Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday Musings: Starting School

We're ten days into the new school year, and there's much to be thankful for.

New Floors
First of all, the new floors in my classroom have certainly brightened my teaching/learning space so much more. I didn't realize the impact the old dark rugs and some old, rickety shelves were having on me. Now that the shelves are replaced by sturdier, metal shelves and the floors are bright, the room is far more welcoming. That's positive.

Inviting Furniture
In addition, we're starting the year with hokki stools and a stand-up desk which provides some nice options for the children when it comes to comfortable work stations. A colleague has already reached out to write a grant to get more of those for our classroom.

Family Support
Many, many families were represented at our Curriculum Night which is a sure sign of support and interest in the work we do at school. Their interest and commitment to their children is further evidenced by children's readiness to learn, participate, and work with us as we begin the year's teaching/learning journey.

Positive Leadership
The building administrator has been very positive and supportive as educators endeavor with new ideas, creative solutions, and share with regard to summer study and innovation. The schedule was carefully crafted to accommodate so many special teaching events such as Response to Intervention (RTI), Professional Learning Communities (PLC), early year assessments, school assemblies, and special events.

The playground continues to be big, grassy, and playful making recess a time of day that children look forward to.

Our buddy program started with happiness as fifth graders and buddies colored paper birthday cakes and then fifth graders read birthday stories and other tales to their kindergarten friends.

Math Talk and Share
In math students got up and presented their study of the numbers zero and one. We learned about the fascinating story of zero and talked a bit about history in general with the big questions, "What is History" and "Does History Change." On a similar note, my niece was featured in the Junior Scholastic magazine for uncovering an important story from history that happened in her own neighborhood resulting in renaming an area to represent the Native American people who lived there so long ago.

Tech Updates
Tech rules have been altered to allow more academic freedom on behalf of teachers which in turn allows us to meet the diversity of students' needs better too.

Fifth graders treasure their time learning with kindergarten buddies.
There is much to be thankful for this year, yet there is much to work to do in the days ahead.

Our first PLC was very busy and productive, but also made me realize that I will need to find ways to coordinate well with the multiple individuals that service the children in my class. I will continue to think about the best way to do this especially when it comes to educators that I don't meet with often due to scheduling issues and time for planning. In some cases, there's a need to understand the roles and responsibilities better with regard to those educators and the services they deliver.

Creativity and Imagination
The Global Cardboard Challenge design planning activity began in earnest as I introduced students to the design packet and teams were created. Many students are excited about this open ended creative activity and have big ideas for their in-class and at-home creations. On Monday a few fifth graders will present the activity to the whole school at a school assembly with a multimedia presentation they created. Monday will also mark the first day that fifth graders lead the school as school assembly as anchors, ushers, and tech crew--roles the students readily volunteer for and look forward to.

Assessments Time
The math year is moving along well. Students are enthusiastic about sharing their homework, talking about math, examining numbers, and using new online programs. We've got an assessment period to complete before the rich learning routine takes hold--a routine that will include substantial differentiation and blended learning opportunities.

Field Trips
Field trip plans are almost complete, and this week we'll put the finishing touches on that effort so we can send out the year's permission slip and fee request.

Shared Teaching
The new model's schedule and pattern is also taking shape. Students easily transition from class to class, and when needed, we change it up to accommodate individual students, small groups, or whole class efforts. That students-first flexibility is a terrific aspect of this new shared teaching model.

It takes a bit of reflection to put the busy week to rest and to make room for family and outside-of-school activities on the weekend. Overall it's been a terrific start to the new school year.