When you walk into my classroom, one of the first things you may notice is four canvases painted by children with the words, “Creative” “Respect,” “Trust,” and “Safe” on them. These words serve as visual reminders to the students, the faculty, and visitors of my expectation throughout the school year.
I have found that children learn best in a safe environment, where they feel comfortable to express ideas, opinions, concerns, and to make mistakes. I spend a significant amount of time in the beginning of the year establishing a sense of community and building trust among classmates. Through a variety of team building activities (e.g. The Human Knot, Inchworm, Everybody Up, etc.) my students begin to learn more about each other, and therefore build respect for, and learn to communicate with one another. Together through these social activities, we become a team, a community, and a family. These activities have the added benefit of laying down the foundation for a child-centered classroom for the rest of the year.
Project Based Learning
My classroom is a place that fosters creativity and higher level cognitive skills. I strongly believe in project-based learning, as I have found that by having my students thoroughly research topics covered in the curriculum, there is an increase in each student’s innovative thinking, questioning to learn more, and creativity. I continually reinforce that there are different meanings of the word “smart,” and that every one has multiple intelligences; therefore, I ensure that each project incorporates as many intelligences possible. I have instilled in my students that learning is about the process rather than the product. I often ask my students to reflect on their strengths, areas of improvement, and what they have learned throughout each section of the curriculum as a way to reinforce the significance of the lessons. Some examples of projects my students have worked on included songwriting, bookmaking, portrait drawings, mural painting, skit writing, assembling a 10ft. x25ft. culture bubble, creating a historical walking tour of the community, and shipbuilding.
Hopes and Dreams
I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to challenge his or her students to reach their potential. It is important that I reassure my students that they are capable of doing anything they put their mind to. I show them that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and that no one way is better than the rest. It varies by person, as everyone is unique. I convey to my student the importance of setting goals, to never be satisfied with mediocrity, to always complete the work given to them with their full effort. Succeeding in their goals is a priority in my classroom because I have seen first-hand that any student can exceed their own expectations by working hard. Phrases such as “I can’t,” “It’s too hard,” and “I’m dumb,” are not acceptable in my classroom.
Teachers, Students, and Parents Working Together = Success
A classroom cannot be a dictatorship. The learning process is a symbiotic relationship in which the students and I learn from each other. It is important that I treat my students with the highest level of respect and in return, I demand the same from them. Teachers and students are one team reaching for a common goal: success- and without the mutual respect this is a goal not likely to be achieved. An additional team member is the parent or family, whose role is to reinforce the teacher and to instill the same qualities that are learned in school into the student’s daily activities. By working together they have the ability to motivate students to his or her full potential.
School is Fun
In my classroom, the most important aspect of school is that it must be fun. I use humor when appropriate to lighten the stress of daily work. My students are encouraged to laugh, joke, and smile. As I create lessons, one of the objectives that is always included is have fun with an activity. Since school is mandatory for children this age, it is the teacher’s responsibility to a make lessons less tedious and more relevant to everyday situations, which helps students take pleasure in learning. A sign of a successful teacher can be measured by the number of students eager to come back for the next day.
I believe teaching is a profession of passion and that it is based around the pure enjoyment of helping a student. Seeing a student succeed and knowing they understand a new concept is the best gift I, as teacher, could ever receive from a student. Seeing a student smile because a goal that he or she had set has been achieved lets me know that I also achieved my goal as an educator. Teaching is all about attaining a moment like this.