Today was a bit better. I go through the schedule easily enough, and I'm fine at teaching reading and math concepts. We have literacy centers and fun math lessons (counting by 2s and 5s, games with dice) and so on.
But as Mr. C warned me, these are the rowdiest bunch of kids ever. Transitions are particularly rough. It's not that they don't listen per se --- they're certainly not rebellious. They do stop and clean up and line up, but they do it so sloppily and loudly and inefficiently that it takes forever. It's like trying to herd 18 affable Labrador puppies loaded with kinetic energy.
I told the kids that we'd just have to cut free time shorter, since they were having such a hard time packing up and getting in line at a reasonable pace. They looked bemused at this news; perhaps it will take. Mr. C suggested (I have spoken to him on the phone every day since taking over) that I send them a few at a time, directing the others to watch and see how it's done until everyone is ready and waiting. But if I could get them to follow those directions, I wouldn't have to resort to such strategies in the first place.
It's not a huge problem and the kids will get used to my style soon enough. I just don't want to get into a habit early of constantly monitoring, directing, squelching, and scolding. Very bad patterns to get into, and easy to do. It's so much easier when the kids know what's expected of them and know the consequences of bad choices, so they can have a relatively hands-off, fun day of exploration and success. I'm now in charge of an classroom environment I didn't create, which is tough.