Friday, July 15, 2016

The First Week of School

First Week of School

Welcome to my brain.

I found out I was going back to the classroom on April 14th, 2016. I had been away from my own class for the past 4 years working at a district and county office, supporting teachers from TK-12th grade. I knew immediately that coming to Westlake Charter School was going to be a good move for me. I immediately started smiling more thinking about getting back to the ground level with kids.

At first, I didn’t know if I would be teaching 4th or 5th grade, so I just started collecting. My collection looked like this:

It was a spew of ideas with no focus or structure. I knew a few things for sure.
  • I wanted to have students help define the culture of the classroom.
  • I wanted to integrate student choice.
  • I wanted to be clear about my academic expectations, and I wanted to gather feedback from students.
  • I wanted to create an atmosphere where reading was exciting and prolific.
  • I wanted to scaffold my teaching of academic conversations.
  • I wanted to fully integrate technology in ways that weren’t even possible when I was last in the classroom.

I started fleshing some of the ideas out and made a First Week folder. I fully wrote out some of my lesson plans, and the ideas began to take shape a little bit more.

I found out for sure I was going to be teaching 5th grade, and started working with my team. We spent 2 days defining what it meant to each of us to teach, lead, guide and facilitate 5th graders. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Our day ended looking like this:

I was also able to go to a Google Summit with the Tech Team at Westlake and we all discovered BreakoutEDU. We discussed throwing in a breakout the first week of school as a teambuilding activity. I started designing, and came up with this:

Now things were starting to take shape. I had a student and parent survey crafted, a website put together, and my list of things I wanted to teach the first few weeks.

Then came four days of Responsive Classroom training. My whole team was involved in the training, so we were able to have a few concrete conversations about how to implement the ideas.

Responsive Classroom is based on creating a culture where students feel involved, included, safe, and able to learn.

I had a chance to meet and work with some amazing educators from all over the state for these four days. We brainstormed, tested out ideas, tried out different components of the program, and helped each other see how implementation would be possible. As we processed each component of the workshop, my first week started becoming more crystallized.

I now have a plan for how to facilitate student hopes and dreams, which will lead into class rules. The products created from that series of activities will go on the board to the right where I was going to have students define what they would contribute to the class culture. What was a vague idea has now become clear.

In the center board, students will be collecting lines from their reading that make an impact. They will write them directly on the blue paper so that we have a collection of quotes from a variety of great books (Thanks for the idea Carly!). We will be doing some Growth Mindset work as well (Don’t worry, I have the missing T to add to the title!). All of the boards are blank so that the students can contribute the content. I am excited to see the transformation of my ideas become their reality!

I knew that I wanted to teach students to have high-quality Academic Conversations that were focused and built upon each other’s words. I now have a plan for how to introduce the concept using Instructional Modeling.

I knew that I wanted to teach my students about how to gather evidence from sources and talk about them in a meaningful way in order to get to deeper production of work. I had started collecting sources to build this skill from, and I knew I wanted to work on this a little bit each day as part of a routine.

Now I have a plan for building this skill within the structure of a Morning Meeting.

It’s all starting to come together, and it’s feeling fantastic. I can’t wait to see how I have grown as a teacher in the past four years. Thank you to everyone I have learned from and all those that will continue on the journey with me. Westlake Explorers- Let’s go!