Summer Blog #2
I started reading Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith. It’s reality and practicality. He speaks the truth of the kind of teaching and learning which is lasting beyond his classroom. I have this book in my hands thanks to the recommendation of a teammate. Thank you, Vicky! A summer read like this is good food for the soul.
Part One is named “There’s No Place Like Home.” He writes about being truthful, creating a place of trust, being dependable, having logical discipline, and upholding the responsibility of being a positive role model. I’ve often said that school is home away from home because of the time, energy, and care that is present in the classroom.
The second part of this section shows the high value of learning lifelong character traits such as service, empathy, awareness, kindness, understanding, and compassion. Through examples and role models, the kids’ exposure to living a life of impact hopefully becomes their norm. Life-changer moments need to be on every teacher’s radar. Look for opportunity. Seize the day!
In reading and reflecting, I’m able to bridge these Part One truths with some things from my own classroom experience.
Students all come with different backgrounds, strengths, needs, and personalities. This is what makes each year so special. It’s a classroom family unlike any other because of the many unique individuals. The big picture that I see is that each one has growth just waiting to happen. It’s up to the teacher to nurture and feed each so that the blossoming is beautiful. This takes listening, understanding, sometimes “tough love”, and always with the thought that each day brings a fresh start. Choose the big picture and create a classroom that is a home away from home. Learning is inevitable when students know you care and when trust and a sense of belonging are established.
2- Relax the Rules
When having back-to-school parent meetings, a parent usually asks about my discipline policy. I love it when this opportunity is dropped into my lap! I answer that I have classroom expectations. I do what I need to do to have a smooth operating classroom. What I expect from students, I also willingly give: kindness, acceptance, love, forgiveness, and always striving for excellence.
And this continues the entire year! For example, even though I remain consistent in my classroom procedures from day 1, I get questions or I overhear students talking about “What do you think I should do? What is she going to do?” I usually turn the question back to the students:
“What do you think I’ll say?” The answers I hear at the beginning of the year usually bring to light the past experiences that the students have had. My turn for learning!
“Do you know me by now? Here’s what I’ll do…” Months into school, I’m yet reminding them and validating reasonable and appropriate actions.
“You should know me by now…. ” After students have witnessed and experienced consistency and care, they usually remind each other of viable options that work and will be acceptable. It’s truly live and learn.
Of course, we all have mess-ups, mistakes, and wrong-doings. Some of the best learning can come from these situations. I try to be transparent with the students when I have an example for them from my own life. They’re often surprised to know that I’m “human” (which still strikes me funny after many years of teaching). Sharing experiences carries value. You have their attention, they’re listening, and they see you in a little different light.
Something as simple as sharing feelings about an author’s writing, such as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, connect us through common themes and emotions. What captured my heart even more than sharing this read aloud this past year was when a student came with a gift after we finished the novel. He brought in another book by the same author because he had been in a bookstore and knew that I would treasure it. When your students know you, there becomes a two-way street of trust, acceptance, care, and relationship.
The classroom should indeed be a place where the kind of growth and learning often exceeds and lasts far beyond the written curriculum. At the close of the year, ask your students to share what they remember, Tuck those memories in your hat and keep them handy when the next year rolls around. A spark from these will surely set your hair on fire for another year of amazing teaching and learning.