Doing it differently…

I’m a community team leader now, looking at the hows, whys, and whens of daily life in the classroom from a bigger window.  As a science teacher, my focus has always been to create a classroom environment where students want to come because its a comfortable, safe place, where if they apply themselves, they leave having learned SOMETHING new, every single day.  As an educational technologist, my focus is on creating an environment within the classroom where students discover the “toys” they have can be tools for learning, and that learning extends beyond the four walls of any classroom they’re sitting in.

As the community team leader, responsible for managing the affairs of 120 students and 5 teachers, my CHOSEN focus is on creating an atmosphere where we are all excited about spending time together.  I like the personalities of my team members; we’re just about as eclectic as it gets. We have a cheerleader (let’s go team!), a detail keeper (Chevin, don’t forget to…), a Grinch (I KNOW you want to to that, but, well, so what?), a fairy princess (Oh thank you, good job, here, have a piece of candy! ) and me, the reluctant Overlord (suddenly hears the Darth Vader theme in my head).  We work well together.  Our children seem to love us, and KNOW, there’s no manipulation possible because we are a united front with only their best interests in mind.  We’re seeing positive results from this.

Friday, first trimester report cards were distributed.  Usually, this is a painful, angst filled experience for all involved.  We did something differently this term however.  There’s the usual 6 week progress report that goes out; we cut that in half and handed out comprehensive reports every 3 weeks.  Transparency.  The kids knew at all times where they were, what the expectations were, and for the few who needed it, reminded them, in the presence of their parent(s), what their role in their education is.  This resulted in something very strange happening Friday.

As I handed out report cards to my advisory class, who all sat rigidly in their seats, the heavy feeling of, “oh hell, here we go” began to lift.  By the time my “W” kid was handed his card, and he discovered that after 3 years of middle school report cards there wasn’t a single, solitary “F” on his, (he jumped up and down, LITERALLY jumped and screamed) the room was in full celebration.

Oh, Mrs. Stone, can I hug you!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!.  Can I go thank the other teachers?

Thank me for what?  YOU did it… ALL OF YOU!

All 23 of them hugged me.  Even the ones that received a low grade in my class.  The buzz in the room was heartwarming.

Yeah, I could have done better here, but I had other stuff going on.

Stop making excuses, I’ll help you this term if you need it.

My mother is gonna cry when she sees this report card.  Hell, I think I’m gonna cry right now!

As I reflected with my team at lunch about the joy felt by this particular group of students, who have been told for years that they are the bottom of the barrel and can’t and shouldn’t bother “being somebody”, this was a beautiful thing.  There were many factors that made it all work, but the one thing that I KNOW we did differently was to simply love them to death, in each of our own special ways.

The cheerleader (Social Studies) lets students teach the class, showing them how to write a lesson plan and execute the learning process.

The detail keeper (Math), will continue to stay late daily to help any student who needs it until they “get it”.

The Grinch (Reading), will keep asking Social Studies and Science to supply non fiction articles for the kids to read so they can learn those topics and get the reading skills they need honed to perfection. (May I suggest CK12 or Newsela for great non fiction and current event articles, many tied to state standards)

The fairy princess (Language Arts) is new to the team, and still simply getting them to not test her mettle daily, but, she has them write about themselves and who they are, which is reflective for them as they move forward.  They are learning to appreciate that, and I’m going to help her get them online to start blogging!

And me, the evil Overlord (Science), will  continue to bark orders in the hallway and snatch idiots from the jaws of self inflicted stupid behavior as well as continue to take them on the ultimate scientific and technological journey.

Teaching isn’t about the curriculum or the data or the test scores.  Teaching is about molding young minds into brilliant vessels of personal, social and transcendental greatness (Oh geez, I fell off the cliff on that one huh?  lol)

Seriously, in a world where children come with more baggage than they can handle, and frustrations are a daily activity for them and us, finding new ways to “make it all joy” is important.  Doing it differently: teaching, learning, growing TOGETHER is the ONLY way to focus us all on the future.

I wonder what we can do differently in the 2nd trimester?

How are you doing it differently?