Today I wanted to talk a bit about those children who seem to change overnight in 4th and especially 5th grade. They can be a challenge!
Last year was my first year of teaching. I had a hard time keeping the older grades focused, and therefore felt disrespected a lot of the time. I tried turning off the lights to get their attention, raising my voice over theirs, standing silently ("I'm waiting..." anyone?), and nothing seemed to work. While some of the techniques I've used this year work great, I can't promise that every single time you will see success. Which brings me to my first point...
1. Understand that you cannot control their hormones. Puberty is a real thing, people. These kids are experiencing changes that we all went through, and I often have to remind myself of that. Know that it is not always their intention to be disrespectful. Respecting them in this way has helped me to stay sane in moments where I want to pull my hair out.
2. Expect the best. Walking into the classroom with a tense demeanor, even if you think you can hide it, never helps. Children can pick up on your cues, and they often feed on your negative energy. Many times when I feel like I am being run over by their loudness, interruptions, etc., I look back and realize it all started with my mood when class began.
3. In light of this fact, begin class with confidence. Err on the side of being strict, because with older children you have to set boundaries and standards from the get-go. Sometimes I'm tempted to be more lax and "fun," but I've realized they need to see me as an authority figure long before we can laugh together. It may sound extreme, but my best classes have been when I remained calm, yet assertive and confident, rather than laid back. (You can still be sweet and respectful, though!)
4. Show grace. You needed grace when you were in 4th or 5th grade, or any age, for that matter. Give students the benefit of the doubt, because the majority of the time, they mean well. They want to please you. And the more you show them grace and respect, the more they will reflect it back to you.
5. Repeat yourself. Many times, we teachers think we only need to say something once for it to stick. It is only going to stick in their minds when you repeat it. Sometimes I feel like a broken record with the older kids, especially during clean up time, but the truth is they need those reminders. It all comes back to expecting the best of them, but showing grace when they need it!
Hope some of these simple tips will help you to stay calm and feel in control in your classroom!