Thinking about the end with the beginning in mind…

I’ve always secretly thought I must not be a very good teacher. I no sooner get my kiddos out the door, room packed up, important things hauled home, turned in, and tied up when I start contemplating the next school year. I think about what I want to change. What worked this year, but needs tweaking for next year. What can I move in my classroom to make things more accessible for my kiddos?  What can I do to reach more kids, make things available to them?  How can I make my feelings and thoughts about the importance of our classroom and its daily activities clearer and better understood better by parents? What do I need to change? How do I need to change? What can I read, watch, attend to make me a better teacher?

I used to envy teachers that pack up their rooms, say goodbye, and start their breaks with plans of vacations, relaxation, visits, family gatherings, etc, and a clear picture of what they need to do the following school year. Many already have their rooms ready, copies made, and lesson plans made up through the first few weeks of school. They know where they are and where they are going; and here I am still wondering and searching for thoughts of where we’ve been.

One thing I do know I will do again next year, is the end of the year “family day” I had this year. The Friday before the last two days of school we invited families and friends in for the kids to teach math games, word games and reading activities to “play” over the summer. We asked them to join us at 10:00AM for fun in learning, and then extended the invitation to include lunch in the cafeteria, and a readers’ theater of Meanwhile Back at the Ranch afterward. I told the kids that all teaching would be up to them, and that I was just there to work the camera. They loved it. The parents loved it, and I loved it.

Below are some pictures of the kids as they took their families around the room and “taught” them how to play the various activities and games. We also laid out all of our writing from this year, journals, reading games, the Oklahoma game we had made, and our “poetry pockets” (envelopes decorated by the kids to keep their poetry in).  

I made a packet for each student with a copies and instructions of all the games (for those parents that couldn’t attend), a list of books they might like to read over the summer, and a note to parents. One item the kids begged me to put in their packet was a smaller version of our “word jar.” We made the word jar at the beginning of school after reading Donovan’s Word Jar.  We added words we discovered in our stories at school and home that were new to us, or made us think. We had collected over 110 words and the kids weren’t quite ready to give them or their jar up. So I “made” (drew) a jar and made a copy for each . I then gave them mini post-its to have their own word jars at home.  You can see our word jar behind the desks. The rest of the walls are pretty bare from removing work, charts and items already. I didn’t have the heart to remove the word jar until after all the kiddos had left for the year.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be a teacher that steps into my room the first day and knows what I will be teaching and where we will be going from the very start. I don’t know if I want to be. How can I be? I don’t know my kids yet and they don’t know me. I am learning along with them. 

Don’t get me wrong I love my summers! I love being able to reflect and recharge. I want to think about my teaching and have the time to do it. I love getting to read, search blogs, go to workshops and find new ideas as much as I love mornings on my patio, and spending time with family and friends. Does that make me a bad teacher, a teacher that doesn’t know her way yet, a teacher that is unorganized or ill prepared? I don’t know.

Maybe I never will.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michelle on June 13, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I’m with you on this one. Every year I feel the same way. I know where I need to go with my kids, but I never know where I’m going to start because we don’t know who is walking through the door and what experience, schema and knowledge they have when they start day one after a loooong summer break. I think the teachers that already have their lesson plans are just doing the same old same old. Not being reflective, not being responsive. Not trying to answer all those great questions you posed. I believe in my heart that you are doing the right things: thinking, reflecting, learning, searching out new ideas, attending great workshops — a life long learner and putting those best practices in place in your classroom. Way to go! I love, love, love the family day you organized — what a great way to get families involved and share some great ideas and games for the summer! Of course, my favorite is the word jar too. I love that the kids wanted a smaller version! Too cute and just awesome!!!


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