Homeroom, six periods, over a hundred students in a day… While it is infamous for being a difficult year for students, grade 8 can definitely be a whirlwind from the teacher perspective as well! As a second year Teacher Candidate, I am excited to be in a grade 8 math/science placement for this semester.
“The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing.” (Couros, 2015b)
My focus for the first two weeks of school is developing a strong foundation upon which to build positive relationships with students. The video below serves as an excellent reminder for educators to intentionally create learning communities where every child feels heard and valued. In the words of George Couros (2015a), “[w]e need to put ourselves in our student’s shoes before we can create better opportunities for them in our classrooms.” This is a message that has guided me through the first week of classes, and my observations led to three interesting take-aways:
- Watch how students interact with one another, and pay special attention to how they choose to divide up when given the opportunity (e.g. Who gravitates towards whom? Which students do not get along? Who is alone?)
- Be aware of students with older siblings/family members that you may have taught (e.g. How does this influence their expectations of the course?)
- Be purposeful and explicit about your expectations for the year, with particular emphasis on how partner/group work should be completed
While much of the week was dedicated to administrative details, introductory concepts, and establishing routines, we took a few moments with several of our classes to reflect on the coming school year. They were asked to complete one or more of the following sentences on a post-it:
School is important because…
Math is important because…
Science is important because…
In order to be successful this year, I will…
There was some variability in responses, but in general, our students highlighted the importance of school (particularly math and science) in providing future opportunities and contributing to their career paths. They recognized the role of education in increasing their understanding of the world around them and preparing them for daily life (e.g. sports and recreation, job duties, finances, grocery shopping, caring for the environment, etc.). But, perhaps most importantly, many students pointed out the importance of school for building strong social skills and developing positive relationships. This resonated with me, and reinforced my belief that creating healthy, safe and supportive learning environments is the first step in fostering a productive thinking classroom.
Couros G. (2015a). 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset (Updated). The Principal of Change: Stories of learning and leading.
Couros G. (2015b). The Innovator’s Mindset. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.