Posts Tagged ‘parents’

This I Believe Classroom Poster

So, I’ve been thinking about our recent “This I Believe” unit. I tried to develop it into a collaborative projectand a few other classes signed up, but it didn’t get as much traction as I had hoped. There’s always next year.

Anyway, I forged ahead myself. I teach in a classroom that is usually self-contained. However, for 3 weeks at the end of January and beginning of February we do a little mini unit that involves all 3 sections rotating for science, social studies, and this year a writing unit. In the past I have done various math units, but I was ready for a change and felt that the “This I Believe” unit I tried out last year was worth expanding.

Once again, we listened to several podcasts from the “This I Believe” website, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and several songs. We discussed not only what ideas were being shared but the various strategies that were used to make the ideas powerful. After a plan, a draft, a peer review, and another draft students recorded themselves reading their statement and embedded the recording on a glog. Here are a few. There should be a play button somewhere on each glog.

Jacob believes in reading.

Cayman believes in soccer.

Chloe believes in skiing.

Ruby believes in acting.

Marshall believes in baseball.

Aly believes in pitching.

There are a couple of things I really like about this unit. First, I like that the students write something personal and creative that has some guidelines. So while it was creative, it was not formless. I also like that the students record themselves reading their statements. It is so great to listen to their voices. I mean I listen to them all day, but in any class there isn’t time to listen to a student talk, uninterrupted for minutes at a time. In addition because glogster plays so well with Edmodo, the glogs could go right into the Edmodo groups for others to see and hear. The students got to comment on each other’s work.

And, parents LOVE it. I played most of the recordings at spring parent conferences. There were a lot of big smiles. In addition I think some parents heard their children’s voices in a new way. They heard their children speaking about their beliefs in a way they probably don’t hear very often.

At the end of the day, I like to think that my classroom represents an academic community, even if it is only 5th grade. What I hope to be able to provide at a conference, and as a parent what I hope to get, is an idea of what a child is like as a member of that community. I think these pieces did that for me and for parents.

Costume or no costume?

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So, I’ve been thinking about Hallowe’en. It is not one of my favorite days at school.
Halloween Candy
Now, I have quite a sweet-tooth. It’s not the candy I have a problem with; although, I see no excuse for candy corns. What I don’t like is dressing up and marching in the parade. Or, to be more specific, I don’t like being dressed up in some goofy costume, like the students, and marching past their parents, who are not in costumes. I would have no problem being in costume if it were just the students. I will do all manner or ridiculous things in the classroom or beyond for my students. I will dress in costume, admit to all sorts of faults and flaws, and generally do what it takes to be as effective as I can be.

I know, I don’t HAVE to dress up. For the past couple of years more and more teachers have been opting out. It’s not officially required. I do it because the kids get a brief kick out of it and I think many would be disappointed if I didn’t. (One of my students, a boy, dressed up as me as a student: school uniform, purple hair, suede boots. Fantastic!)

The thing about it is that it just makes me feel very unprofessional, and I find it uncomfortable to parade in front of the parents in costume. It’s like those silly dress-down/spirit days. I will wear the pj’s, clashing clothes, funny hats every time for the kids. But, one year one of the days coincided with an all school assembly where parents were in attendance. So, here I come in my pajamas (they were perfectly fine-looking by the way) walking my class into the gym.

As I think about it more. I think the issue is that when I am in costume and the parents are not, I don’t like the divide I feel. No one has ever done or said anything to make me feel this way. But it’s sometimes hard enough to be taken seriously as a professional when you teach elementary school. Being in a Hallowe’en costume doesn’t help me.

Does this bother anyone else?

(photo by Kwbridge used under creative commons license)

So, I’ve been thinking about conferences.

We had our “spring” parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago. I say “spring” because it was weeks ago and the temperature is still in the 40’s this week, but I digress. One of the pieces of work I shared with parents was the most recent essay each of my students had written. This meant parents saw the planning sheet/graphic organizer that their student filled in, my comments on it, the first draft, my comments on that, and the final draft. All but the planning was completed in school. For most students we focused on the final draft and changes that were made between drafts.  For many students this essay was easily the best work to date.

On the Great Barrier Reef
For one student in particular in not only represented the best thing written this year, but exponential growth. This was not a “good for so-and-so” essay, it was good, period. The student wrote the essay in a reasonable amount of time and made significant edits after reading my comments. I was so proud for this student, and excited to share this with the parents. However, the parents were not that excited. They breezed on by it. I tried again to stress the independence, the change from earlier in the year, the original ideas. No luck.

To be fair, we had many things to discuss, but I couldn’t help feeling they missed a chance to tell their child how impressive this work was. That made me wonder if I had been too impressed. I started to second-guess my response. Was I wearing  my rose-colored glasses again?

I sent the essay to the student’s teacher from last year and the learning coordinator who also is familiar with the student’s work. This time, I got the reaction I wanted, or maybe somehow needed. They were impressed.

Sometimes we all need some validation.

(Creative Commons flickr photo by Paul Holloway)