After being trained in Responsive Classroom 1 and 2 a while back, I’m used to guiding students through envisioning their hopes and dreams for the school year. When I was a middle school advisor, I had students create their hopes and dreams for the year in two areas: academic and social. They would then list two actions steps they would take to try and reach each goal.
For instance, for the academic goal, a student might write: “Improve my focus in my classes.” While this could seem like a social goal, the ability to focus will enhance the participation in class and understanding of what’s happening. Perhaps an action step is to ask at least one question per class or ensure to contribute at least once in each class. Another action step might be to talk to the teacher or choose to sit close to the front. A social goal might involve making new friendships, sitting with new people at recess, or even connecting with students across grade levels at lunch. And then action steps would follow.
I've also had students dream about what they hope to do and be one day and consider what skills they would need to practice in my class to help them achieve that goal. Once these hopes and dreams were articulated, students beautifully wrote their hope and dream to be put on display. Hopes and dreams displays can take many forms, from puzzle pieces that are put together, pieces of a quilt, clouds in a sky, stars in the sky, leaves on a tree, and even superhero capes attached to a photo of the corresponding student in a superhero pose. A display honors the importance of articulating, sharing, and publicly posting your hopes and dreams. Moreover, the display serves as a reminder to support one another to achieve them. Reflecting on progress made towards these goals is crucial throughout the year.
While hopes and dreams are critical for students, teachers greatly benefit from this process as well. This summer, I led a workshop for teachers to create their hopes and dreams for the school year. Teachers selected a professional goal and a personal goal that could be accomplished by the end of the year. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s BFG, I decided to have teachers create their own dream jars. I provided two jars per teacher, one jar per goal. On the outside of the jar, they labeled their dream jar with a goal and they listed a couple action steps they might take to reach that goal. Then, each teacher contributed ideas on how to help others achieve their goals by writing suggestions on popsicle sticks. These sticks were then added to the jar and accountability buddies were formed to ensure each teacher was supported in reaching their goal. The teachers loved this idea! They not only enjoyed the process themselves but were excited to create hopes and dreams with their students. It’s important to remember to be clear about your own goals at the beginning of the year and to have a system of support. Share your hopes and dreams with your students and reflect on how you're doing throughout the year.
And finally, involve families in creating hopes and dreams for their children. You can do this face-to-face at Back to School Night, through an online survey, or as a handout to complete during the first week of school. Some families might surprise you and say they just hope their child makes a friend in the class or that they fall in love with reading. Knowing the hopes and dreams of families may greatly affect your teaching practice.
It really does take a village to raise a child. By inviting all parties to create hopes and dreams, you create a stronger family, student, teacher partnership right from the start.
There has never been more of a need for arts education.
The arts are powerful.
The arts allow us to find our voice and express it.
The arts allow us to not just read and write about experiences but to become, relive, and imagine new experiences.
The arts encourage us to step into other people's shoes and explore multiple perspectives.
The arts not only build empathy but move us to show compassion.
The arts challenge our way of thinking.
The arts require discipline, hard work, failure, and multiple attempts.
The arts are naturally interdisciplinary and draw from many sources, ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
The arts cross cultural divides.
The arts thrive on social justice.
The arts act as therapy.
The arts make us look within and tackle the things we wanted to keep buried.
The arts revitalize communities, give hope to the hopeless, and provide opportunities for joy and peace.
The arts express our emotional palette in ways beyond what research papers can ever hope to show.
The arts speak about humanity and are our human language.
The arts document our beliefs, fears, dreams, hopes, and realities.
The arts make us question and think critically.
The arts beautify our lives.
The arts provide millions of jobs.
The arts are everywhere, for they live in architecture, in museums, at parties, and in the very depths of our souls.
The arts reveal who we were, who we are, and who we can become.
The arts do not belong in a box for they breathe, move, and continuously evolve.
The arts are a core component of every society, cutting them out would be like losing a vital organ.
I applaud the entire President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities for resigning because they could not stand by acts of racism, exclusion, discrimination, and allow for any further division in the fabric of our American values.
To fight against the problems in our world, it is critical now to infuse the arts back into the classrooms and collaborate with arts organizations to strengthen the impact of seeing, experiencing, and making the arts to reflect who we are and who we can be when we join together.
Too many teachers leave the profession within their first five years. While there is a myriad of factors that affect teacher turnover, many teachers point to difficulties with classroom management as the main culprit.
Most teachers aren’t actively and explicitly taught classroom management strategies in their teacher education programs. Even in their student teaching placements, classroom management is often left in the hands of the cooperating teacher. Teachers should be explicitly taught how to manage their classrooms and need the opportunity to practice it so they feel confident to step into a classroom of their own.
Classroom management is much more than rule building, establishing routines and classroom procedures; classroom management encompasses community building, self-management, and preventive management strategies, such as managing space, materials, time, curriculum, instructional methods, and one’s self.
Secret #1: Stop trying to manage other people, instead focus on managing yourself.
Statements focused on group and student management, like “I can’t control these kids” or “This group just drives me crazy” are what give classroom management a bad rap.
Instead of focusing on managing students, focus on managing yourself. You have a choice how you respond. Responding with love, positivity, and a good sense of humor will get you much farther in the classroom, in your relationships, and in life.
Give yourself space to think, process, and then respond from a positive space before you do or say something you regret. Also, by modeling this, your students are learning how to respond to situations that might throw them off balance.
Secret #2: Students will often mirror your behaviors, actions, and attitude.
Students pick up on your energy immediately and often match it. If you are happy, smiling, positive, warm, and welcoming, you will most likely have a positive experience. However, if you are angry, short, negative, and frustrated, you will most likely have a frustrating experience.
You set the tone. If you are calm and soft-spoken, the classroom energy will most likely be calm and have a low buzzing learning sound. If a student is extra loud in this quiet setting, it is unexpected behavior that can easily and kindly be adjusted with a quiet conversation.
We are constantly modeling and teaching our students. They watch our every move, inside and outside of the classroom. Consider what it is you want them to embody in the way you interact with your peers, your superiors, and your students.
Secret #3: Plan for success through prevention.
Yes, planning is a huge part of management. When I create a lesson experience, I consider every aspect, from the way the room is set up to ensuring the task at hand will engage my students. I consider options and choices for students to fully engage them. I consider possible ways for students to get distracted and try to eliminate those distractions, if possible.
I provide assigned seats. I plan for extra activities in case we have more time and plan to remove an activity if we don’t have enough. I plan on including elements of reflection for students to articulate their learning either verbally or in writing at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of each class session. I even consider my word choices and statements.
The more prepared and organized I am, the better the experience for my students.
Secret #4: Assume the best intent from every student, ask questions, and offer love.
I don’t go to punishment, yelling, or frustration when something goes wrong, but rather I assume that every student has the best intention and wants to succeed. Rather than accuse, I will notice and ask questions. I am more interested in collaborative problem solving, and learning more, rather than imposing my own opinion or assumptions onto someone else.
Often, just asking the question: “Are you ok?” can start a polite conversation while demonstrating that you care. A classroom where questions are the norm when managing, will invite students to participate in self-management and regulation, rather than compliance.
And finally, offer love. I realize I don’t tell my students enough how much I care about them. It’s okay to let them know you care. Don’t just show it through action, but remind them verbally or in written form how much you care about them and their success.
Be the positive change you hope to see in your classroom.