Looking back on my very first post from my first year it strikes me how much my classroom has changed and how much I have grown as well. For the first time, there is a true ease to this whole teaching thing and I could not be more delighted about it! Pre-planning this year for the first time did not feel like a whirlwind of frenzied energy, rushing to get everything ready, rather it was like a leisurely stroll down a path that ended up at a relaxed first day of school.
This is a bit surprising because I have many more responsibilities this year than I did that first year including continuing my MAED program at Georgia State University and serving as grade chair for specials on the leadership team. But even with these added responsibilities behind the scenes, things in the classroom are just as exciting as ever!
I kicked off the year as usual with a tour of the classroom and a discussion about rules. I used to believe that this sort of thing was “boring” and sent a message to students that they would not ever have any fun in art. Then I wondered why my inconsistent classroom management never got me anywhere. (Imagine that!) What children (and humans in general) really crave is systems and structure and it is still possible to build rapport when talking about these essential parts of classroom life. I still strive to make it entertaining by throwing a few jokes in there that usually makes a loud wooshing sound as they soar above my student’s heads. . .
After the rules and tour and questions/comments/concerns, we do a small activity that serves as an excellent formative assessment — I get to see who can cut on the lines, who can write their name, and who can be creative — all in about 10 minutes! This information is invaluable because it allows me to see who will need some extra help in the weeks to come and who can be a model for classmates. This project is also good because it lets me get away with not decorating a bulletin board and having the kids do it.
Last year, students made a fish to go along with our school’s chosen storybook. This year they are making stars to go along with this quote:
We are stars of excellence, determined to shine!
This quote really hits home because my Title-1 school with mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant students and students of color does not always get the reputation it deserves. In fact, when I got the job here I was told to “watch out” and more often than not when I tell people which school I work at they react with a “bless your heart” type of look or comment. For too long, my school has maintained a negative reputation. I believe part of this is because we are kind of an island in a sea of affluence and wealth that surrounds us and continues to draw lines to keep our students and community segregated. I have been thinking a lot about this especially since listening to this episode of This American Life. If you haven’t heard this yet, I encourage you to give it a listen and hope it will spark the same passion for equality in education as it does in me!
In truth, our kids are just like any other kids with the same wants and needs and goals and dreams — sometimes they just have a little more in their way on their journey to get there. So it is up to us as teachers to help them and inspire them to shine and that is just what I intend to do this year as I have done for the past 3 years. I am thrilled that I get to spend all 5 days of the school week at one school, at my home. It is truly going to be a great year to shine!
❤ Ms. K