Welcome! This blog is to provide inspiration to me in the things that I enjoy doing, including my profession as an educator. I hope that others may also share from my inspiration and be inspired in their own interests in life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Love in the Classroom

The first school day of a new month, all my classes get new seating plans. They mostly get to choose their spots, but I get to VETO them if I don't like them.

This week, with a particularly chatty class, I selected the group to sit at, but not their seat. When it came to students that were absent and I said where they'd be sitting, there was some discussion about one student. I heard things like, "I don't want him near me," "Please put him somewhere else," etc. It killed me!

So, I spent the beginning of my math class with this class discussing how to treat others even if you do not like them. We talked about how you could feel if someone was not being nice to you even if they weren't doing it to your face. I told them about the risks of someone in that situation becoming depressed and how it doesn't benefit anyone. I told the students that they should try to see the good in all people and not just the negative.

Then I posed the question, "Do you think I like everyone in this class?" I could see people shaking their heads no, and a few said so. I exclaimed that I really did like every single student that was sitting in that room because I could see at least one good thing about each one of them. I then asked if they wanted to hear one nice thing about each one, and they got really excited. I went around the room and said one thing that I liked about each student, even the students that were absent.

It was weird, because they seemed more attentive afterwards, and I watched their facial expressions change. They appeared more relaxed. A couple days have passed now since this exercise took place. Students are still talking about it and are telling students that were absent about what I said. The young boy who was being left out seems more included and appears happier as well!

This was such a tremendous exercise for the students. Sure, I wasn't covering any math curriculum for the 15-20 minutes that this took in the class, but I think the long term effects of it are worth it. I plan to use this with my other classes as well.

Meaningful Teaching

I've always hated the Language Arts curriculum (in Alberta). It's so vague! Sure, it leaves lots of room for interpretation and teacher creativity, but I'm a math/science kind of person and really enjoy real, concrete learning objectives.

This year, as I am teaching grade 5 LA, I am again being creative in meeting my objectives.

General Outcome 1
Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.

This outcome alone has led to some fabulous, meaningful classroom discussions. The illustrative examples in the Program of Studies suggest all kinds of potentially meaningless activities to meet this objective. I have decided to have classroom discussion around material meaningful to my students. This is also based on the fact that my class loves to discuss!

By holding classroom discussions, the students must take turns talking, without interrupting another students' statement even if they really want to. They are also learning how to really listen to another person, even if you do not agree with them or think what they have to say is important or interesting. I believe these are skills that will set them up to be effective people in the work force, as well as in their personal lives.

Our topics so far have been based on issues that have come up in grade 5: controversy of makeup on girls and women; appropriate dating age; personal matters (minding your own business); differences; thankfulness, which ended up about women's rights.

At first I felt like I was wasting time a bit, but now I feel like I am actually teaching these children something meaningful and useful that they will use throughout their lives. They may not remember the discussion we have on the challenges the main character in our novel faces, but they will remember our meaningful discussions.