Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My 6 Hopes for Year Six

The past week I have been up to my classroom a handful of times: unpacking boxes, sorting math manipulatives in their little baskets, stapling borders, and making runs to the Dollar Tree and Teacher's Tools. And as I work away at setting up this room, there is something really important that I don't want to forget. This isn't MY classroom- it's theirs. It's ours. Together.

What are my hopes for year six? It is honestly crazy to type that out. I remember starting out on this journey of teaching, August 25th, 2010. It was the same day my parents became officially divorced. It was a month before I would even get my first paycheck, and my coworker next door was generously buying me staple groceries to help me get by. It was a month after ending a relationship that crushed me. And on August 25th, 2010, I met my first group of students. They were eager, excited, enthusiastic, and brilliant. We were like peas and carrots, those children and me. They brought healing and purpose to my life that I couldn't have imagined. They gave me a new identity of sorts- "teacher."

The past five years have not been about me, though. Sure, the teacher can really influence a room, but it's the kids that make it. The kids are the ones who create what you will have together for the next nine-ish months. They are the heartbeat and soul of any class, and I find it so funny that I used to think I was.

So as I decorate and place things and hang things and staple things and so forth...I have to continually ask myself, "Is this going to help the room feel like theirs? Is this going to enable us to learn and grow together?" Because if it won't, I don't need to put it up on a wall. And this goes for far more than just classroom decor, this goes for lessons and activities and experiments and PBLs and group work in the future-- is it going to help my students own their learning, and feel like its theirs?

So, as I am constantly reflecting on every little detail of our little learning zone, I also have been reflecting on what I hope for and desire this year. Here are my 6 hopes for year six.

1) Build strong, beautiful relationships with each of my 19 awesome students. I stinkin' love children and what I love about them is that they are each a unique ray of light in our world. They bring sunshine wherever they go, and their childlike outlook on life is refreshing and sweet. I love getting to know them- about their families, their likes and dislikes, their passions and dreams, their goals and hopes, their fears and worries, their ideas and imaginations...I love how they are each wired so specifically, so distinctively, so intentionally. There will never be another child like any of the children I have the honor to teach, and there has never been, nor will there ever be another class like this one again. I want to relish in it and not compare it, not try to make it something it isn't, but to love what it is, and help it to flourish and thrive.

2) Give the classroom back to my students, and allow it to be theirs for the taking, the learning, the growing, the shaping. Allow it to be their space and learning laboratory, their space to grow in, their space to learn more about who they are and how to think and what they feel. I want it to be a space where they feel SAFE to be who they are and learn and ask questions and explore.

3) Fill each day with positivity. I read "The Energy Bus" this summer by Jon Gordon, and I want to be a CEO (Central Energy Officer) for our classroom by promoting strong positive energy, humor, laughter, silly moments, moments to breath and smile and take in the goodness of life. I also want my students to climb aboard our classroom "Energy Bus," and help energize and encourage one another throughout the day.

4) Promote community, kindness, trust, and strong bonds between the students. I want our class to know one another so deeply and well, and build such a tight-knit community that if one of them is absent, the absence is felt- whether the student's ideas or contributions to discussions or learning times aren't being heard, other students are sad about not getting to play and learn with him or her, and the student's overall presence is missed. I want our students to trust one another and me, and to feel safe, loved, and cared for in their classroom environment. I want students to leave our classroom having a better understanding of how to be a friend- how to play with others, how to see things from other perspectives, how a kind word is never wasted, how to be inclusive and accepting of differences, how to THINK before we speak, how to communicate well, how to work with others, how to serve one another, and how integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking.

5) Be more flexible with balancing state standard need-to-knows and independent/passion learning time. I want to not worry so much about "covering" every single state standard and by doing so cause stress and anxiety in our classroom (as well as super full days), but to focus on the most important ones and go deep with them with my students. I always try to make sure we hit every standard during the year, but it can sometimes get in the way of real student discovery and self-led learning. I want to make sure there is a balance, because I believe in both. It's important for students to leave our classroom having learned what they needed to learn, but also for them to leave our classroom with a deep understanding of their own personal passions and interests, and the capabilities to research, explore, and go farther with those on their own. In a nutshell, providing time for more student choice and voice, and not feeling guilty about it!

6) Self-reflect and embrace reality. I want to constantly ask myself the question, "Would I want to be a student in this classroom?" I want to be able to problem solve if the answer is no, to be able to think creatively and design solutions that will help students learn better and love learning more. I want to ask students, parents, and teachers for feedback, and be willing to receive it. I want to grow thicker skin and push towards my own goals and change for the better.

To my 19 students of year six- I am ready for you, and I am so excited to be your teacher.

1 comment:

  1. I came across your blog when looking for blogs on GT. I am the Advanced Academics Consultant at Region 14. I am preparing a break out session on the needs of gifted and your blog post of things you wish you had done differently gave me a great idea for the start of my session. Would it be okay to use that idea and give you credit? As you said, I think many teachers want to do better, but time and resources often are in short supply. Feel free to contact me a ngalle@esc14.net.