Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oh, What a Night!

Open House at school occurred tonight. My teaching partner, Melissa (@melissahellwig4), and I love this night because we get to meet the proud parents of our amazing kids and share with them our philosophy of learning, our team climate and our hopes for their children this year. It's a chance for parents to see the shiny promise of a new year and understand that their kids have adults at school who really care about them and want the best for them.

While we always go over some nuts and bolts information, the evening is spent talking more about learning and climate than rules, supplies and content. We assume that parents know that their kids will learn math, science, social studies and English during the year. What we want them to take away from the night is that we are committed to personalizing learning for each of their kids, that we honor each child's learning style and creativity, and that we will treat them with as much care as if they were our own kids.

During our talk, we stress that we will be doing things a little differently this year. Most of their work will be project-based where kids can use their natural talents to demonstrate their mastery of content and skills. They will have the freedom to choose project types and presentation modes that are as unique as they are.

We stress that cultivating a positive culture is essential to our mission this year. We try to create a lot of hoopla around our team from having a mascot, team colors, shirts, shorts, hoodies, pencils, etc. We have team banners, creatively-designed and visually-stimulating rooms, and a lot of team-specific online tools. We devote the first couple of weeks to team-building and we work hard to establish a positive feeling on team.

Well, so far it is working out pretty well. Parents were very receptive to our talk and looked visually relieved at times. They laughed and smiled at our corny jokes and hopefully saw two caring adults in the front of the room who want to go the extra mile to do right by their kids. Parents were extremely complimentary about our program and the climate we are creating. They talked about how much their kids like school this year and how eager they are to come each morning. The parents, and the kids, seem hungry for the type of learning we are doing on team this year. We believe that personalized, creative, problem-solving, project-based learning is the future of schools. Tonight, we found out that nearly all of our students' parents feel the same way. It was a great night!

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