It's summer time, everybody!!! (I know some of you have a few days left, but hang in there - you CAN do it!!!). Summertime is a pretty leisurely time for me. The Mr. is working (we can't all have summers off, right?), and most days it's just me and my dogs. I catch up during the summer. I'm not the only one who ignores things during the school year, right? One of the things I like to "catch-up" on is professional reading. Last year, I participated in The Daily 5, Second Edition book study (and that was amazing!). So, when I stumbled upon a Teaching with Intention book study, I couldn't wait to get started!
For chapter 1, I'm linking up with Primary Possibilities, Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten, and Enchanted Kinder Garden!
First things first - Debbie Miller is amazing! She's the author of Reading with Meaning, and seriously, that book changed the way I teach reading! I haven't read the second edition, but I'm sure it's probably even better than the first! I actually read Teaching with Intention right after reading Reading with Meaning...it's definitely one of those books that's worth a revisit (actually, both are!).
Sooo, on with Chapter 1! Chapter 1 is all about your ideal classroom! What teacher doesn't dream of things to change, rearrange, organize, decorate, etc...??? I mean hello, I'd like to be an architect that specifically designs schools and classrooms, because, well, I have some changes I'd like to make!
My ideal classroom is one that draws you in from the outside. As you're walking down the hall you hear faint music in the background, laughter, talking, and the hallway just outside our door is lined with student work.
As you walk in, students are scattered throughout the room - at desks, tables, sitting on bean bag chairs, camping chairs, colorful rugs (thanks IKEA), and leaning on pillows. The walls are filled with anchor charts. Everything you can see serves a purpose. The arrangement is well-thought out, and takes into consideration different learning styles, classroom management, and overall flow and feel.
There's a certain Bath & Body Works smell (perhaps because at any given time there are 2-3 Wallflowers plugged in), and reminds you of your home. Someplace that is comfortable, safe, and inviting.
The decor is bright and fun, but also soothing at the same time. Nothing too loud or intense that makes you wish you'd brought your sunglasses. Things are matchy-matchy for the most part. This makes me feel better about the organization of the room.
My goal each year when setting up my classroom from summer, is to make sure it's a space where my students can learn. That is the goal anyway, right? Plus, it's got to be a place where I can work, too! Cutesy things that serve a purpose make me happy, and I'm able to do my best work!
Side Note: This year, around March we were told that all teacher storage closets had to be removed of ALL items. The back corner of my classroom became my new storage closet for the remainder of the school year, and there was a certain amount of dread I felt every.single.morning walking into my classroom knowing there was a terrible eyesore I'd be looking at all day. All that to say this - having a space that YOU enjoy as a teacher is as equally important as having a space your students can enjoy as learners!
My students are learning!!! By themselves, with partners, with small groups, as an entire class. Students work where they are most comfortable. We move from the carpet to desks to small groups to book nooks to tables...there are few places that are "off-limits" in my classroom. Students know where and how they learn best, and are allowed to choose. There have been plenty of times when I've had to conference with students that may not know themselves as learners good enough yet to make the best choice as far as location is concerned, and I help/guide them into finding where that is.
I'm working with students. Debbie Miller mentions that the "teacher is off to the side" and that's very much what I try to do when I'm not leading a mini-lesson. Although, even mini-lessons involve my students - after all, it's their ideas and information that go on our anchor charts, not mine.
I'm observing, listening, asking questions, meeting with small groups, and conferencing with students one-on-one. I'm NOT, however, sharpening pencils, getting supplies that have run out, collecting papers, getting a bandaid for a students, getting a tissue for a students, passing out papers, etc...those are things my students can do, and I set up my classroom so that they CAN (and feel empowered to do so) do all those things without even consulting me. Students don't have to ask me for more glue - they know where the glue is located, and simply get more when their's has run out. Likewise, students don't have to ask me for a bandaid - if they need a bandaid, I want them to be able to get a bandaid.
Much of what you've read so far are things that I DO already have in place. Perhaps the things I'm most proud of is that my classroom is a safe place where all ideas, thoughts, and opinions are respected. We don't all have to agree or even be friends (GASP), but we are respectful toward one another. That's real world, friends.
It's bright and cheery, and usually smells pretty good (don't visit after recess, please - we need a few minutes to get the air circulated). Most importantly, my students are learning.
I feel like this list could go on forever. Forever? - for eva eva! If I had to choose just one thing, it'd be the paper flow. My desk is rarely, if ever cleaned off. There's always papers coming and going, and each year, I add something to make it more organized and to help the traffic, and yet...there are those papers stacked every which way. Maybe one day...
For me, it's easy to lose sight of what really matters in the classroom. There's 8 billion things my students need to know by the end of our 180 days together, and most of the time there's just not enough time. The days when I slow down, and let my students lead the way though, are the days that prove to be most meaningful for my sweets, and for me too!
I'd love to hear from YOU! What aspects of your ideal classroom are already in place? What aspects of your ideal classroom do you need to work on?
I can't wait to link up for Chapter 2: Defining Beliefs and Aligning Practices.