I was ‘raised up’ as a Responsive Classroom teacher. The summer before my first year as teacher I was an active participant in a week long Responsive Classroom training where I learned how to “unpack” a classroom with my students, create choices for learners, and use guided discovery to teach my children how to use tools, be learners, and become good citizens in our classroom, our school, and our community. Through the years at that school, I collaborated with staff around Responsive Classroom Ideas and ways to continue our joint mission in creating a safe, welcoming, learning environment for all our students and families. Re starting my career at W Elementary has felt like a continuum, as if I never took time for starting a family of my own. I am right back in it, helping to build another safe community of learners, thinking about the best kinds of language to use with students, participating in PBIS meetings to establish lunchroom protocols, and thinking, always thinking about how to show our students what it looks and sounds like to be respectful, responsible, caring and safe citizens of our learning community. This, I believe, is the beginning of a greatness all our students can achieve, the foundation upon which we build learners and citizens. Without safety and acceptance among students and teachers, fear and anxiety and misunderstanding can, and likely will, block the path to learning.
Children are all different, yet as humans they are all alike. They need to understand themselves and feel understood by others, especially to maximize learning. As a teacher I can support this by truly getting to know my kids interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Each child needs to know, see, and hear that the strengths of each student (themselves and others) are important and useful and will serve our classroom community. Each child will learn how to best support classmates when it is hard, because at some point they will each wear those shoes, and will appreciate the consideration and goodwill of others. Each child in my class will feel that school has a purpose for them, that they are important and have something to offer our class and community. They will come to understand that things they CAN do can help create a bridge to the things they cannot yet do.
In practical terms, I will use a combination of whole group, small group, partner and individual instruction to teach my class. I will make learning goals explicit using child friendly language. There will be opportunities for collaboration and contemplation. Daily observations, anecdotal records, checklists, check ins, and rubrics will be among the tools to guide my daily preparation to meet the needs of what is sure to be a diverse group of learners. The classroom will be organized and accessible to all learners and a variety of materials will be available to students to learn and express their knowledge with. Predictable opportunities for developing reading, writing and arithmetic skills (practice in addition to instruction) will occur throughout the day while global concepts in social studies and science will provide a conceptual framework throughout the year that provides not only organization, but motivation for the class and many opportunities for reading and writing across the curriculum.
Keeping on top of challenging the students who are ready for a challenge is equally as important to me as being diligent and creative in teaching children who are struggling to learn a skill. It is key to a smooth running classroom and also the goal of developing lifelong learners that children be engaged daily. These two points are even clearer to me as I near completion of two courses (Learning Disabilities and Instructional Techniques, & Positive Behavior Supports) this spring through HEC. I believe all children can and should be learning daily. I know how to follow a curriculum and to teach common standards, yet to be sure all children are progressing my goal is to be tooled with an understanding of the issues that can get in the way and be able to develop a clear plan with a child or a team of colleagues for how to best remove or work around obstacles to learning, set realistic goals, and achieve them. That is how I plan to ensure academic excellence for every student in my class, every day!