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Operation Mulligan

On Friday, February 5, 2010, the students at my school will celebrate the 100th day of the 2009-2010 school year. The students in my classroom will celebrate their 9th day of school. How can this be? Tuesday, January 26th was the first day of the 2010 school year. I did it. For the first time in my eleven years of teaching, I called a “do-over.”

After another sub-par, highly frustrating Monday, I took up all the students textbooks, had them clean out their desks and cubbies and wished everyone a great winter vacation (albeit, it was only 1 night). I don’t think my students really believed me, but I told them that they had eeked though grade 3.5 and it was now time to start 4th grade. I rearranged desks, changed bulletin boards, revamped our classroom schedule and had a “getting to know you” sheet ready for Tuesday morning. I met each student at the door, introduced myself, and showed them where to sit and find materials. I referred to all the events up until that point as grade 3.5 and we began again. Although, my students really didn’t know what to think, they are adjusting. We reset rules, procedures and expectations. We developed a new set of classroom goals, rewards and consequences. Most of all, we took a moment to clear the slates and start fresh. I would be exaggerating to say that it’s worked beautifully. I will say that 95% of my students took it in the spirit which it was intended and have risen to the challenge.

But, things were OK. Your students were making decent grades. They are scoring well on state and local testing. You haven’t written any discipline referrals. Why the upheaval?

Because OK isn’t good enough.

At what point would we want our own child’s teacher to say, “They aren’t doing their best, but it’s OK”? Or, “Some of my kids are really missing out on my best because I’m dealing with ‘little’ behaviors all day, but I haven’t written anyone up, so it can’t be that bad”? I had been trying for several weeks to salvage certain parts of what I was doing by tweaking here and there, by trying to implement new things. It wasn’t working. And then I realized…

If my students aren’t getting my best, they might as well be getting my worst.

Pressing the “reset” button on my school was a lot less about my kids than it was about me and my attitude. In reflection, I think it takes a lot of courage and honesty to implement an Operation Mulligan in my classroom. I had to take a step back and start over. I had to clear my own frustrations and personal blocks in order to make room for my students to succeed more. I’m still working on it, of course, but the mental and physical acts of starting fresh are helping a lot. So if you are having “one of those years” or you have “one of those classes”, are you going to suffer through or just survive or hang in there for the next five months? If so, think about what you are doing to yourself and your students.


12 Responses

  1. I really wish i would have done that this semester. When do you think it is too late to do an “Operation Mulligan?”

  2. Kelly, I don’t think it’s too late ever. It’s recognizing that it needs to be done 🙂 I’ll tell you though, it’s more about my own adoption of the attitude that it was a new start. Verbalizing it to my students just made me more accountable! Go for it.

  3. Thanks for explaining your “do over”, Kelly, sounds like it really helped you and your students get a fresh start for the second semester.

  4. Kelly, your students are so lucky to have you. We all need a “do over” sometimes!

  5. What a great idea! Just curious, do you let the kids help determine rules, consequences? How did the “do-over” rules/consequences differ from the original?

  6. TeacherMom, I let the kids guide it this time. I usually don’t, but for this group, I really let them set the guidelines (within my range, of course)

  7. Thanks so much for this idea. I really need to read this. I have been so frustrated with my class and really didn’t know what could be done differently. I need to change my mindset and also give students a second chance to turn things around.

  8. You are an inspiration to all teachers! I substitute taught for 3 years and had my own classroom for 4 years. (2nd and 3rd grade) I’m a stay at home mom now. I gave it my all like you seem to, reflected on my teaching, and made changes when I needed. I have children in school now and volunteer daily. There are some teachers I’ve helped with your attitude. They give their best and never give up. Each child’s learning is important. There are some who could use a pep talk from you. Teaching can be exhausting with your attitude, but it’s what necessary to get the job done.

  9. Celebrate Thomas Edison’s Birthday with a visit to his “invention factory” in West Orange NJ.

    MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids (www.meetmeatthecorner.org)
    is a series of free educational video pod casts is directed at kids ages 7-12. Each three-minute episode includes links to fun websites, a list of recommended books and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about the topic.

    There’s a show about Thomas Edison filmed at the new Thomas Edison Museum in West Orange New Jersey. And later in February, there is an episode on how to prepare for your school science fair.

  10. Mrs. Hines,

    I am so impressed with your willingness to admit that you need to start fresh in your classroom. I have encountered so many teachers who are not willing to humble themselves and admit that they need improvement.

    I love that you have a desire for are your students to do their best. I think it is imperative that the teacher encourages the students, and through the praise, the students no longer have to be pushed, but they want to achieve.

    Thank you for being completely honest with your students. As a future teacher, I hope that I can exemplify the same courage you have. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts, and I have learned so much through your words.

  11. I really agreed with the comments left before me, and I think it is great that you know you needed that improvement and did something about it. Rather than just being OK you did something to better yourself as well as students.

    If all teachers were more honest and called themselves out on their flaws that needed improvement, I feel teaching would be much better.

    In order to succeed in any job we need to know our flaws and how to improve it.

  12. I thought this was a very interesting post. Sometimes you just need to start over from scratch and try again. I thought it took a lot of guts to do something like that. I have to read your blog for the nest fedw weeks as an assignment in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama.

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