Thinking About Safely

“Community is so important.  Who can we walk through the world safely with?” Jacqueline Woodson – NCTE convention in St. Louis.

 

If you are a reader of this blog, I bet you agree with Jacqueline’s first sentence; Community is so important.  I think each of our posts here at Classroom Communities reinforces this idea but my thinking was stretched this day when it followed with the question; Who can we walk through the world safely with?

A community may be where you live geographically and the places you share physically for day to day living.  A community may be a gathering of people with the same beliefs; social, religious, or work related.  A community might be a group of people you do the same activity with on a regular basis.  I hadn’t really thought about walking through the world with my different communities.  I had to stop and ponder Jacqueline’s words, “Who can we walk through the world safely with?”

In looking up the word safely, dictionary.com of course states it’s an adverb and leads the reader to the word safe.  I started pulling out words I felt I wanted within the four walls of my classroom; secure, free from hurt, dependable, trustworthy, careful, and avoid danger.  Our world does bring uncertainty in many forms.  Our world brings hills, valleys, and plateaus even within a classroom.  I now have goals to provide a net of safety so our walk can be easier in second grade.   I’m so glad Jacqueline Woods made me stop and reflect on communities and how they help us navigate our world safely.

 

When You Know…

Dismissal time comes and goes every day and every day I start to worry a little bit.  Our school procedure is involved.  It requires me to walk with my students through the hallways to various drop of points and then taking my bus riders outside to their individual buses.

I worry about this time of day.  I have a clipboard with daily sheets for our “going home” plans.  Changes happen and I note them with post it notes.  I “lost” a kindergartener once and quickly found her in a different drop off location but I’ll never forget that worry and shutting my classroom door to burst into tears.  I am blessed to spend each day with my students and I think my biggest job is to get each student back home safely to their families.

It was about a month or two into this school year and we were getting organized for dismissal.  The students had their backpacks.  They were sitting at the carpet and I had started to line them up according to the order of their drop off location.  Everything seemed to be in order when I heard, “George come here, she already called your name.  Right here is where bus 51 goes.”

I watched and thought, Bingo; we have a classroom community!  It was such a small moment and one that could be easily over looked.  A student was looking out for a classmate and wanted to make sure he was on the bus with him to go home.  I wish you could have heard his voice; the helping student had a kind and caring inflection.  A nurturing voice with a sense of urgency.

When do you know…what small things can we look for to confirm there is a community in our classroom?  These two boys don’t necessarily share common characteristics or interests besides attending our classroom together but I would add to the dictionary’s definition of community to include – individuals who spend a lot of time together and care about each other; showing acts of kindness.

Profesional Self-Care

I recently had something happen outside of my classroom community personally and I needed to reach out for some guidance and advice. The guidance and advice I got was helpful. I was feeling more at peace and then a twist came, “make sure you practice some self-care for you. Whether that means going for a run, eating ice cream, watching TV – take time for you, alone.” I was completely caught off guard. I wasn’t seeking guidance and advice for me but someone thought I needed a nudge. This idea of self-care has been on my mind a lot this week personally and trickled over to my professional life.

In the past seven days, I’ve spent three of them in professional communities; physically and not online. These professional communities took me away from my classroom for two days and away from home for half a day. As I wrapped up the second day yesterday, I realized these three days were burst of professional self-care. Not only do I need to take care of myself personally but my professional life needs nurturing too. I’ve been attending workshops outside my school day for years and extending my learning beyond my teaching degrees. I had an administrator ask me once why I like going to conferences and reading so much. I wasn’t prepared for that question and was a bit surprised but now I have an answer. It’s my professional self-care. I learn new things and often my thinking is reaffirmed. I connect with other people and have conversations to help me process my work with students. I get guidance and nudges to push my thinking. This may sound silly – but I feel loved. When people choose to come together the energy in the room is positive and uplifting. The positives of professional self-care make “the hard to make it happen feelings” diminish.

Tips to Make Professional Self-Care Happen

  1. Find a local organization that brings people together from different districts.
  2. Attend a weekend event. Weekends are more relaxing, it feels more enjoyable,     there are no sub plans and hopefully your personal life can support some time                                  away.
  3. Attend with a friend, there’s accountability here to make it happen.
  4. Commit to attending and get it on the calendar.
  5. Find a state organization hosting an event.
  6. Make new connections, often a simple hello is the doorway to more and wear your name badge.
  7. Attend a session out of your comfort zone to stretch yourself.
  8. Find a way to stay connected with people in your professional communities.
  9. Offer to present because sometimes the conference can be free or discounted.
  10. Offer to share your learning with the staff when you return for financial support.

 

Classroom communities nurture learners as a whole and as individuals. Make sure you take some time to step away from your classroom community to nurture your professional side of life. I promise it will give you strength, hope, and fresh thinking to carry on.

 

 

Little Things Foster Communities

When I read our first post by Tony and Brian introducing our vision for this space I instantly got my writer’s notebook out and started writing a list.  They shared ‘little things’ that helped create meaningful relationships in the post, Looking at Teaching and Learning through a “Relationship” Lens.  I started my own list, wondering if I could think of five small things that might have an impact on our community.  I decided to let this list percolate and study them during the first month of school.  I was quite surprised last night at parent teacher conferences each of my five things were mentioned at some point by parents.

  1. Each morning during our morning meeting greet each other.  Each week I pick a different greeting for the students and I to do with each other as each child is welcomed.  We started with a formal greeting – Good morning, Sam.  Good morning, Mrs. Robek.  Parents shared last night their child was plotting out how they would “hit the floor” the next day during a greeting chant we did last week and were disappointed we were doing something different this week.  This week we did an ankle shake around our circle; they laughed and giggled as they tried to balance.
  2. Use student names for labels.  Names are special gifts from parents with meaning and thought.  Every time I write a label with a name I feel like I’m creating a special spot for that child this school year.  A notebook or folder or coat hook that will be a place to nurture.
  3. Send snail mail notes home to share good news.  Life is busy and technology can make communication easy but I miss getting meaningful, touching mail in my physical mailbox.  When I do, I get a little flutter of joy.  I had some postcards made to hopefully bring my students and their families a flutter of joy.  I find handwriting a note brings a little more intention to my observations.  Just today as we lined up for dismissal a student didn’t hear his name called and another student who rides the same bus got out of line and helped him find a place within the line that was growing to help him get home.  Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 9.56.18 PM
  4. Start the year with empty walls and curate them together with the class.
  5. End the school day in song.  One summer I worked at a day camp and they had a tradition to end their day.  They sang a song; staff and campers.  It had a message of closure, wishes for our time away, and a time frame for when we’d be together again.  Enjoy our sharing.  

My #pb10for10 list about Relationships

When I was asked to join this project I decided to do a little digging to help my thinking about our focus.  Our byline is – Building Relationships, Empowering Learners.  I am a word nerd sometimes and headed right to dictionary.com.  What do these four words mean?

Building – anything built or constructed

Relationships – an emotional or other connection between people

Empowering – to give power or authority to;to enable or permit

Learners – a person who is learning;the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill

I have my favorite books for launching reading workshop, writing workshop, math workshop and routines/behaviors.  I began to wonder if I had books to help support building relationships and this is what I discovered…in no particular order.  Instead of telling a summary of each book, I tried to highlight aspects of relationships in each.  It’s my intent to use these books in launching conversations that help build relationships for my new learners in an effort to empower them while spending our year together.  

The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPucchio begins with two friends who love many things the same except their lunch.  Their lunch differences cause quite a stir and divide between the girls.  They have the courage to try different lunches and realize autonomy is a positive thing.

Ruby in Her Own Time by Jonathan Emmett is a story about a duck family with ducklings on the way.  Four strong and able ducklings are born with one, Ruby taking her time to join the world.  Once Ruby joins the world she takes that same pace to grow and learn and succeeds.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson takes a look at physical and emotional barriers  and how a simple question can open doors.  The girls find a way to spend time with each other and respect those barriers.

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard has a very grumpy character who doesn’t really want  to interact with others.  However, his friends think differently and decide to join him on his walk; it’s a way to spend time with him.  The walk turns into a little simon says in a way and changes one grump to happy.

The Monster Next Door by David Soman begins with two characters copying each other by doing and saying silly things.  However, those silly things get a bit carried away and feelings are hurt.  You’ll want to read this one to see how things get mended between a boy and a monster.

Matthew and Tilly by Rebecca C Jones is another story that starts out with friends doing everything together but then they get tired of each other.  I think it’s important we model this as a part of relationships.  Matthew and Tilly play independently but realize it isn’t as joyful.  

Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler creates a story where a king and queen each take over the school playground.  The playground gets divided and there are things to be conquered which leads to an empty playground.  The king and queen step down returning the playground to a happy ever after place to be.

Boy Plus Bot by Ame Dyckman begins with an injured character and the care provided by another based on what he would want done to him.  These things don’t necessarily work until some guidance is offered for what is best for someone who is different.  Readers will enjoy how the two characters find common ground.

Boo Hoo Bird by Jeremy Tankard is a story about support and efforts to help.  It’s a story that builds upon itself with each new character and idea of support.  The characters are full of cooperation and willingness.

The Girl Who Made Mistakes by Mark Pett is about a girl who is focused and successful until one day she makes her first mistake.  With care and support and acceptance she and her community are able to be healthier.