Happy Labor Day weekend! I'm celebrating this three-day weekend as an opportunity to rest after an exhausting week and a half of school. Starting the new school year is a very exciting time, and teachers put ALL of their energy, creativity and patience into making sure that it goes well for everyone. I'm glad that my district starts school before this holiday weekend, because we get to spend this time building relationships and classroom communities, establishing expectations, and setting goals. Then we get to rest for a few days. THEN we come back on Tuesday, knowing each other and knowing what we're supposed to do.
While I have several behavior challenges in my classroom this year, I'm celebrating that I'm seeing a little bit of progress in our ability to get along with each other and talk to teach other about our learning and our thinking. In math, we're learning how to work together in teams to look at different strategies for solving complex problems. We're also learning how to share with the entire class using the ELMO projector or the SMARTBoard so that we can help each other as a community.
During Reading Workshop, I've been reading picture books to promote community, empathy and kindness. One of the books that seemed to resonate and start a good conversation was Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
This book has a terrific message about bullying, forgiveness and kindness. A lot of the students were able to identify with young Desmond and the idea that forgiveness allows us to let go of a lot of painful issues and focus on moving forward. This is such an important message, as many of my students have such a difficult time dealing with their peers and managing anger and conflict in a positive way.
I'm also celebrating baby-steps of progress in building a relationship with a student in my class that has severe behavior issues. While we are working with this child's family and making sure that he has safe places in the school and classroom where he can go when he feels overwhelmed, we still have a long way to go until this child is able to let go of his anger and experience the joy of learning. During a calm moment in the classroom, I noticed that he was reading one my new favorite nonfiction books, I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton.
I invited this student to join me at my table and share it with me. He and I chatted about spiders. He told me how his mother hates spiders, so he comes to her rescue and squishes them for her. I told him how I'm still scared of spiders so he'll be a big help if we ever see a spider in our room. He read the book to me (giving me an informal way to assess some of his reading skills) and we had great fun smacking our hands on the spiders and looking at the squish marks on the other side of the page.
I'm also celebrating a phone conversation I had with a parent of one of my students. She was telling me that her son has never enjoyed reading at school. But she remarked that her son told her that he loves reading the books in my room. Obviously that warmed my heart, and made me celebrate that maybe I am off to good start, after all!
Have a great holiday weekend! If you're starting school next week, have the best first day ever!