Controlled Chaos of Classroom Personalities

Dear Jerry,

Whew! The first four weeks of school have absolutely flown by! It’s hard to believe that it was only a month ago you were placed inside a folder as a practical joke for the first day of classes. Now it seems like we’ve known you for ages.

As you hang out with the crazy One Room students every week, you’ve probably had moments of wondering, “How is it that such very different people manage to come together and make learning exciting, challenging, and so much fun?”

I have no idea.

Hey! Stop laughing at me!

Okay, okay, so that was a bit of a sarcastic answer, though the reality is that many days I’m simply left shaking my head and praising God that despite every plan of mine getting turned on its head, we still got some schoolwork done.

You see, working with different personalities is tricky. Teaching them is particularly so. The sanguine students (of which there are several) are loud, chatty, giggling or jamming out to their music. The meticulous melancholics are intense, competitive, overworking and not really sure yet what to make of their “just a little crazy” teacher. Those with choleric personalities are confident they could run the classroom better, can’t wait to make their opinions known, are sure they already know the answer and volunteer to be in charge. And the two phlegmatic students?? Well, I’m thankful to have a few that are on the quieter side, but just wish they’d feel a little more urgency in getting their homework done.

They are all so different, but all so dear, and its my job to help them all stretch, grow and learn in the best way possible. The difficulty is that sometimes doing that requires thinking WAY outside the traditional school (or homeschool, for that matter) box. For instance – what do to with the giggling sanguines?? When it’s not a distraction or disruption … let them. And even let them collaborate, using their naturally social dispositions as an advantage to learning together.

Melancholies need success and clearly defined guidelines to follow. Presenting them with opportunities to strategize and organize gives their natural strengths a chance to shine. For choleric personalities I try to challenge their thinking and let them learn to use their knack for argument as learning advantage. When I give them younger students to mentor, they prove what they’ve learned by teaching it back. Phlegmatic students take learning at a slower pace and when I let them set the tempo they prove that slow and steady often wins a race. And when they have permission to pursue their passions? Watch out, because its the phlegmatic focus that drives the whole class deeper into a topic.

Of course, it’s not good for anyone to only be in situations that play to their strengths. So there are times when I ask the sanguines to work quietly, don’t give the melancholies an outline to follow, make the choleric students work under someone else’s leadership and the phlegmatic ones turn in a paper on time. Those do seem to be the moments when we descend into what can be called at best an organized chaos, but I have a feeling Jerry, that the learning that’s taking place then is maybe even more important than usual.

You’re the one with the front row seat, though, so you’ll have to tell me.

~ Miss Sarah

30 Things in 30 Years

Dear Jerry,

I can’t believe I volunteered to be a regular writer on this blog. What was I thinking? This started out as a way to encourage my oldest students to write, write, write but before I knew it I actually agreed to practice what I preach and put up my own posts along with theirs.

Of course, now that I’ve agreed to do it, I’m going to work hard to fulfill my commitment. You see, that’s something I’ve learned over the last thirty years – it’s important to follow through when you agree to do something. It’s not something that I do perfectly (or even very well) but a lot of life is like that – learning and trying, and learning to keep learning and trying even when you mess it all up.

So here you go, Jerry. Here are thirty things I’ve learned in the last thirty years. Thirty things I that I mess up regularly, and that I’m learning to keep trying with, over and over and over again.

  1. Tell the truth. Even when it’s hard.
  2. Hug your parents. You are never too old to do this.
  3. Don’t pick your nose. Seriously, it’s so gross.
  4. Feed and play with your pets. It’s a good measure of your responsibility how well you care for an animal that depends on you.
  5. Take your medications. Especially in Florida. Especially if you are allergic to dust.
  6. Brush your teeth. I’m thirty and I have no cavities. Brush your teeth.
  7. Try new things. Try fish-head soup. Try rollerblading. Try sewing. You never know what new talent or favorite thing you might discover.
  8. Try things that scare you. Try parasailing. Try crossing a mountain gorge in a rickety wooden cable car. Try speaking in front of a crowd.
  9. Get back up. Every time you mess up or get knocked down. Cry, get mad, take a second to wipe off the blood – whatever. Just get back up.
  10.  Keep your commitments. Even when it inconveniences you. Especially when it inconveniences you.
  11.  Get a job. Learn to work under someone else’s authority. Learn the value of hard work. Discover the pleasure of your first paycheck.
  12.  Hang out with your siblings. Spend time doing things together.
  13.  Be crazy sometimes. Play leapfrog in the rain. Have an impromptu dance party. Dress in character for a midnight movie premier.
  14.  Read. Read, read, read, read, read, read, read. READ!
  15.  Study the Bible. Really work hard to understand God’s Word. Ask questions. Dig deeper. Learn about the most important Being and what He has done for sinners.
  16.  Make your bed. It’s way easier to keep your room clean if your bed is made.
  17.  Laugh at yourself. Don’t be that person who can’t take a joke.
  18.  Invest in a nice outfit. Ladies, have a go-to little black dress. Dudes, own a suit. And please, buy the proper shoes to go with them.
  19.  Attempt to complete some big writing project every year. Never, ever stop writing.
  20.  Go to church. Make worship with God’s people in God’s house the most important thing on your weekly schedule. Go when you don’t feel like it. Go when it’s inconvenient. Go when it’s hard.
  21.  Learn to shoot a gun. Be aware of your surroundings. Take a self-defense class. Be prepared to protect yourself and others.
  22.  Travel. Travel the world. Travel to beautiful places. Travel to hard places. Try not to act like a stuck-up American.
  23.  Pray. Communicate with God daily, hourly. Do not be afraid to tell Him the truth about your feelings and fears. Do not be embarrassed to burst out in praise for the awesome things He’s done. Do not hesitate to confess your sin. Do not doubt that He is able to do all and more than you can ever ask or even think.
  24.  Learn to eat anything. Even red beans and rice. Even homemade pickled carrots. Even things you’d rather not actually know the names of.
  25.  Write letters. Real ones. With paper and pen. Put a stamp on them and mail them.
  26.  Play sports. Play sports you may not be good at. Play sports you have to work at. Learn to stay humble and don’t quit.
  27.  Make friends wisely. Choose to spend time with the people who will build you up. Hang out with the folks who encourage and challenge you. Don’t give up on a friendship easily, but be willing to walk away if you must. Also – guys and girls can never be just best friends. Take my word for it.
  28.  Repent and apologize when you sin. Be a quick repenter. Don’t let pride get in the way of making things right.
  29.  Forgive those who have sinned against you. Even when it’s almost impossibly hard. Even when they never say they’re sorry. Don’t let bitterness grow.
  30.  Look to Jesus and live. There is no other hope for thirty-year-olds (or anyone else) but in Him. He is willing and able to rescue sinners, so don’t ever stop turning to Him for forgiveness and help. And that’s the most important thing I’ve learned in thirty years – the most important thing I’ll ever learn – no matter how many more milestone birthdays I see.

~ Miss Sarah