Observations on Classroom Management

My experiences with classroom management here have been very different from what I’ve seen in my placements in the past. I do think it has to do with being in a different grade level to an extent, but cultural differences certainly play into it as well. From my observations and my conversations with my cooperating teachers, it seems that this is an area where they face many struggles. Like with any school, the level of management that is required is very different from class to class. From what I’ve found, in general, the youngers students have fewer management issues than the older students. Most of the behavioral issues seem to stem from a lack of engagement in the teaching material. To be quite honest, I don’t blame these students for being checked out of the lessons. The scripted curriculum they use for English instruction is quite dry, and I’m afraid that I still don’t know enough about these students to be planning lessons that match their English proficiency level, so most of what I’m trying to teach them doesn’t really seem to register with them either. I was a lot more successful with my Japanese food lessons than I was with my American geography lessons because at least with the food they were somewhat intrigued by the topic. On the other hand, despite my efforts to create activities and utilize worksheets, the geography lessons still seem to be something that the students can’t really connect with and some of the language may be over their heads.
From what I’ve seen, there are no specific procedures or routines for classroom management. The biggest behavioral issues that I’ve seen are just the constant chatting between students. This issue is only addressed through verbal warnings and may solve the problem to an extent, but the quiet doesn’t last for very long. I’ve seen both of my teachers stop lessons and angrily scold the students, but I don’t think the students take them very seriously. Mostly, the behavior is ignored if it’s just a student or two, and only addressed when the class becomes too noisy as a whole. I think the reason this is such a persistent issues is because there are no real consequences for the students, and they just see it as something that they can get away with. I asked my teachers if students ever get sent to see the principal, but they were very surprised by this and said that they don’t. From what I understand, the principal isn’t even always at school. There is no individualized management to address each student. The class is only ever managed as a whole, which is also a reason why the warnings don’t really have an impact on the students because they can easily hide behind the rest of the class and brush it off as if it wasn’t actually meant for them.
Many of the teachers mostly just raise their voice to get through to their students. This week I witnessed a substitute teacher bang on the table to get the students to quiet down, and I’ve heard from some of my other classmates that they see this done in their classes often as well, even in elementary classrooms. Most of the teachers take an authoritative position to try to get through to their students. I am no expert in classroom management, especially for middle school students, but I wonder if they would have an easier time managing the students if they tried to connect with them more. The students don’t seem to have a lot of respect for the teachers, and it is pretty clear to see that there isn’t a strong relationship between the students and the teacher. I think this is probably quite difficult to achieve since the students see so many different teachers in one day, and only for a short period, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I know managing the students is a stress factor for both of my cooperating teachers, and they have opened up to me many times about how they feel at a loss for what to do. I think both of them are rather burnt out because of this. Although I don’t have any clear answers for them, I can only say from my experience that the best way to manage students is to get to know them and address them individually, address even small behavioral issues right away so they don’t snowball and cause disruptions and frustration, and take a calm yet firm approach with them. Additionally, students need to know that there are consequences to their actions and be held to those, or they will never learn to stop behaving inappropriately. Good classroom management isn’t about controlling the students, but rather, motivating them and engaging them while showing to them how much you care about their educational success. Students need to be held to high standards, and if you do, they will respond to them, as they see that as a sign that their teacher genuinely cares about them rather than just ignoring their undesirable behaviors.

Engaging Students at the Middle School Level… Impossible Task?

One of my assignments this week had me reflect on how to engage students and how I’ve seen it done in my placement. The first and only two lessons I actually observed before taking over the teaching, the teacher started the lesson by going over the homework she had assigned at the end of the previous lesson (she also closed the lesson by assigning next week’s homework, rather than reviewing or wrapping up the lesson). One by one in order of their seating chart, students read off their answers to the homework questions. In this way, student participation was not an option. Even throughout the rest of the lesson, she never really asked for volunteers, but rather, called on students. From my personal experience teaching these classes, if you ask for volunteers to answer questions, you could end up waiting for someone, anyone, to raise their hand for quite a while. I also tried to engage my students and encourage their participation by giving them worksheets and other activities to help them follow along with the lesson, but some students simply chose not to do them. Even in some of the classes where we simply played review games for the whole class period, some students chose not to participate. The teachers have talked to me several times now about how they don’t really know what to do with students who choose not to do their work. From my general observations, it seems that the teachers believe that it is up to the students to make sure that they are following along and doing what they need to do to make sure they are successful in their classes. From my personal middle school experience in Japan, there was this same expectation, that it was up to us as students to take responsibility for our own learning. I was actually an underperforming student in middle school because of this. I was very unmotivated and checked out in most of my classes. In contrast to this, through my college education, I have come to think that it is up to the teacher to arouse and sustain student participation, as well as ensure that they are engaged and participating throughout the class.

We had a discussion the other day in our afternoon Italian culture class about this exact journal topic. We have all been seeing more teacher centered and traditional lecture-like instruction in our placements. This seems to be the case for most of my classmates who are in elementary school placements as well. I’ve found a lot of similarities between Italian culture and Japanese culture, and so I related my Japanese schooling experience to what I’ve been seeing here and contributed to the discussion by making another comparison between the two cultures. Because we have been almost conditioned to view teacher centered, lecture style teaching to be “bad” or unengaging, we may see what we are seeing done here as something out of the norm or something that you shouldn’t be doing as an educator. We have spent so much of our pre-teacher education learning about ways to differentiate, meet all our students’ needs, and utilize student-centered teaching strategies. With that being said, with mostly homogeneous cultures like Italy and Japan, I think this style of whole group instruction has been/can be successful in some cases. There is some level of diversity in the classes, but there are still only about one or two non-native students per class that I have seen. In stark contrast to that, American classrooms have been becoming more and more diverse, which creates a large need for differentiated practices. This difference in teaching style that we are noticing may have to do with this difference in student demographics, in addition to many other factors as well. Although I wouldn’t say it is inherently “bad” teaching, it certainly doesn’t seem to be working with my middle school students here.
Even in the U.S., at some point in a student’s career, it becomes their responsibility to make sure they are learning in class. Because I’ve been in elementary schools and I’ve been taking classes revolving around elementary school teaching, this style of teaching seems unfamiliar or out of the norm to me, but it isn’t necessarily the case. So exactly when does this change of responsibility from teacher to student happen, and how are students made aware of this? If we want our students to make it to higher level education, at some point they are going to have to learn to take responsibility for their own learning. I always admired how well my cooperating teacher in Urbana instilled this sense of responsibility in her students at as young as a 3rd and 4th grade. But there will still always be students who choose not to be responsible, and although in elementary school, we still make great efforts to get through to these students, will their middle school teachers do the same? How do you make students who, in middle school, have no motivation or foresight to see how important it is that they are successful in school engaged? This has been my number one struggle during my placement here so far. As someone who was that unengaged and unmotivated middle school student myself, I’m still quite clueless about how to be a good teacher to someone like that. Although I think some of it is due to cultural and linguistic differences, I also think a lot of it stems from me just not being very familiar with middle school aged students. I have noticed that I am a lot more successful with the 1st year students (6th graders) than I am with the 3rd year students (9th graders), so I do think that the ages of the students are playing a role in this dilemma that I am facing.

As far as my cooperating teachers here go, they seem to be just as lost in this area as I am. In fact, one of my cooperating teachers and I had a long discussion this past week about how burnt out she is because of this. She is only a third-year teacher and she only works 21 hours a week, but she confessed to me how exhausted and lost she feels all the time. She even told me that she wanted to quit teaching, and would do so if another employment opportunity came her way. I don’t blame her, and I’ve always said that it takes a special kind of (very brave) person to teach middle school, but I wonder how much of her education prepared her to handle student management? I’m curious to learn more about the pre-teacher education system here and will have to ask her more about it when I get the chance.

Week 2 in Italy

Over my first two weeks of being in this placement, I got to talk to my cooperating teacher a little bit about what school is like here and the different duties that she has as a teacher. Because she teaches classes back to back, it is hard to find the time to really sit down and talk to her, but I have learned bits and pieces of what it is like for her as a teacher during the short conversations we’ve gotten to have over my first week and some corresponding through email. From what I’ve learned through my classes in the afternoon, and through what I’ve been observing, teachers have a lot of autonomy as far as what they choose to teach and how they choose to teach it. There are some national standards that set benchmarks for what students need to be able to do at the end of each grade, but they seem to be pretty broad and teacher are free to interpret them how they wish. My cooperating teacher simply said that she plans lesson objectives based on the topic and the time of the year. Right now I am teaching the 3rd year students about Japanese food, which we will then compare to American food and Italian food. The 2nd year students are also working on a project involving food and nutrition, so I am talking to them about the food pyramid/eating a balanced diet, and we are practicing how to give advice using “You should/you shouldn’t…” In addition to these special topics that teachers have chosen to include, they also follow a scripted curriculum for English. The other teacher that I am working with is focusing on present simple with the 1st year students she teaches, and I spend my time walking around assisting and engaging students in speaking practice. Most of what these workbooks focus on is grammar and vocabulary. In my opinion, this curriculum seems quite dry.
The teachers I work with seem to select teaching and learning strategies based on the students’ strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen both teachers utilize strategies like think-pair-share, grouping, and (very brief) one on one conversations (for speaking practice) with the students. My teacher seems to be very aware of each class and their different needs. Some are more easily engaged while others require more activities and/or games to help the lesson seem more fun for them. For the most part, I have observed a lot of lecture style teaching. The students sit in desks that are in rows and the teacher stands at the front of the classroom. With that being said, the teacher doesn’t just talk the whole time. The students actively participate in sharing answers and practicing pronunciation. Many times the teachers will have the students engage in conversation with the students around them.
When it comes to students with diverse needs, many students get outside support in addition to the accommodations their teachers make. For example, the special needs students get aids that follow and assist them. One student who is from South America gets special one on one tutoring for Italian. As far as accommodations inside the classroom go, my teacher has said that she generally simplifies a lot when they are first starting to learn a new topic and gradually give them more difficult tasks. She often utilizes pair work and peer tutoring and believes that it is useful for both those in need and the high performing students. I agree with this idea. In my past placement in Urbana, I would often pair higher performing students with lower performing students for subjects, especially like math, and found the results to be very good for both students.
Getting to compare these two different educational systems has been very interesting, and I find new similarities and differences between my experiences at home and my experiences here every day. Through my placement and my afternoon classes, I am excited to continue to compare the two systems and cultures throughout my time here.

Week 1 Student Teaching in Italy

Last week was my first week of being in my placement here in Italy. I am placed in a middle school, where I will be working with all of the students that go to the school, specifically during their English time. As someone that is used to being in elementary school classrooms, this is a big adjustment for me, let alone the cultural and linguistic differences that I have to navigate. I have two cooperating teachers that I am working with who have very different teaching styles. It is very interesting for me to get to see both. The English lessons that they have seem to come from a scripted curriculum. The students work on exercises in their workbook accompanied by listening and speaking practice. In some of the classrooms, I am working with the teacher to help students practice their conversational skills as she continues to follow this curriculum. In my other classrooms, I am teaching the students about Japanese food, then American food, so we can compare and contrast the different cultural influences and how they show through in the food we eat between Japan, America, and Italy. I am struggling to come up with ways to approach these lessons and make them engaging for the students. I barely have enough background knowledge on them to know what skills they have that I should be building on and what ways that I can support them in areas they need to improve on. Having never even observed a typical lesson in these classes, I’m not sure what kind of activities and teaching style the students are used to. I’m unaware of the resources that are available to me in the classroom/at the school, which also makes it difficult to plan for activities. In this way, planning for these lessons has been a real challenge. Although I am used to working with students who have different first languages, working with a whole class of students like this is completely different. I’m trying to think of ways that I can connect with these students during the one hour a week I have with them. Being in this placement really makes me think how amazing it is that middle school teachers teach so many different students.

Aside from what I’m learning through attempting to teach, I’m also learning a lot about the Italian education system through my conversations with my cooperating teacher and the Italian culture classes we are taking in the afternoon. From what I understand, teachers seem to get very few hours and are paid very little compared to what we are in the United States. I was talking to my cooperating teacher today about applying for jobs, and she was so surprised to hear that we apply to jobs individually through schools. She informed me that here, they have to apply through a general application and can only choose one city and 20 schools that they would like to apply to. Then, based on points (I am unsure of how these points are allocated and will have to ask her more about it) the teacher candidates are placed on a list. From there, the schools will call the candidates they would like to interview. I was most surprised when she told me that teachers often do not know whether or not they have a job for the school year until September 1st. Even if you do have a job, you may not be full time (18 hours), meaning that you wouldn’t get a full salary. Given the fact that there is little job security and little pay, I am not surprised that teachers often go one strike here (although it is only for a day, and seems to be somewhat ineffective). It has definitely put a lot into perspective for me. I’ve been so caught up in how broken our education system seems to be that I never thought about teachers having it much worse than we do in other places. With that being said, I am very surprised by the state of the education system here, because I had a general image of European countries having excellent education systems. This may be true in several other European countries, but certainly is not a generalization that can be made for all.

Last Day

My last day with my students was so emotional.

This class was especially hard to say goodbye to because I have spent both last semester and half of this semester with them.
On top of that, I spent significantly more time actually in the classroom, compared to other semesters.

I’ve really gotten to know and build special relationships with each and every one of these students.

Towards the end of the day, they “celebrated” me by showering me with gifts, going around the circle giving me affirmations, and eating lots of delicious snacks.

I burst into tears when I was handed the class gift they had gotten for me, which was a copy of “What Do You Do with an Idea?’ by Kobi Yamada with a sweet note saying “Your ideas make this world a better place” and each student’s signature. I managed to make everyone else cry, and the entire class engulfed me in a big group hug.

Through my tears, I tried to tell my students how much my time with them had meant, and how I would never forget them, especially since they were my first real classroom that I got to teach and really make my own.

I truly believe that my time in this classroom has shaped who I am as a teacher and will forever have an impact on my career as an educator.
I was surprised and touched to see that so many of the students were sad to see me go. Even the boys and the English Language Learners in the class, who I constantly worried about whether or not I was effectively building relationships with, all lined up to give me hugs and teared up.

It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that I may have managed to make just as much of an impact on them as they did on me.

The rest of the week was spent in parent-teacher conferences. This was my second time sitting in on conferencing with these student’s parents, so I wasn’t that anxious. In fact, I was really just excited to get to gush to these parents about how wonderful their children were. I kept wanting to thank the parents for raising such wonderful kids, and for trusting me with their education.

I truly believe this semester and a half was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given, and feel so fortunate to have found a home in this classroom.

There were plenty of days when I was stressed out, exhausted, and discouraged. With that being said, at the end of the day, it wasn’t that hard because these kids constantly reminded me of why I came into this field in the first place and gave me the motivation to do the best that I could.

I write this post from my bedroom in Verona, ready to start the next part of my student teaching adventure. Although I am linguistically and culturally an outsider here, I carry a new found sense of confidence with me, which I have gained from my time in this class.

Last Week of Full Takeover

This week truly felt like it flew by so quickly.
I’m sad to say that my full takeover has officially come to an end.
What an incredible six weeks it has been.
I remember how afraid I was of student teaching at the beginning of the year. The thought of being responsible for everything that happened in the classroom was so daunting.
Looking back at it now, I can hardly believe that I accomplished it.
In no way was it easy, nor was it perfectly executed on my part, but I did the best that I could, and I learned so much during the past several weeks.
I learned just how important it is to be prepared for everything before the day starts. I discovered more things every day about my management and teaching style that I had never gotten to explore before student teaching. I learned just how emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting one day can be. And I learned just how rewarding it is to run the show and call all the shots.
I couldn’t have asked for a better student teaching experience. My students were so patient and understanding. I pushed them to do their best, and they pushed me to give them my all. My cooperating teacher was the perfect balance of supportive yet hands off.
As I wrap my last week of student teaching and prepare to start my last week before leaving to Italy, I am filled with conflicting feelings of excitement and sadness.
At least I won’t truly have to say goodbye yet because I know they will still be in school when I come back and I can visit them during their last week.

“Bad” Day

This past Friday was one of those days where as soon as the students walked out of the door, I kicked my shoes off and plopped down on the classroom carpet to cry. I have to say that, it’s quite surprising to me that this is actually the first time that this has happened. I’ve had plenty of rough days, but this is the first day where I’ve been mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted enough to actually move me to tears by the end of the day. I know that this will be a common occurrence for me during the first year of my teaching career, but I’m feeling really lucky that this is the first bad day that I’ve had throughout my student teaching experience.
The day actually started off great. My cooperating teacher was gone for the day, so we had a substitute. My students have gotten used to having me as their “main” teacher for the past few weeks now, so this doesn’t make much of a difference anymore. Earlier on in the year when I was still rather new in this classroom, the difference between the students’ behavior when my coop was there and when she wasn’t was still very apparent. Since this is no longer the case, the day was off to a very smooth start. The real trouble was in the afternoon. On Fridays, we have what we call Friday Free Choice. If students have met all the requirements for it, which usually involves turning in homework and finishing up any writing, math or other work from that week, they have the choice to spend the last hour and a half of the day doing whatever they want. Usually students play games or draw and color. The first week of every month they have the option to get on their Chromebook to play games (on school approved websites of course) if they wish. In addition, we do Friday Folders, which involves sending important papers, notes home for parents, and past work all together in a folder with the students. One thing that goes into the Friday Folders every week is the homework, which is due the following Friday. I realized halfway during total lit that afternoon that I completely forgot to print off the homework for that week (again). I figured between then and the end of the day I would have enough time to print it off although, ideally, I would’ve had it ready to go so students can fill their Friday Folders and put them in their backpack before starting Friday Free Choice. Once Free Choice time starts it can be a little chaotic, and students often leave behind, crumple up, or loose papers when they are handed to them on the way out the door.
The hardest part about trying to get the homework ready for the students wasn’t even making the homework. I had it all typed out and ready to go, but printing it out was a whole other story. I had been battling with the printer for the whole week, and this afternoon was no different. Nothing quite irritates me like technology that doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. As I was running around, already flustered, I noticed that many classes were leaving their classroom. A quick glance through the windows that opens up into the gymnasium on the floor below informed me that there was an assembly going on. Seconds after this realization, I hear an announcement over the speaker asking teachers to send their student of the month down to for the assembly. I rush back to the room in a panic to ask the students if we had even voted on a student of the month for February. Different answers from different students tells me that we most likely didn’t vote for a student yet. The best I could think of on the spot was to send the student of the month from last month down, rather than just appointing a new one myself, since we always vote on them as a class. In a panic I sent the student down and got the rest of the class ready to go down to the assembly. Between this mishap and the jumble of trying to win my battle with the printer (which did not end in my favor), the afternoon was a mess and resulted in me being rather short with my students and not being able to give the individual attention that some of my students needed.
As the bell to signal the end of the day rang, I was simultaneously trying to rush the students out of the room and console a student that was sobbing hysterically for some reason that I couldn’t get out of her. I was feeling like I failed my students and was angry with myself for letting the afternoon turn into such a chaotic mess. On top of all of that, I was exhausted from the week and unsettled by the fact that I had to let my student walk out of the classroom still sobbing because she had ballet practice. Throughout all of this, I was amazed by the emotional intelligence of my students. Many of them, despite the chaos, took the time to hug me before they left or thank me for “everything that [I] do.” One student even drew me a picture and wrote a nice note. It’s so incredible how these kids can catch on to the way I’m feeling and I am delightfully surprised everyday by how thoughtful they can be. In hindsight, it really wasn’t that bad of a day, and the kindness my students showed me made up for all of it. This gives me hope that even my worst days as a teacher could never really be that bad, because at the end of the day, the relationships I get to build with my students and the love that I have for them (and in this case that they have for me, too) remains.

Addressing the Needs of All of My Students

This week I am feeling… overwhelmed. Not that that’s a new feeling, but it’s an especially heavy feeling this week. I am currently working on planning a Social Studies unit on the Colonial Period, while also trying to get my EdTPA lessons taught, and worrying about applying to jobs. One thing that I really appreciate about student teaching in Urbana is that teachers have a lot of freedom over what they choose to teach. The literacy curriculum my teacher has designed is incredible and I was able to plan and teach my own science unit on the human body. With that being said, it’s a lot of work to try and plan out how to teach a unit. I enjoy the amount of freedom I get, but can’t help but feel a little lost at the same time. My main issue at the moment is trying to figure out how in the world I am going to teach all of this in the 14 days that I have to do it. My cooperating teacher has gathered many materials over the years and has tubs full of lesson plans, books, and other resources for me to go through and incorporate into my unit. There is so much to tap into that I’m having a hard time deciding what to use and what to cut out. I am also trying to figure out the best way to sequence the lessons in a logical way and incorporate fun activities to engage the students. As daunting as this task is, I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to plan units from scratch, and I love being in a district that allows me to do this.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of making the content we teach culturally relevant to our students. I have some students that are of European and Native American descent, who will have no problem identifying with the people and histories they will be learning about. On the other hand, I also have several students who are from China and Israel. I have no idea how to differentiate the content to address their language needs, let alone find ways for them connect to and see the importance in the material they are learning. I often feel like I fail my ELL students. If I only had the time to work one on one with them more often, I’d like to think I’d be able to better address their needs. Their parents have expressed concerns that they aren’t progressing in English as much as they would like them to be, and think that this is because they spend too much time with one another. On the other hand, I can’t force the students to interact with the others outside of their math bodies and integrated groups. They need to receive most of their instruction together because they are at the same level of English proficiency. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them for flocking towards one another. I can’t imagine what a comfort it is for them to have each other as they are forced to spend every day trying to make sense out of the chaos that is navigating school in a language that is still new to them. Every day I try to find new ways to address their needs, but most days I feel like I am just getting them along, and not offering them the best education that I can. I will say that this has been a good way for me to practice differentiating, so I will just accept this for the learning experience that it is and try to do the best that I can.

Relationships with Students

One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week is the personal relationships that I have formed with my students. Some students in my class are easy to bond with and naturally flock to me, while others haven’t been as easy to win over. When I first started going out into the field through my placements as a junior, I still felt the need to win every student over. As I’ve gotten further into the program, I’ve come to the realization that every student isn’t always going to love me, especially when I’m pushing them to follow expectations and learn things that are challenging for them. At the same time, I have learned that students are capable of understanding that just because you’re hard on them at times doesn’t mean you don’t genuinely care for them. In fact, from my experience, they can be very understanding of the concept of tough love, so long as you always communicate with them sincerely. Most of my students are smart enough to know that negative attention is better than no attention at all and that everything I do comes from a place of love. With that being said, some of them have been really hard to win over, especially the boys in my class. 

In my past placements, where I’ve worked with younger students, the divide between my male and female students hasn’t been at noticeable. I feel like 4th grade is right at the cusp of when students start to separate themselves a little more from the opposite sex. In fact, 4th grade is right on the cusp of everything. One reason I love fourth grade so much is that I appreciate how developed the student’s personalities are at this point. One downfall is that this is the age that they start to develop a bit of an attitude, and notice what sets them apart from others more. I wonder how much of my struggle to develop deeper relationships with the boys in my class has to do with this and how much of it has to do with me. This is completely different from some of my past placements with younger students, who automatically think everything you do is so cool and love you (mostly) unconditionally. Finding out ways to access their interests and bond with these the boys in my class has proven to be quite difficult. I’ve been trying to be more aware of my biases as a woman and how they impact how I interact with students as well, but it isn’t exactly easy to be that self-aware, especially when you’re running around trying to manage a class full of 24 students. My inability to connect with all of my students on the same level can be a source of guilt for me sometimes. 

With all that being said, luckily for me, I am going on my second semester with these same students. The sheer amount of time I have been able to spend with these students has already enabled me to build deeper relationships with them than I have with any of my students before. I feel genuinely lucky and quite spoiled to have had such an amazing group of students as my “first” class. I can say that I this is probably my favorite age group to work with, and I hope that the more experience I get, the better I will be at forging these relationships with all students.

Student Teaching Week 2

This week marks my second week in full takeover. So far, things have been going well. This week is off to a great start, and I feel a lot more confident and in control compared to last week. I am learning to celebrate the little victories like managing a smooth transition and seeing the excitement of a student who finally passed the multiplication fact test. One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn this year regarding management has been that I can’t always be afraid to be firm with my students. Earlier on in my education and experiences in my placements, I haven’t always managed classrooms effectively, because I’ve had an unrealistic idea of being the nice happy teacher all the time. In reality, I am a lot happier and nicer if I am firm with my expectations and follow through with consequences in the first place, so it never has to get to a point where I really need to come down on my students. Learning how important it is to handle management issues before they become a big deal has played such an important role in refining my management skills. I’ve learned that, even when it seems like something isn’t a big deal or calling something out would be nit-picky, it can have a big impact on how smoothly (or roughly) everything else goes when you pay attention to the small details. And, in reality, calling a student out for not finishing their work and making them sit with me during recess until they do has never prevented them from giving me a hug at the end of the day as they walk out the door. The level of trust and mutual respect that I have been able to establish with the students in my current class has been largely due to this realization and the changes in my management style it has created.