I had such jitters and anxiousness last night for the first day back. It was a mix of being excited, nervous, and slightly afraid of how the day would play out. This being said, I knew the day would be fantastic because my number one priority was letting students shine, and shine they did.
Being on a rotary system coupled with a welcome back week means that time with my home room is limited. Fortunately, today’s schedule played out in my favour and we accomplished so much, yet so little, as a homeroom.
Upon getting my students from the library, we immediately went outside and played, yes, played. We did some team building with hoola-hoops and simple card races to get their levels of energy up. They forgot for a moment or two they were in school. This was my way of getting them going and letting them know that learning can and should be fun. The fun, and the focus on students, was only the beginning for this first day back. A further break down of day one’s community building within my homeroom is laid out below.
1. Community – if you foster it’s growth, it becomes an integrated part of one’s year.
Each of my grade 7 homeroom students received a little tiny welcome back gift. It contained an Dr. Seuss eraser, a pencil, a welcome back note, a sucker, and a blank puzzle piece. These packages were spread out on our carpet where students found their name upon entering the classroom.
It was AMAZING to see their eyes light up with thought of being in grade 7 and getting a ‘welcome back gift’. They could hardly wait to open them to say the least. However, we got through the few minutes of essential info, including locker assignments, and then launched into the bags. I shared the contents and most importantly, the expectation of the puzzle piece.
Each student was told to create a unique piece that represented them in any fashion they wished. Once done, students grouped themselves to start and bring all of the pieces together. Results were beautiful.
Each piece represents the unique attributes/personality of each student. These attributes, when brought together, create a beautiful mosaic representing the community we are building upon this year. The blanks spaces, as noted by students, represent all those yet to come or those that are not an immediate part of our classroom but still help make our community strong. Could not be more proud of our students. The puzzles themselves will be framed and placed in a special place in the classroom as decided by students.
2. Getting to know your students – their backgrounds matter.
As a French immersion teacher, looking for ways to get students talking is essentially. This old fashioned bingo sheet got students talking and upon completing the task, each student was asked to share something they learned about a fellow student. To my surprise, each and every student said something different when sharing their learning. Absolutely loved being PART of this activity and not just looking from the outside; community means including teachers as participants.
3. Student Voice – this is YOUR classroom, not mine, so use your voice and let everyone shine.
This will be a task that continues throughout the week. Today, I presented the idea to students that THEY can design their room based on what we have and a few things that we can bring in to improve the atmosphere of student learning. Their task was simple, or so I thought: Using what we have in this room, and knowing a few necessary limitations, how would you arrange the class to maximize your learning?”
Students were divided into five groups and were given 25 minutes to start the task. To my surprise, this was hard for many of the groups to complete. They have never been presented with the idea of ‘make this space your own’. This does not mean that they were not excited but it certainly means that this is going to be a year of growth for these students in terms of advocating for their own learning.
Moving forward with the above mentioned activity, our class will be having a conversation the next time we meet to discuss their difficulties in responding to the question and what expectations or guiding points they need as a community to create a space they call their own. Needless to say, I am incredibly excited to collaborate with my students to create a space that they can call their own!
I had three 50 minute periods to do the above. It was but a small part of my overall ‘plan’ for the day. It was messy, it was loud, it was fun. I heard one student say part way through the day that “Wow, today is going fast”. That is all that I need to know that putting students first on day one and creating an atmosphere that is about them, not just the rules and expectations, can make school that much better and easier for all.
Up next – getting to them more via their culture, their languages, their interests, and most importantly, via their own unique sense of self.