From the beginning of the school year:
On the first day of school, the walls in “my” classroom were nearly empty. There wasn’t much on the bulletin boards outside. I hadn’t finished September’s whiteboard calendar (just the first 7 days).
But, you ask, shouldn’t you have posters and stuff in the classroom? Shouldn’t you finish the calendar? Shouldn’t your room be colorful and inviting like your coworkers’ rooms? My answer: Nope!
It’s the end of the first week of school and my students’ and my classroom now has routines established, decor on the walls, and a growing community of learners. My students have spent hours creating, organizing, and discussing. They have come up with our classroom agreements with minimal guidance from me. They have defined 9 “jobs” and created “job cards” to post on our board. They have taken notes on how other classrooms are organized and discussed what things they think our class should adopt. They have devised a system in which each student chooses where to “store” his/her materials for the day (in his/her desk, in a cubby, or in his/her backpack). They decided that they want a sign on our door that tells people where we are (in class, in PE, in the auditorium, etc.). Amongst other decisions on how our classroom will function, they have created a birthday graph, written classroom agreements on a poster, completed the September calendar, and organized our classroom library. And what of these did I do? Aside from taking/printing some pictures and, of course, guiding and questioning, I did next to nothing. The students discussed routines and procedures. They made decisions and created materials, posters, etc, as necessary. I guided.
This is how I envision my perfect class. But it’s not easy…
I’ve realized that we all see things differently, especially adults and children. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been tempted to say “Why don’t we do it this way?” because I think it’ll look nicer or be more efficient. It only looks nicer to me, and, even if my way is more efficient (and it may not be), wouldn’t it be better for the students to discover it on their own? It’s been tough, but I’ve managed to hold my tongue so far. Children really are capable of so much more than we often give them credit for.
I’ve learned to appreciate the time and effort my grade 5 class has put into our classroom. I am truly amazed at how beautiful all of their creations are. I am astounded at how open and respectful they’ve been to each other/of each other’s suggestions. I am proud to have been the one to guide them through this process. I am grateful that they should teach me so much. And I am overwhelmingly excited for the year ahead!
…but will this continue? Will we have enough time for the students to take on roles often held by their teachers, (especially as we get into the “real” learning)? Only time will tell.