EVERYONE has a reason for how and what they do what they do in their classroom. Students' demographics, expectations from administration, and a variety of other factors come into play when we decide things. I really try my best to assume positive intentions and believe that everyone does what they do with a reason... and hopefully those reasons are because it's what is best for their students. But let's face it- we can't learn it all overnight- or even in a year- this profession doesn't work like that. I suppose a lot of professions don't.
I consider myself a MAJOR work in progress. As I enter my 4th year, I'm still very much a newbie in this game. Some things I did my first year of teaching, I don't do anymore. Not because they didn't work (although sometimes that's the reason), but mainly because I continue to evolve as an educator. Working with my colleagues and co-workers, and most importantly my students, I'm slowly changing some of my practices so that I am doing what I think is best for students. I bet I'm in good company with those of you reading this who are in the same boat. I like to believe that most teachers are always in a growth mindset and are looking to become better versions of themselves.
One thing that has taken me a while is letting go of certain things in my room. Especially if it means letting it go and handing it over to my students.
The answer to that question of who in their right mind would do that...
Each year, I do slowly begin to let more and more go and pass it onto my students. And it pays off in many ways.
Through letting go of these 3 things, my students are taking ownership of the classroom and it becomes OUR space, and not "MRS. O'S BECAUSE SHE DECORATED IT."
One more thing before we dive into this: I know a lot of what we do as teachers is to save time in the classroom. These changes DO take time in the classroom, but I don't see it as wasting time, but rather showing students that they are leaving a mark in this classroom. Ownership of space is not wasting time... it's making our time spent together better. As I often say, go slow to go fast.
Are you ready to make like Elsa and "let it go??"
Today, I'm sharing why I choose to let it go when it comes to...
Instead of me picking out and wording the rules before students arrive, we go the first 2 weeks or so with "no rules." You might think it looks like a zoo with no cages or fences perhaps. Not the case actually. Now, we don't really have "no rules"... we just don't have the specific ones for our room yet. Students still know about basics from their previous school year and we review "expectations" that I've put into place. So really- there are rules... they just don't really know that.
During the first week of school, we begin to discuss our hopes and dreams (goals) for the year. This leads to our discussion on rules and how we create them the following week. Head over to this post- I describe it a bit more in detail.
Since I'm obsessed with children's literature, we read lots of books during this process. Here are a few of the read alouds I use when we are preparing to brainstorm and write our hopes and dreams:
Once we write and create our hopes and dreams, I make students realize that in order to make these happen, we have to respect one another and their goal. To do that, we'll need to make our room the best it can be and we'll need to put some rules into place.
Once again, I turn to our read alouds:
What If Everybody Did That by Ellen Javernick: HILARIOUS! And it shows how ridiculous everything would be if we didn't follow simple rules (even the smallest actions can have big impacts).
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann: I loved this book as a kid. The colors were so vibrant and I loved Gloria. It also shows the power of having rules in place.
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson & Maria Dismondy:This one showcases what can happen with everyone works together to follow rules to make sure everyone is being treated with respect.
Even though it takes up some time and may make you freak out because there are "no rules," students totally buy into it all- setting up goals, supporting each other towards reaching these goals by establishing rules, and having consequences for breaking these rules.
Check back tomorrow to see my next tip to let it go and pass the responsibility to your students!