Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Wish My Teacher Knew...

Last year, a teacher's blog post went viral. She had her students fill in the answer to the following:

I wish my teacher knew...

Our reading coach at the time, Paul Holimon (@holimon_paul), reminded those of us in the English Department that it would be a good exercise for us to do as well. So at the end of last year, I had my kiddos fill out index cards titled, "I wish my teacher knew..." I was astounded by what they wrote. Many of the kids, who had sub-par years, wanted me to know that they were indeed good students. Many wanted me to know that they were good at sports, had talents that I never knew about, had different ideas about class and school that would have been helpful for me to know, and were going through personal tragedies. They gave me valuable information but I was disappointed that I waited so long to do this activity.

This year, I knew I wanted to know more about my kiddos from the first week of school. On Friday, I passed out index cards titled, "I wish my teacher knew..." I told the kiddos that they had the choice of putting their name on their card or keeping it anonymous. About 40% used their names. I don't think I would have gotten so much information if I insisted on the kids putting their names. The information that I got, however, is amazing.

Some of the things that I found out are:

- About 20% of my kids do NOT like to read. I think much of this feeling is because of how they have had to deal with reading in class before. That will change this year; I promise.
- One student is a cancer survivor...twice.
- One student said, "My dad walked out on me."
- Many of my kids love sports (soccer, boxing, wrestling, basketball, football, hockey).
- A few of my kids hate Jake Paul and Team 10.
- One of my kiddos is from the Philippines and speaks Tagalog.
- Some of the kids have experienced terrible things and therefore read books to help them deal with those experiences.
- Many kids bragged about their talents in art, music, dance, math, sports, and technology.
- Some kids' parents are divorced and it is hard on them.
- Some kiddos have experienced recent deaths in the family or their circle of friends.
- One or two kids' pets have recently died.
- Many kids related the school subject in which they are excellent!

It is important for me to know these things so that I have a sense of what this group of kiddos is dealing with. Often we forget that our students are people who have bad days or need some extra help or attention in order to get through the day. School is so much more than disseminating information. A school is a living, breathing organism. We teachers must have the soft skills to accommodate all kids regardless of their strengths and weaknesses, both academic and emotional. We are their parent figure while at school and we must act accordingly, treating these kids as if they were our own.

My mission is to take all of this information into account and make sure that this group of kids has the best school year they have ever had.  I will revisit this activity periodically throughout the year but I hope that I don't have to. I hope that the kids will become comfortable enough that they will freely share with me all of the time. If we get to that point, I'll know I have been successful.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's All About the Team

We spend a lot of time during the first few days on team building activities. It is always important to show the kiddos that they can work well with everyone in the class. Kids have a natural inclination to be collaborative and cooperation in class is essential. During the first few days, in addition to talking about expectations, we play some games that demonstrate how crucial teamwork is. When we develop good teamwork at the beginning of the year, that teamwork and collaboration pays off big during the last few months of the school year. Fostering cooperation and collaboration during the first week of school is an investment in the last few months of school.