Saturday, September 2, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Back to School Reflection || funfreshideas.com


Two weeks down. We are officially back in school. The icebreakers and get-to-know-you games are over and we're starting (or have already started) our first real unit of the year. What a whirlwind!

Before leaving for home this week, I found myself sitting at my desk in a bit of a stupor (this happens a lot on Friday afternoons if I'm being honest). The first two weeks had flown by, I feel like I'm getting to know my students and I'm excited for the year. But I wanted to make sure to take a second to reflect back on all the things that I poured time, money, and energy into that were worth it...as well as admit the one thing I already know I could have done better.

1. The amount of time (and money!) we spend on making our rooms feel welcoming and comfortable...is WORTH IT.

This will be my third year in my current classroom and each year it becomes more and more comfortable. I toyed around with the idea of flexible seating this summer, but ultimately it didn't work out, but overall I really like my classroom. It's warm and welcoming and full of fun little touches that make the students laugh when they discover them. I can tell they enjoy being in my room and I truly believe that makes a big difference.

I love my room swag!

2. The time we spend getting to know our students instead of diving right into the curriculum...is WORTH IT.

I spent the past two weeks doing activities to develop a positive classroom culture in my classroom. At times, I did panic a little about the fact that I wasn't getting to the curriculum fast enough, but when I had my students write about why feeling comfortable and positive in class is important I knew I had made the right decision. "It makes me more willing to take chances when I know no one is going to judge me." wrote one of my students. "I'm gonna talk more this year because I know people will listen." wrote another.

3. The pain of preparing cool new projects and ideas so our students can enjoy new experiences...is WORTH IT.

I'm not sure I would have agreed with this sentiment on the Saturday before school started as I was trying to figure out how to get a small 3-digit lock to close a pencil case in such a way that no one could get into it unless they had the combination. Sweating (and swearing...I'll be honest), the thought of just handing out the syllabus and skipping the whole "escape room" opening I had planned sounded like a great idea. But look:


They were up and alert. Engaged. Laughing. Focused. Curious. Frustrated. Collaborative. They were having fun on the first day of classes doing an activity that they're still talking about. As I snapped the pictures all the frustration of getting the experience ready seemed like nothing.

4. The formative assessments we give at the beginning of the year to gauge where our students are at academically before we begin...are WORTH IT.

It's tempting to do all the fun activities we've pinned this summer. I had two projects I was super excited to do with my students, the Get-to-Know-You Curation Project, I talked about last month, and the Breakout Room project - many, many thanks to BreakoutEDU for their amazing resources and products (I'm planning on writing a grant to see if I can get several of the boxes for my high school!). I did them - and I'm so happy I did, but I also made sure to leave time for my students to show me what their best writing, reading, and analyzing text looks like in August. I'm planning on spending time this weekend looking over it all and deciding where I need to focus my instruction. This will give me more "bang for my buck," by making sure I'm really paying attention to areas where more time needs to be spent.

5. Letting our students get to know us (as teachers AND as people) is WORTH IT.

 I always try to stay on the right side of the "share-overshare" line with my students. I know they want to know who I am, both as a teacher and as a person, but I also know that they're my students and I'm their teacher and a line should exist between us for many reasons. I like to share my interests with my students - especially if I find out that we have shared favorites, like music, tv shows, movies, or hobbies, but I try to keep the stories about my kids or husband to myself. I don't think they really care and I don't want to cross over that line between teacher and friend.

I was honest with them, however, about the fact that while I love the idea of this bulletin board; it is not my most beautifully executed design. A few of them have already offered to help me "pretty it up."

I already know I need to fix...being clear about when it's time to work and when its time to play.

I'm not a follower of the "Don't Smile 'Til Christmas" camp of classroom management. I enjoy lively classrooms where students can express themselves (appropriately, of course). I'm not a yeller. At five feet tall exactly, I know I'm never going to be intimidating in that way, so I never really tried. All that being said, I do run a "tight ship" for the most part. My classes talk a lot about mutual respect. About knowing when joke and when to get down to work. 

I already know, however, that several of my classes haven't quite learned the difference yet. I erred on the side of making classes engaging and active these past two weeks, and let a few things slide that I really shouldn't have. On Friday, I spoke about this with two classes - letting them know that I loved our classes energy, but that we all needed to be more aware of when it is time to get down to business. I'm already planning how I'm going to communicate this more clearly next year.

Overall, I'm excited and energized to be back in my classroom! I hope your school year (and mine!) are meaningful and memorable!

Let me know your Back to School Successes (and mistakes!) in the comments!






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