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.