The first day of school was Monday, August 22nd. It was the first taste of turnaround year two for a staff of a little more than half returning. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After going through a whirlwind year one, I did not think too much calamity could shock me. The other third grade teacher and I talked briefly before walking to the blacktop to meet our scholars and their parents. I told her I was not nervous and assured her that we are fourth year teachers. We have done this for three years already. Walking swiftly to a sea of staff, parents and scholars with khaki bottom combinations and array of colored shirts, I soon was surrounded by my scholars from last year. Greeted with bear hugs and smiles, I was amazed by how much they grew over the summer–most nearly matched my five-foot stature. The morning was so calming and it was the first sign that turnaround year two would be different.
During breakfast, I met most of my new third grade scholars for the first time. I placed nametags on their shirts as we exchanged brief get-to-know-you conversations. We soon headed up to my classroom and my show began. I began by telling them how we are “The Best Class on Earth” to go with the circus-themed décor and they completed their do-now. One major aspect of my school’s program is our school-wide culture plans. After teaching in the Scholar Academies (www.scholaracademies.org) model for a year, investing my scholars in our culture goals came naturally.
Nevertheless, what I was not expecting was for them to be as receptive as they were to redirection. Last year, there was a lot of resistance to the school culture. Our scholars were not used to receiving consistent consequences of any form and did not understand why we practiced procedures so much at the start and throughout the year. “If we don’t do it right the first time, we have to do it again,” I said as we practiced how to walk into the classroom and the rest of my beginning of the day procedures. “We practice so we do not waste our learning time,” I followed up. They did it without much huffing, puffing or tantrums. Some students made occasional small comments, but took redirection extremely well. Their response time was quicker and I had little instances of what was coined “the Stanton stare” last year–the stare students gave us when thinking whether they wanted to comply with a demand. It seemed as if the hard work put in last year made a major difference—our students were understanding why we come to school and why we “sweat the small stuff” when it comes to school-wide systems such as walking quietly in the halls on the blue tiles or practicing bathroom procedures or always tracking the speaker while talking. Day one as a school was good.
Day two proved to be even better than day one for me. I enjoy having a projector in my classroom now. The scholars love how interactive my lessons are and how I incorporate video clips and music into my lessons. I have found www.zamzar.com to be a great a resource for converting video and music files to be used in the classroom. During my Daily Do Now exercise, students listen to inspirational songs such as R Kelly’s The World’s Greatest and Ashanti’s Dreams. They love the music, and the songs make them feel good. Today, my scholars had an opportunity to watch a short clip of The Little Red Hen, discuss how to be classroom helpers and apply for classroom jobs. They also listened to a read aloud on how we are alike titled The Me Too Game and played Stand Up, Sit Down to illustrate how we have so many things in common. In the afternoon, I experienced my first earthquake while teaching. My students had differing reactions. Some where scared while others laughed. We had to evacuate the building and school dismissed early.
Yesterday, I was reminded of Tuckman’s four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. Last year, I would say we made it through the forming and storming phase. These first two days of school have felt like we have made it to the norming phase. Our school is beginning to feel like the “learning sanctuary” described in our vision statement. Our school has grown leaps and bounds from where it was last year, hopefully results will show over time. Here’s to the best class on earth!