What I Wish My Students Knew

Last week as I was scrolling through Twitter during breakfast, I saw a tweet that suggested asking students to write about something they wish their teacher knew.  I don’t remember who the tweet was from, but like so many tweets and blog posts, it gave a germ of an idea to take into the classroom (talk about pd in your pjs!).

My students (grade 7/8) were intrigued by the idea, but had lots of questions beforehand.  Could they write about what they wish all their teachers knew, or just me?  Would I be looking at the responses, or was this something they could write and keep private?  We established that they could write with any or all teachers in mind, and that sharing was optional.  Writing began in earnest.

While the students were writing, I did as well.  This is what I shared with them:

Something I wish my students knew is that I think about them all the time.  I lie in bed at night worrying about their problems.  When I’m on holidays and see something that I think one of them would find interesting, I say, “I wish ___ was here to see this!  He/she would enjoy it.”  I hear or read something, and I think, “I can’t wait to tell the kids!” My family knows my students’ names because of the stories I tell. 

Sometimes, my students drive crazy, with whispering during reading, talking when I’m talking, or the clicking of Rubix Cubes.  Sometimes, they make me so proud that I have tears in my eyes.

I wish my students knew that they’ve left footprints on my heart. 

This was such a positive relationship building activity.  This is the third year I’ve taught some of these students, and they still found it surprising that I think of them outside the classroom.  They wanted details – when do I feel proud?  What stories do I tell my family?  They basked in the idea of being thought of beyond the school environment.

It was a good reminder to me to tell the people in my life why they’re important to me.  It’s easy to assume that your students know you care about them.  Saying it out loud makes them feel valued, and made me feel good.

The First Week of the Year

Getting back to school after the Christmas break is always a little challenging – it’s dark, it’s cold, and I’ve become accustomed to reading and drinking tea at a leisurely pace in the morning.  That being said, I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to January.

On Thursday, our first day back, my lovely teacher-librarian (recently re-titled “instructional team coach”) had planned a “book tasting” for my grade 7/8 ELA class.  In the morning, I helped her transform the library into a restaurant where students would enjoy an appetizer, three main courses, and a dessert, all consisting of different genres of books.  The students were thrilled to be able to sample a variety of books that were new to them, in a relaxed and engaging atmosphere.  The table talk as students worked their way through each course was excellent!  As the wait staff, the teacher-librarian and I provided the tables with a new course at regular intervals, then arranged that each student would take home a doggy-bag containing a favourite book from the tasting.  I am so thankful to work with someone who is willing to plan such a special event that inspires my students to begin a great new year of reading!

On Friday, my kindergarten students returned to school full of excitement and information about the recent holiday.  It never fails to surprise me how much older the youngest students seem after only a two week break!  There were some rough patches:  two weeks is a long time to remember some of the routines, such as where the agendas go after they’ve been stamped, or how to sit on the carpet!  But there were some golden moments too, such as sharing and re-enacting the book The Mitten, and observing how well students understood and followed the new centres expectations I had set out.

Also on Friday, a former principal and dear friend sent a touching email about how much she appreciates that we stay connected.  It was inspired by a Daily Café Friday Tip she had read on the topic, and I was flattered that she sees me as someone who “fuels her fire”.  The fire fueling is reciprocal – I can always count on her to send me interesting ideas and articles, and to challenge me professionally.  She’s one of those people who makes me want to do more and be better tomorrow than I am today.

Quiet mornings at home are a pleasure, but getting back to school helps me realize how blessed I am to work in a profession that gives me personal and professional fulfillment, and allows me to work and collaborate with some exceptional educators.  They, and the students, consistently feed my fire, and encourage me to strive to be a better teacher.

Here’s to 2017!

Taking the Leap in 2017!

I blame George Couros.

An interesting tweet came across my Twitter feed last year, and I followed him.  That original tweet was quickly followed by other thought-provoking ideas tweeted and blogged by George, and pretty soon I felt compelled to read his book.  So much of what George wrote aligned with my beliefs about education, and the book provided a good pep talk going into September.

I toyed with the idea of starting a teacher blog and reflecting publicly, and it terrified me!  There is no part of my personality that seeks public attention.  A very select circle of close colleagues ever hear my personal reflections and beliefs about education.

But George, and the brilliant people he re-tweets, wore me down.  I kept reading that blogging is great, cheap professional development (I love professional development!  I love cheap!), and that the process of professional reflection in a blog can only strengthen classroom practice.  Teaching in a small, rural school, I don’t have the luxury of grade-alike colleagues in the same building.  Developing a professional learning network through blogging is an attractive and straight forward method of sharing with colleagues in similar positions.

That brings me to today.  I’ve decided to take the leap and join the “30 Days of Blogging” challenge, initiated by A. J. Juliani.  In the next 30 days, I commit to writing 250 words a day, and posting once a week.

And so my personal blogging journey begins.  But the blogging won’t be limited to me.  I met Alec Couros at a presentation he gave in our school division in the fall.  Guess what I’m doing after I post this first blog entry?  Setting up student blogs, based on his emphasis of digital literacy for students.

I wonder if Mrs. Couros knows how persuasive her boys are?