I read an interesting blog this morning that sort of inspired this post. Amanda Dykes wrote about how she and many of her family had educational memories in the classroom that she taught in up to this coming year. I have similar memories since the middle school that I attended as a student (what seems like a hundred years ago) was converted into a large elementary school (my elementary school was torn down and my high school was torn down when we got our new schools several years ago). My kids go to this school, and every time I walk in I can recall different memories in some of the classrooms. I loved my middle school years, and I believe that is what lead me to be a middle school teacher.
As, the summer days progress, I began to think about what memories will my students have when they walk by my room next year, or in the years that follow. I have had some great students over the past ten years of teaching. We have done some amazing projects and assignments over the years. But what impression have I left on them? The one thing that we have in common is the classroom.
The classroom. The place where we meet for class every day, Monday through Friday. Some years we met for just a short 40 minute period, some years it was a self-contained classroom. This is the place where I have tried to create a climate of civility, nurturing, and safety. I believe that I have taught my students the rules of debate, procedures of discussion, and how to answer and pose a question in a way not to get just a one-word answer. I believe that I have created a climate where my students can encourage each other, and give some critical observations in a way that will not hurt an other students feelings. I believe that I have shown my students that our classroom is a place where you can go to be heard, give your opinions and criticisms, and not be judged by what you say. I try hard at this every year, and since I have my classes for several years in a row I can instill these critical values to my students. This is a critical part of my educational plan for my students. You see, I teach in an urban district on the south-side of town. That is the side of town that has a low socio-economic demographic. There is a lot of crime, and at times lines between the streets and home life get blurred. So I find that creating this climate in my room is important.
What I try to do, my wife, Tina accomplishes with her 11th-12th graders. Tina teaches the Early Childhood Education class. Her students learn a lot of information in 2 years. Almost all of her seniors every year go on to college to continue the early Childhood education to be child care providers, teachers, and go into other careers that has to do with children. Tina’s motto for her class is We are a Family. Her students take that to heart, taking it so far as to back each other up in difficult situations in and out of the classroom. She doesn’t preach this from her desk, she doesn’t lecture about this from the lectern. She illustrates this principle through her actions. Every year I am amazed at the climate in her classroom. Not only do her students learn from her, but even after graduation from high school and college she is still in contact with them. Her students love her, and she loves them back. She equips them with a large skill set to be successful in life as an adult. All of this is based in the classroom in an urban setting. I often tell her that she give presentations to other teachers, and pre-service teachers to help them set up their climate in their classrooms. She’s amazing.
The classroom that I have in my middle school is very small. In fact, when I do large projects we don’t fit in my classroom. So I improvise. Does that mean we can’t have some great memories? No. I love my students. They are gifted intellectually and they challenge me in different ways. Most of my students are creative thinkers. The process things so differently. Even though I will recycle some of my units every few years, they never turn out to the be the same. My students take them, and use them, and fit them to meet their learning styles.
I found out on the last day of school that my classroom in the elementary building I serve in is moving me to a larger room. I was ecstatic! I used to see moving classrooms as a burden. Boxing everything up and then moving to a different floor or down the hall and unpack. But this year is different. I am looking forward to moving rooms. I am taking this opportunity to make new memories in there. The change of scenery will be nice. The more space I have the bigger the projects, and more memories that can be had.
What a way to start the up coming year off.