One of my favorite idea people on twitter is David Wees purely for the reason that he is looking to make it(schools, classrooms, the system in general) better and is usually doing it in creative ways and as a tip, if you don’t follow him you should!  I don’t know him personally but through his tweets I have gathered some ideas about him and ideas about myself and what I am aspiring to in my own school and my own classroom and what I hope to transfer to my students.  I recently saw a post he commented on about year round schools, and how it could not and should not replace the learning that happens for kids over summer vacation.   I teach in a year round classroom and this hit home for me.  Sadly, because it was not the experience my students had in the summer.  I am trying to be reflective in my practice so I starting pondering all of the things my students didn’t have, all the problems in the schools, violence in neighborhoods, etc.  David is always pushing to find the “what could be better angle” in his postings so this lead me to the question of how can I change the focus even if its for my students in my classroom alone?  I started to think about what would make a perfect school, or a perfect classroom since I can’t change the grading, the testing, the length of the day or the schedule, what could I do that could make it a little closer to the idea of ideal? After I commented to David Wees about how my own childhood had these rich summer experiences, I started to think if I were a student today what would I want from an “education?”  A lot of twitter inspired ideas came to mind, but one factor that stuck with me was this idea of friendships.  I would hate to go to a school and have all the wonderful technology to learn through, subjects I was interested in, projects that suited me and my learning plan,etc. but have to do it alone, or worse do it in a hostile human environment.  It is something from my childhood just like summer learning that I know a majority of my students do not know just like they don’t know summer camping.

When I examine my own life, I have a friend who’s birthday is today, she turned 32, this is the 22nd time I have celebrated it with her.  Friendship is something that I have known my whole life, I had school friends, neighborhood friends, sports friends, and family friends, and to this day these are still the people I celebrate with and support and who support me when I need it. Imagine what it would feel like to not have that support, it would be pretty lonely I imagine. So why is this missing from my students and my classroom?  I could ask that about a lot of the challenges they face and I face with them, but that seems a waste of time.   How can I share this gift with them?  It comes back to teaching.  No one has taught them how to be friends, they don’t have models, they rarely see it happen.  So its like asking a fourth grader to do calculus, if you haven’t taught it to them why do you think they can do it?  Yet over and over I hear people including myself asking this of them without teaching them how to do it.   So this means I am going to approach it the same way I would a topic they haven’t been introduced to yet as well: pre-assess, lessons, and a post-assessment project to show what they have learned.  I am sure I can locate some core standards to support these vital skills.

I teach in a district that has the fewest minutes in a school day and a school that has the pressure of testing, scores and grades, and in the past this has pushed me to be so focused on academics and routines to maximize students’ time, and in that the social element has been sacrificed in the amount of attention it has received.   I have worked on this issue in the past, but more reactively than proactively.  Community and friendship are going to be a theme I work on all year.  Along with my Identity Day that I plan to implement early in the year, I am going to have my students present projects on friendship and what they have discovered and learned about it.  And if it comes up about standards I am sure I will have some, but I think the human standard and happiness standard will suffice for my reasons for the lessons.

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