We're back, live!
In such a challenging time, students going back to school on-site only means either of two things: one, they’re very excited to meet their friends or two, they’re not too keen to leave the comforts of home just yet. As for me, I'm ecstatic to move into a different grade and a much bigger classroom.
Over the summer, I visualized all the things I wanted to do in my classroom. Once the class list was posted, I went through it to see if any last names were familiar - it’s always good to know if I’ll be teaching a brother or a sister of a former student.
Aside from taking their first-day photos, my students also enjoy setting goals and expectations for the school year. In setting goals, students are tasked to write down at least three things they want to achieve either in school or outside school. I would then ask them to share their goals in class and in return, they can get some advice from their friends on how to achieve their goals. This might look like a very simple activity. However, this allows me to understand my students better and it helps strengthen the bond that students have with one another as they realize that they should work together to achieve their goals.
In a quest to become a better educator, I found myself setting high expectations in my class, both for myself as a teacher and my students. For the record, high expectations are not high standards. High expectations are also called positive expectations, whereas standards are levels of achievement. Positive expectation solely means that a teacher believes in every student and that all of them can learn on their individual level. Research linked teachers' expectations to students’ self-actualization and achievement.
Another important first-day task that definitely plays a part in meeting expectations is writing up classroom rules. Classroom rules ensure that everyone in class aims to provide a safe space: a space to learn, a space for students to be their best selves, and a space for us teachers to do our job the best way we can. It was no surprise then that when I asked the students for their suggestions on rules in the classroom, the top 3 lists were as follows: 1. Listen to the teacher, 2. Raise your hand if you want to talk, 3. Respect one another. What surprised me the most was when I asked them to formulate their own classroom rules, they gave a lot of “don’ts”, way stricter “don’ts”. I redirected them to focus on the “do’s” and focus on what they wanted to happen. Just like that, it shifted to more positive vibes. Now that they know their classroom can be a safe space where they can meet all their positive expectations, they will be more fulfilled.
After we gathered all our classroom expectations and set our classroom rules, we came up with one common theme: Respect. We did a little MTV (Making Thinking Visible) activity and defined what respect looks and feels like in four categories: as a class, as classmates, as students, and as teachers. From time to time, we run through our classroom rules before we begin our class. I believe this will be very helpful, especially before we start our day. This way, students are reminded of what is expected of them behavior-wise.
I imagine that by the end of the school year, all the teachers on the floor would have worked harmoniously. I would have established great rapport with my students and their parents. I would have harnessed my craft as a teacher, and all students would have accomplished all their goals. We would have bid our goodbyes with all smiles and warm hugs. I would have received some lovely cards and maybe, just maybe, some genuine thanks for a fantastic year.
Simply put, I am reminded of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steve R Covey: “Begin with the end in mind”. Let’s visualize our goals and together make this return to normal the best school year for our students.