This year I am teaching the grade 6/7 intensive literacy program. Each one of my kids struggles significantly with reading and writing, and the traditional classroom approach has thus far not worked for them.
Along with focusing a large portion of our time on literacy… my goals of the year focus on…
- Rebuilding confidence, by offering opportunity for students to feel successful everyday
- Developing strategies, with the students, to self regulate and self manage. Encouraging students to be independent thinkers, learners, and problem solvers
- Reigniting a love for learning, which for most had been dampened by their daily struggles.
Each of my kids, much like yours, walked into class with their own story. But unlike other years, they were strangers not only to the classroom, but the school community as well. A huge piece of having a successful start to the year, was making them feel like this school, and this classroom was theirs.
I gave students the power and control to determine classroom arrangement and expectations, and I have slowly watched as the walls have come down. The guards they have built to survive the traditional world of academia are softening, as trust and community is being built.
A memorable moment…
During the first few days of school I consistently used phrases such as “no stress”, “take risks” and “be brave”, to the extent that the students have now embraced these as their class mottos. These mottos have since been posted up on our class wall, and are referenced consistently.
Last week, I was about to begin a reading assessment with one of my students, when another boy walks by, pats the student on the shoulder and says “Hey, no stress!”… what a moment!
“No Stress” has become a living motto…
By creating an atmosphere of trust and openness, my students have begun to rediscover themselves as learners. I see the walls coming down, as their confidence grows, and I see students making gains in self regulatory practice. By balancing challenge and support, I can help build their capacity to be resilient, independent, and confident learners. I feel that my students have grown to trust me, to understand that everything I assign or ask of them is within their capability, and if they struggle, that it is okay, because we will find a way for them to be successful.
On a daily basis, I look around and see students working in groups, students with ‘muting headphones’ on, or with a cup of tea, students curled up on beanbags reading, some working in small groups with our EA at the red table*, and others taking their 5 min brain breaks.
Each student is beginning to find ways to learn, that best suit their needs. They have grown to understand that each learner is unique, and learning is not a linear process. This is a huge step in developing self awareness and self regulatory practices – for students to acknowledge when they need support. Once this trust has been established, I can challenge/scaffold students to be more independent.
*Our class has 3 “collaboration tables” (big rectangle tables), each table corresponds with a colour; red, yellow, green. Depending on how students feel about what we are working on, they can move throughout the 3 tables, as a way to indicate to me how much support they would like.