Tuesday, June 23, 2020

High Priority: Building Community

A few children were impolite during a final meeting of the school year. I must say after what I believe was a wonderful year full of lots and lots of special activities and attention, I was disappointed. Yet, I know the misbehavior could have been the result of any of a large range of feelings including the fact that it's tough to say good-bye or the fact that the person may not have felt like a big part of the team or that the child may not have experienced the success during the year he hoped for or the loss associated with pandemic limitations. Whatever the case, and even though it was disappointing, that happens at the end of the year for a number of reasons, and is a good reminder that community building is essential throughout the school year.

The theme of our team is the "Everyone is Welcome Here" and the aim is to help every child feel like a valuable part of the team, and for every child to have a successful experience. What would have improved this situation?

Listen Carefully
We receive information about the children coming to our team early in the year. It is vital to pay close attention to that information in order to make a good place for everyone on the team. Listening carefully helps us to include each child's interests in the program and activities we include throughout the year.

Respond to Issues as Soon as They Occur
Typically problems arise with small comments or gestures that give you a glimpse that there is a problem. It's best to respond to those problems right away. For example if a child begins to become less invested or expresses discouragement or lack of interest, it's good to call the parents in and discuss the issue sooner or later. If you wait, problems just get bigger.

Be Clear about Goals and Objectives
It's important for children and their families to understand the goals and the objectives of the year up front. School is hard work sometimes, and that's not a bad thing, but sometimes rather than tackle the hard work in positive ways, it can become a source of frustration or problems. Understanding the goals up front and then working towards a positive path to meet those goals is a good way to approach the year.

Record Keeping and Response is Essential
It's critical to keep records of who is doing what with regard to student learning. It is essential that once the goals are clearly outlined, it becomes transparent to children, families, and teachers about how children are doing with those goals.

Team Building Protocols and Expectations
Students need to understand the importance of working as a team, and there needs to be good protocols in place for that right up front. Students generally will work towards the protocols set if the protocols are outlined, upheld, and revised as needed by the teaching/learning community.

Overall it was a terrific fifth grade year this year. I know this because at every major event whether online or offline, we reviewed what happened with specific informal and formal holistic assessments. Field trips were fun and educational. Expert visitors were knowledgeable and engaging. Class projects were focused on meaningful standards and completed with care. Final celebrations were well attended, educational, and enjoyable.

No doubt, it was a tough ending due to the pandemic, but all indicators point to a best possible year, and for the few areas where we could have done better, we'll focus on those as areas of improvement next year. Onward.