseration – that’s not my thing.
And rethink your career? Personally, I think it would be a lot less stressful to learn how to handle principal observations, even unfair ones.
So, about that video…
Now that any modern phone can shoot video it’s very easy to arrange, but the first step will take some effort. That’s because you need to see what the kids are doing while you teach, not just what you are doing.
First, find out about your district video policies. Send home a release (if necessary) with an explanation that you are filming only for self-improvement and the video will never leave the building and will be deleted when done.
While you are waiting, tell your principal what you are doing. Invite her to view it with you (seriously!).
Start filming multiple lessons. Set expectations so there are no camera clowns. The point is to capture your teaching and how your students are reacting to it.
I wouldn't focus on classroom management as much as having an efficient, smoothly-running classroom community that's respectful and where all students can learn. So don’t really pay attention to your teaching as much as what the students are doing during your teaching.
- Are all students paying attention?
- Are they on task?
- How do you know?
- Are they looking at you or are they looking at their buddies sitting next to them?
And the biggie:
- Based on what you are seeing, are you confident that effective learning is taking place?
Next, after teaching the videotaped lesson, hand out a formative assessment for the standard you were teaching.
You need an outside opinion
Take a deep breath and make an appointment to view the video(s) with your admin. You want them to know you are working on your classroom management, don’t you? Well, this is how you do it. Pause it during replay and point out what you think are doing well and where you think you can improve.
No teacher has classroom management nailed, ever. That’s because every classroom is a new mix of kids every year. Teaching is a work in progress. Even veteran teachers like me have to really work at classroom management and community building.
Do you ever say to your kids that they need to work hard and practice to improve? That that is just how we become successful in life? Well… Look in the mirror (or the video camera)!