Friday, August 19, 2016

First Things First

Our district has been working to be intentional about our culture.  As a community, we are continually talking about our commitment to being our best for one another.  In this conversation, we talk a lot about choosing our response to an event based upon the outcomes we want.  Nowhere is this more important than during the beginning of our school year.  It's easy to get caught up in the requirements for assessment, to worry about students who may need to make large gains in a school year, to want to make use of time by diving in quickly to challenging learning, or to teach in ways we think might help students perform better on tests though in our hearts we know may not be what is best for the children sitting in front of us each day.

These are the days we have to put all of this worry aside and attend to first things first.

I was reminded of the importance of staying focused on building learning communities today as I chatted with an old friend.

At the end of the day today, I stopped by one of our elementary schools for a meeting.  While I was there, I decided to wander into the primary hallway to chat with some of the teachers.  As I was walking down the hall, I ran into a colleague whom I've known for some time.  She and I took classes together at Ohio State University and have had many discussions about learning across the years.  I always learn so much talking with her.  I admire her love of literacy, her creativity, and her gift for keeping children first.  

"How's the first few days been?" I inquired.

"Great," she smiled and began telling me about all they had been doing.  Though she had to be exhausted from these first days of school, she didn't show it.   

We talked as we walked toward her classroom; immediately I found her space welcoming.  There were frames outside the door for their learning gallery, a space to celebrate their steps along the way.  The wall inside was lined with letters from the previous year's class positioned close to the new students' first day of school writing; their proximity reminded me how much second graders learn in a year.  

There were other parts of her room that welcomed young learners.  The library was brimming with carefully selected picture books.  If a reader walked into the space, she/he would be surrounded by books.  Along the wall colorful large squares of warm earth tones had been hung to display the learning students would soon do as conversations grow in their community.  There was a large meeting area on one side of the room which was surround by books, learning tools, and a chart stand.  There was a place on the wall that would soon feature a timeline that would tell the stories of their days.

Her room called me in, but it was her conversation that warmed my heart.  As we chatted she told me about the way they were focusing on finding happiness. The books around the carpet were about finding your happiness.  Their morning meeting had started with a suggestion that students look for the happiness in their day and they ended the day by writing about the happiness they had discovered.  These were just some of the ways she was connecting her community.  She told me how they would grow their library and make it their own.  She showed me how they would celebrate the reading they do together all year.  She walked me to the wall that would highlight their learning journey and the books students would use to individualize that story.  Everywhere we walked she talked about the intentional plans she had for these first days of school.   

"I want them to leave my room loving learning," she said finally.  I had to smile.  I didn't know how they could do anything but love learning in this room so thoughtfully prepared for their next steps.  

The outcome she wants is a classroom where students love to learn and take care of one another.  It is obvious that all voices are valued here.  These first days matter in the days we cannot yet see.

Links to Keep First Things First:  

(If you have favorite beginning of the year posts, I hope you'll share them in the comments.)  


1 comment:

  1. This is an inspiring post to read the week before school begins! Here are a few of my favorite blog posts I've read this past week: (These blogs should be bookmarked-they are too good to miss a single post-along with yours!)