Dear Former Students,
What do I hope you remember about me?
Our Special Learning Space
I hope you remember our room. Bright, colorful, creative, inspirational. Most years, our room and our studies focused on a theme which varied from year to year. It might have been dinosaurs or space or animals. Maybe you were with me when we explored the rainforest. Whatever the topic, it was real; it didn’t just provide decorations. It was the springboard for learning—reading, math, language, science, social studies, art and music. We did it all centered around our theme. Sometimes we jumped outside the theme and that was OK. Creativity, learning, and children—none of them belong in a box.
I spent the summer vacation dreaming, planning, and creating for our learning base for the coming year. Until the Testing Monster emerged to swallow up the joy and adventure of learning. After that I spent summers investigating Common Core State Standards. I learned that first graders should be ready to do what had always been expected of second graders. I learned that a Kindergartener was a failure if he or she was not reading by the end of the year. I had nightmares of angry administrators and nonsense posters and charts. I tried to make sense of a disjointed melange, a mishmash of portions of reading programs, books, and plans stuck together by an “expert” to create a hideous and unworkable mess. BUT even then, I tried to create a warm and welcoming place to learn with a fun reading corner and an area for some messy art and forbidden science.
I know you must have felt my efforts. You would come into the room before school (and again at lunch) when you should have been on the playground.
You wanted to put your things away.
You wanted to say hello, to find out what we were going to be doing that day, not from the required posted chart, but from your teacher who had big plans for you.
You wanted to be reassured that despite your problems at home, you were safe at school and could have a good day.
Then after a hug or a smile or a moment to chat, I shooed you outside and we were both happy and ready to begin the adventure.
What do I remember about first grade? I remember painting a huge box that we turned into a time machine.
I remember learning poems that I still know by heart at 30 years old. I was recently at a training for Differentiated Instruction and each person at the table had to complete a task to find out what kind of learner they were. I was the only person who could recite a poem. I recited “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. I then told the story about how and when I learned it.
If I only have half the influence on my students that you had on me, I’ll be a great teacher.
Since you recently had a student beg you to move up to the next grade with him, I know you have an idea of how I feel reading your comment. Thank you so much! Your comment is a good sneak peak into one of my future letters about our literacy activities.
Did you know that your mom provided a great example of teaching thematically? She did it with older kids and I with younger, and then we collaborated on certain aspects. Also we both “differentiated” our instruction before it was a buzzword and had to follow someone’s formula.
You have the instincts of a good teacher–follow your heart!