When we give children the opportunity to take ownership they not only take care of the environment, but they take care of one another too. This is so very true and yes that concept deserved its own chapter in this book.
I will tell you that I really like to be in an environment that is not chaos because chaos breeds agitation. Agitation brings confusion and complacency and we already know how I feel about that. BUT… if you are trying to control the environment your way the entire time, you are setting yourself up for a school year of discontentment and discord. Now before I go any further please understand that I truly believe the tone you set is like setting a temperature gage. Once the environment reaches that temperature expectation all should be fine and everyone should be comfortable and stable. But what happens if I come into work for the day and my own temperature gauge is out of whack and I am all over the place and unpredictable? I can tell you what happens. Things go nuts! Kids go haywire and you leave feeling like your completely frazzle and have participated in some circus act that left you walking the tightrope in a bikini. I know I am not the only one to have one of those kind of days! J
So from the very beginning, set that temperature gauge to where you desire it to be throughout the entire day. If you come in with a plan and are prepared things will run much smoother and everyone will be comfortable. We all know how important planning is, and the freedom that we need to also allow for changes that arise unknowingly. I live in Texas and one thing we have always said is that if you don’t like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change. I think that every place in the world says this as well. (To let you in on a secret we Texans do not say that in July and August because it’s just hot and mostly dry.) Those unplanned changes are what I would call a sudden “cold front” there to disturb your groove and everything that you have geared up and planned your day around. Having a plan is important and crucial to a well-oiled machine. Your classroom. That is you taking ownership of the environment in your classroom. That honestly is just one third of the equation!
Another third of that equation is allowing the students to have some form of ownership in your classroom within the day’s planning. Once you allow them to have a set time to make plans of their own, they are more willing to flow within your plan. Not only that when you give them a measure of time that is theirs, they will fight for you to be able to have yours. When we had a puppy we would often feed it first, then he left the kids alone at dinner time. It’s that whole feed the lion first, then the lamb. Many teachers are afraid to do this with the fear that the kids will think they rule the classroom but it truly is amazing the effect this has on your overall day. Now mind you, I am with my students for a good chunk of the day so it is easy for me to do this on a daily basis. You can too, but your time may have to be adjusted. I can easily give them thirty minutes where you might have to scale yours down to ten. Give them a choice of activities to do in this time, or even better yet at the beginning of the year ask for some suggestions! Even as small as two and three they can tell you what they would like to do if given the chance. Giving them the chance to “be the boss” and to make choices for their time helps them to focus and be more assertive when you need them to be. Do not let this be something that has to be a reward, but instead maybe add to the time as a reward. This should be something that is a given every single day.
The third part of that equation is allowing the students in the class to have ownership over some space in your classroom. You want them to respect the things you have, you need to give them their very own. In my classroom because I teach preschool I have several parts that are theirs. They all have a space for their own belongings. They have a “tool” box that has their name on it, and it is theirs for the whole year. Each student also has a private journal. When we switch centers, they take ownership of that center by having their name posted, and the responsibility of cleaning it up when they are done. Can I tell you that by doing so, the entire class helps to take care of the classroom. It has become theirs, their space, and they are pretty protective over it. When a sub comes in, they walk them through it. When a new student comes in, they seem to come out in protective mode, but also help the new student to be a part of the room as well.
It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something. Some of the teachers that really impacted me throughout school were the ones who made me feel included and a part of the process. Think back. If you are a teacher now it is most likely that a teacher made either an impression on you in their classroom or they invested someway in you. You felt a part of the process.
Honestly as teachers, we still want to be part of the process or we wouldn’t put so much effort into what we do. The hours at home working unpaid, the early mornings, late nights, and extra coffee. If you are anything like me, I love the planning process because it gets my whole brain working. I love getting with my fellow co-teachers and planning in as a whole group. It is exciting when everyone is engaging and sharing ideas.
Make it a point to offer these “planning” sessions with your students. Every single time I do this, the kids teach me so much!
It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings. ~ Ann Landers