Week 2 Theme
This week's theme:
“Determined people working together can accomplish anything.”
In addition to our house identities, we work to establish routines that keep everyone on task, successful, and safe. Kids thrive in a structured environment where they have some say and choice. We spend a lot of time working to ensure that our routines work for the students in our classroom. Kids have a say. When things aren't going well, they have input into the changes we make.
In the first two weeks we do a lot to establish a culture where students take risks, where it is okay to be wrong, and where students put forth their best effort and strive to meet their potentials. The "turn and talk" followed by an expectation to get their voices in the room gives kids an opportunity to practice, build confidence, and then take a risk. We practice argumentation so that students know how to disagree with their classmates and so that classmates are able to hear opposing ideas as an effort to help them refine their ideas versus personal opposition. In the first two weeks, content takes a back seat to community building. If it is done well, the learning of content and skill acquisition, is more effective due to the community building.
Students quickly learn that they will not be left behind. My job, in the opening weeks of school, is to connect with my students. I use a lot of different strategies here. First, I ask the kids to fill out a student survey which really allows me to learn about them as individuals in addition to learning about them as students. I also place a call to every household during the first week (two days) of school. This helps kids to quickly learn that I am going to be on their side, bragging about what they do well, and asking how I can support them through the tough times. Finally, I make time to touch base with every single kid during the first couple of weeks. I ask a very open question like, "how is school?" or "how is your life?" Kids generally want to get away with a two or three word response. I'll follow up with a, "tell me more about that", or "can you give me some reasons." When I have to intervene due to social or behavioral issues I first ask the child to explain what has happened and I just listen. Then I ask, "how can I help?" It is interesting to see the eyes of the kid who thinks he or she is in trouble bug out of his or her head. The kids never expect me to ask how I can help. It sure does send the message that they won't be left behind.
Even though I'm delivering the message that our classroom is a place where we're one for all and all for one and no one will be left behind, it is hard to know that the message has been clearly received. One way to be sure that the message is being received is to ask kids. When I have the opportunity to talk with a student on his or her own I can ask them if they know how dedicated I am to their success. When I have to have conversations with kids after they've made a poor choice, I end that conversation by saying, "I will never give up on you, never stop believing in you. You can't give up or stop believing in yourself, Got it? Kids need to hear this message in many different ways and they need to keep hearing it.
I spent more time this year talking about how we build community and how important it was to develop a culture in our classroom so that every child feels like he or she belongs. Belonging and feeling like you are a kid who measures up is important. We talked about the negative impact of stress and specific ways that we would work together to avoid it. I asked that they contact me right away should they have any concerns so that we can trouble-shoot together.
I could not do what I do without the support that I receive from my colleagues. I know they feel the same. There is not a single day that goes by that we don't collaborate on a project, brainstorm about how to best reach a student, share our personal stress and troubleshoot so that we can be our best selves for our students, for our families, and for ourselves. My colleagues are my friends. They are my people. My colleagues and I are determined. We are determined to give our students the best possible educations. We are determined to create a classroom culture where everyone belongs We're determined to cheer each other on and support on another so that we can stay mentally healthy enough to continue doing this important work.