"Ms. Orlando...I don't think that it's fair for our class to be judged by how only a few of us in here behave." - 8 year old.
Out of the mouths of babes comes hard truth. This was a comment during a discussion about our class being "talked to" about how they were lining up from recess. I have noticed these "sweeping remarks" and was shaken when it was shared that the students noticed, too. We have worked so incredibly hard to change the culture of our class, but I guess no one can see it or feel it - but us. It makes me sad because these kids have been transformed.
Let me rewind, a bit. This is my first year back in the classroom after working at our district office for 4 years as a TOSA (teacher on special assignment). When I started the year, I was not prepared for the journey I was about to embark on.
I have written and spoken a lot about #cultureovercurriculum and I believe the importance of this to be true. And looking back over the last 67 days- I can finally see the pay off-and it was worth my tears, heart break, frustration, sleepless nights, reflecting and planning - and the students' hard work and commitment to our class.
These 28-3rd graders were strangers to me and I was a stranger to them. BUT, they were not strangers to each other. We are the only 3rd grade class on campus, so these students have all known each other for many years. Let's just say, this class is a fantastic mix of personalities, abilities and needs. And to be honest- it was a tough start.
We had some honest discussion at the beginning of the year. I took this information and used it to inform how I approached this class. I knew that based on what they shared, they first and foremost needed to trust me. And why should they? They had never seen nor heard of me before. The second thing I knew to be true was, we needed to work on positive mindsets. To me- the two go hand in hand.
So that is what I set out to do. I knew that we would be hard pressed to make any sense of content if those two things weren't in place. These students needed an environment where they knew, without a doubt, that they were cared for, believed in and safe. It hasn't been easy...but most important things aren't. But boy, has it been wort it.
I decided to share based on a conversation I had with a new teacher on Friday. She was talking about a high school class that she taught a few years ago and how difficult it was. I found myself saying "No one can see it, but if you walk into my room today, it is the complete opposite of what it was the first few weeks of school." She asked me to share what I did. All I could say was "We have been working , on building them b up by focusing on the positive and trust." *
We talk a lot in class about mutual respect, kindness toward others and honoring all of our differences. Maybe that is the key? WE talk. I don't believe that I really did that before. I'm not sure- I wish I could create some sort of manual to remind myself what worked and didn't, for the next round- but just like TEs don't teach kids- a manual will not support kids socially and emotionally. What worked today, may not work tomorrow. And how I approached one student is completely different from how I interact with another.
But what I will try to do is chronicle our journey. I should have been doing this from the start- but I wasn't quite there yet. I will do my best to recall how we got to where we are now, in a series of blog posts.
And don't get me wrong- we are NOT a perfect class, we are NOT a model class... we are a real, work in progress, growing together class.