Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Creating a Classroom They Never Want To Leave: Chapter 1 "Who Are You?"

Creating A Classroom They Never Want To Leave
Chapter 1
"Who Are You?"

I started with this particular topic because it is the MOST important of all when it comes to your classroom and you as a teacher. If you have no clue how to answer the question “Who Are You?”, you are going to spend a lot of time battling yourself, the students in your care as well as their parents, and the staff in which you work with. Your school year will become more stressful than it needs to be and sadly you will begin to feel the excitement for the new year dissipate  as well as your energy.

It took me a few years in the classroom day in and day out before I realized that if I didn’t know who I was inside and outside of the classroom then I was just playing school like I did when I was a child. If you enter the classroom without knowing your beliefs as a teacher, than you are short changing yourself as well as those under your care.

I highly recommend you take some time and write out a Teacher’s Creed for yourself. There are many online that you can view if you just type in the words “teacher’s creed” in a google search. Basically a creed is a set of fundamental beliefs. So a teacher’s creed is mainly a list of your beliefs of personal responsibility as a teacher and how you want your classroom to run from that list. I will share a bit of mine as an example but please know that this has to be done on a personal level. None of us will have the same exact beliefs and we all teach different.

Mrs. Sheila’s Teacher’s Creed for 2015-2016

1.      Every day is a new gift that I will embrace as such as soon as my eyes open in the morning. Just as I open a gift, I will gently open the day without expectation and will be appreciative for whatever may be inside.

2.       Each child deserves a fresh start, every single day. What was done the day before, no longer matters today and was just a stepping stone for what’s to come.

3.      When I walk into the building, any of my worries of the tiny world I live in will be left at my Savior’s feet. No child deserves to carry the weight of any of my concerns, and as God’s child neither do I.

4.      I am not my student’s friend, but their teacher. In that we have the promise of friendship the following year when they are no longer under my care.

5.      I will assist my coworkers anyway I can to ensure unity in our program and encouragement along the way. Division is not an option. Complacency should not be encouraged but rather inspiration to take it to the next level should be the normal.

That is just an example of what my creed would look like as I know where my weaknesses are, as well as my strengths. I know that outside of that school building I have a busy life that involves four people that I am somehow responsible for one way or another. Being a wife and a mother is a high priority to me, but once I walk inside that building if I am going to be the best teacher I can be, I need to be completely present. I cannot be present if I am too worried about situations that I really cannot do anything about until after work anyhow. I have to leave those thing at the door. I almost envision an imaginary wall that I walk through as I walk through the doors of the school. As soon as I walk through, I become a different person. I am not mom, though many students accidentally call me mom from time to time. J I am Mrs. Sheila and with that title comes a HUGE responsibility. See, I don’t see myself as just a preschool teacher. I am helping to lay the foundation for these kids for their whole educational career. It’s a heavy responsibility and it is often achieved in those moments that many brush off as mundane or every day moments. The nothing special to the naked eye, unless you are in my classroom every single day, day in and day out to see the progress that was made.

Progress cannot be noted if you do not learn who those kids are! If you don’t know their ins and their outs, you will never know what you’re working with unless they happen to be one of the few that remain pretty steady throughout the year. Remember I teach preschoolers so they change so much day to day, let alone hour by hour! They can be moody but if I get to know them I can usually spot those things ahead of time helping me to detour around or gear them up for some personal conflict resolution. If I know that when Jenny’s grandma brings her, Jenny is likely to be clingy and tired I can come up with ways to buffer the goodbye and throw in a few relaxation activities early on. If I just assumed that Jenny was having a bad day however, and instead of adjusting the environment to meet her needs but instead make Jenny rise up to meet my needs we are going to have conflict all day and sadly find ourselves taking steps back in any progress we might have made.

At the beginning of the school year, and often with little reminders throughout the entire year, I make it know that I cannot be my students’ best friend. They try, the desire it, almost beg me to be their friend until I let them know that I can’t be their friend and their teacher at the same time. I always tell them that next year when they are not in my class anymore I will come see them in their new class and I can be their friend then. Most times this puts a smile on their face and we have a mutual respect. It doesn’t mean they can’t trust me, that I don’t care, or that I don’t like them. It simply means that I have a job to do, and sometimes friends do not always hold one another up to the same standard as one would in a professional relationship. Don’t believe me? Take a look around your staff at your school. It is inevitable that we are going to find friends, but in that, we lower our standards for one another if we are not careful. We give a pat on the back and a “that’s okay” when we should be giving a pep talk and some professional encouragement to take it up a notch.

One of the best ways I can share to get to know your students is to simply spend time with them observing what is happening when they are in free play and given activities with directions. When I say observe them, I mean really watch them. To someone who may see you from a doorway they may think you are just sitting there, but if you are taking in every conversation happening around you in the way the children interact with one another it may just amaze you! It is so easy at the beginning of the year to set hefty goals and find our way trying to meet those goals in the time frame in which we allotted. But if we do not know the children in your care (whether you have them every single day or just an hour), you honestly have no clue what goals are even achievable! I used to get a lot of flak from other teachers because I never use the same exact lesson plan year after year. Being in the same age group for eleven years, I can tell you I have never had one class that was exactly the same and could achieve the same goals. To be honest, I would never give each class the same goals to reach anyway. Just as no child is the same, no teacher is the same and no class is the same.

I have learned that each child in my care, deserves the best the teacher I can be and getting to know them inside and out is the best way to do that. If I know what sparks a light in their eyes, brings them comfort, and encourages them to be who they were created to be I have done my job as a teacher. If not, I am wasting my time, the children’s time, and the parents money (as I work for a private tuition based preschool).

Make this year be the year you get to know each and every child for who they are and find out what makes them tick. By doing so, they will value your relationship with them and in turn, will be free to be who they are instead of what others expect them to be.

“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” ~ Josh Shipp


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