Thanks, Ms. Frizzle (or Ms. V) for the encouragement!
Last week was exhausting -- I didn't feel good about any of my classes. I felt like I had been teaching my students from one end of a long tunnel and none of it had reached them on the other side. It took me a while to figure out that part of the problem was classroom management. Even though they weren't being blatantly disruptive, the students weren't really paying attention.
So last night I started reading this book my mom gave me, Positive Classroom Discipline. The first couple of chapters are basically a Klutz Guide to classroom management. It goes through, step by step, how to use body language to communicate to students that you "mean business." There are detailed diagrams of teachers in 80s clothing and various serious faces and poses.
I was so relieved to learn that what I'd heard in grad school -- that if your curriculum is good enough, you won't have discipline problems -- is a myth. And it was really illuminating to see how my body language (smiling, averting my eyes, rushing around, etc) has been working against me.
So today I tried an experiment. I was at the door when the kids came into class giving them immediate instructions. I had them rearrange the tables and gave them new seating assignments. I stopped class whenever someone was not paying attention and practiced my serious face. It was EXHAUSTING. But the students in my classes were much more engaged.
They definitely chafed a bit at the new level of structure. We'll see how they react to day 2 of the experiment.