I had a dream...a wonderful dream that upon my return from FMLA my classes would still be just as I had left them...engaged, acquiring language, exploring meaningful topics, etc...
it was just a dream...
Instead, I was mortified. No, I'm not being overly dramatic here—I was so shocked by how my students' behaviors and attitudes had changed towards learning that ¡casi me dio el mimisky! Sure, the kids were absolutely glad to see me and that was awesome, but they were not ready to start learning. Apparently, they had been on vacation mode the entire time I had been gone and changing this mindset may prove somewhat difficult.
My initial reaction was disappointment mixed with a touch of anger, bewilderment, sadness, and exasperation. You see, before I left for maternity leave, my classes ran (for the most part) like a well-oiled machine. There was routine, there was minimal chaos, there was respect, there was engagement, there was acquisition, and there was FUN! Now, students have picked up the bad habit of not following school rules (using cellphones, listening to music, wearing their hats/hoods in class), being tardy, non-stop side conversations, and sleeping (my number one pet peeve!). Seriously, on Wednesday, seven kids, SEVEN, were sleeping. This had never happened before. I felt as though all the hard work that I had put into creating a positive and proactive learning environment had fallen to the wayside. In every class I let my students know that such behavior was unacceptable and that they better come back the next day ready to learn. I then went home and reflected on the situation at hand and thought about having a vodka cranberry to only realize I don't have vodka or cranberry juice at my house (so I had a Chick-fil-A® chocolate milkshake, which is like the same thing...not, no it's not, but just as satisfying...almost).
I thought about giving them a quiz to "shake them up." I thought about giving them the textbook (gulp) and busy work, I thought about how unfair it was that I was giving them 100% and they couldn't even meet me halfway. I thought about how much they have regressed and how infuriating it is. And then, I thought about how RIDICULOUS I was being. I was taking all of these negative behaviors personally, and the truth is—they are not a reflection of me or my teaching.
Having a long-term substitute can be a daunting experience for most students for many reasons. Reasons that I am not going to waste my time listing. Instead, I am going to tell you what I decided to do on Thursday and Friday:
don't call it a comeback (but do)!
After personally regrouping, getting my sister addicted to Gran Hotel, and looking up cute amigurumi patterns, I finished the week with my students on a high! Both days, Thursday and Friday, I had zero tardies and zero sleeping. I had more engagement. The students presented better work and exuded more confidence. And, I even got some awesome homemade cookies! YUM!
I know that together, my students and I are headed in the right direction. Also, FUN is making a comeback! Woohoo! All is not lost. I just have to remind myself to take things one day at a time, not to take things personally, be the leader they require, and smile.
Have you experienced a similar situation? What worked for you?