Sunday, August 7, 2016

Setting the Stage

It is truly a goal to be more outwardly reflective this school year. I know it helps me in the present, and will certainly help me as I look back from the future.

I am moving up to 3rd grade this year with my class. I started my career looping 2nd to 3rd grade and did it for ten years. I have found it to be incredibly successful, for many reasons. I am excited to return to what I love. At Meet the Teacher night this week, it was such a family feel. I knew them, I knew  things about their lives and their personalities and I know we can take off as they head back this Wednesday.

Last year I shifted even more toward that Student Centered classroom. But yet, there were still things I held on to. So, I aim to continue to let go and learn even more.

So, to set the stage for this, I did some thinking about the classroom set up itself. I have participated in a few chats this summer and did some reading. I watched as teachers planned bulletin boards and making their classrooms into these beautiful places to learn. I have never been one of those. I never had a theme, I had minimal decor and that has always been okay with me. But the key words there are "with me". That is where my reflection began...

My thoughts took me back to my classrooms I was in as a student. I can not tell you one thing about the decor in those rooms. I have no memories of my favorite spaces. I remember things we did there, but I have no memory if they had a theme, a color pattern, Chevron or polka-dots. I think that is because I had no ownership...or maybe just because I am old. But I do remember the things I did in those rooms, especially when I owned it.

It was those thoughts that led me to the decision, I would not be decorating my room. I would not decide where the desks will be or who will sit in them. I have empty walls and not even an alphabet. My bulletin boards do not even have background paper ready for their work. It is a blank slate. I was feeling a little nervous about it, wondering what parents would think, and would I disappoint the kids.

At Meet the Teacher Night a sign hung up: Under Construction. This student centered classroom will be designed by the learners who will think, create and grow here.

The funny thing, I do not think one parent or student noticed. I pointed it out to some and asked them to be thinking. Teachers who saw me post on Twitter about it came down to see...and they also said they could hardly tell.

Sometimes we put a lot of time and effort into things that matter so little.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the students. I think it will be hard for them, having never had these decisions to make before. My plan is to start with some questions:

What do you need in this classroom to learn? What will help you as a learner?
What do you want in this classroom?
We will discuss the differences between wants and needs.
Then as we openly share, we will discuss do we compromise and do what's best for all learners?
Once we talk, share and listen, I will allow some sketching and planning. I will introduce some simple alternatives to sitting in chairs and let them try it out.

They will own this. They will make this classroom their very own. I will guide, support and help them find their way. This will be our theme this year...

Ready to be designed
A blank slate

Blank walls
More pictures to come after students design their space.