I have had a lot of time to reflect on being in the classroom again and how I planned differently with the CCSS. I felt empowered! The new standards are rigorous and focus on critical thinking. I loved seeing the mathematical practices happening right before my eyes. It was also nice to read literature and informational text outside of what is offered in an outdated curriculum.
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE to create teacher materials and with the planning for lessons centered around the CCSS I was able to try things that before I usually did not have time for since I was following a structured and sometimes scripted program. I am just not a supporter of the one size fits all lesson.
I also appreciate that I was able to reflect on the student learning taking place by examining their work and adjusting what was needed! I didn't need a test to tell me what they learned! I built in ways for them to apply what they had learned! Isn't that the way it should be?
I often think back to when I was in school and had I had some of the opportunities that we have now for students...I think that my performance in school would have been dramatically different. I imagine what I could have shown my teachers had they tapped into my love of reading and creating.....at least I know that this is how my kids will be taught. I am the first college graduate in my family and I do not want to be the last!
So.....back to the last morning with my second graders.....I asked the students to write me a letter during their morning journal time and promised all of them that I would write back. I have not started my letters back, but I envision a sort of pen pal relationship with these kiddos throughout their second grade year. How cool would that be? I hope they are as excited as I am!
I wanted to share a few with you...
This letter was super special to me because you can see at the end of the 4th line and on the 5th line this little girl is recalling how I told them over and over that it is okay to make mistakes and that we learn from mistakes. I LOVE that! She expressed how she loved the games we played in class. She is referring to Kakooma and Math on Our Head that I wrote about in a previous blog. This just proves to me that meaningful learning CAN BE FUN and the fun is what they remember the most. I will cherish this one forever! If they all remember one thing I told them, I hope that it is how I told them about how making mistakes proves they are learning. (This one totally made my heart HAPPY!?)
This letter is so awesome. This child is asking me to come to his house with a box full of pizza and play Star Wars on his xBox! I mean....come on....that is the cutest thing ever! Do you know what this tells me? This little boy KNOWS that I care about him. Building relationships with our students is always a positive thing! If we care, they care, and we all care about school and learning. This one was a JACKPOT for me!
The night before my departure from the class there was a school wide Open House. I attended and was in the room with the new teacher. I encouraged parents to meet the new teacher and brought out my iPad to show parents the free apps (like KAKOOMA) that they can download for their kids to encourage fun practice of skills.
The highlight of my night was a shocker! Two of the little guys in the class live at a local shelter in town. I wrongly assumed that they were in the shelter with their mother. These two little ones live, parentless, in the children only shelter which is like a group home. They attended that night due to a caregiver from the home bringing them over to the school because they BEGGED to come see me. I am so humbled by the fact that in three short weeks I was able to make such an impact on the boys. The caregiver went above and beyond her normal duties to make sure the boys got what they wanted. After all, it isn't that common for kids to BEG to go to school, but these two did and she listened. One of them even wore his vest that he saves for special occasions just for me. The caregiver made sure to tell me this.
For days I have been thinking of these two boys and their siblings. I can't walk away from them; any of them. I will continue to work with the class, but for the impact that these two little guys had on me, I have set a goal, a mission, to create some kind of program, organization, partnership with the children's shelter and our school district. I don't quite know what this will look like yet, but I will be meeting with the director in a couple of weeks to create a plan. I can't wait!