It's surprising how easily things can come to you if you've done them even once before.

My first day in front of a class was, as I have previously relayed, a minor disaster. The second time I got up there, however, I felt comfortable, in control, and completely at ease with the educational process. Then the bell rang to dismiss the students.

It's not that the bell's act of ringing changed anything, it's just that I was still feeling jittery from the previous day's debacle and wasn't inclined to cede control of the classroom to the capricious whims of an inanimate object that happened to announce itself to the world through its ringing. That's exactly what happened, however. I let the bell control my class instead of me.

In general, my classroom is dismissed only after all the materials are put away and every student is in his or her seat. This is how it has been since the first day my cooperating teacher (CT) laid down the rules, and it will continue until the end of the summer. The problem, though, is that in my enthusiasm and elation with my increased teaching aptitude, I forgot about this rule. Depressingly enough, this is a rule that has been ingrained into my head from the first moment I sat in the classroom and observed my CT, so it's doubly depressing that I forgot about it. As soon as that bell rang, I said "Have a good day" instead of going through the proper procedure, instead of making sure our animated little anemones had their butts in their seats.

Did my screw up ruin anything? No, of course not. The students would have eventually had to leave the classroom, with or without my permission. The aardvarkian little aardvarks need things like food, water, attention, computer games, awesome haircuts, etc., and not all of those things can be requisitioned for a 7th grade classroom. The bell had rung, so I did nothing technically wrong with respect to the rules of the school or the procedures laid forth by the LoLMEECoA association of concerned and slightly bemused parents (LoLMEECoAAoCaSBP). One of the things that I've learned in my classroom management workshops, though, is that you need to have control at all times, that you need to model the behavior you want to see, and that you need to be consistent. My letting the students go at the bell instead of after the arbitrary time set forth by my CT changed the structure of the classroom, it shifted the balance of power from me to the bell, and it shook up the consistency of the learning environment.

Since these adorable dust-mites are not forced to be in summer school, and since it is a bit more like daycare than real school, this inconsistency hasn't done any lasting damage. But what if I do the same thing next year? A lot of the students I'll be working with will have little to no structure in their lives. Many will have moved around dozens of times in the last few years, and at least a handful will be living in a homeless shelter. It isn't fair for me to take away what little consistency they have in their lives by succumbing to the tyranny of the bell. I must do better. I will do better.