Celebrate this week: Community comes first

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!

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So much to celebrate this week, because it was our first week back at school, which is, in many ways, the most important week of the school year.  You can (and must) adjust, refine, recalibrate, and retune your teaching all year long, but community and expectation are anchored in whatever takes place in that first week of school.

For this is when our kids are most keenly attentive to what you say, how you say it, and how you follow through.  Soon, (as in the second week of school!), they will shift their focus to where their true interest lies – each other; but in that first week you have their undivided attention, and they are watching you as closely as they ever will.

So, in our first week, we focused on community rather than content: how can we work together, share together, make mistakes together, and grow together? What must each of us bring to our learning environment so that it can thrive? What must we ask of ourselves so that our classroom is a safe and yet exciting place to learn?

Community comes first.  So, this Celebrate post celebrates, first, our space.  Every year is a new year, and I do try to make some changes; but I’m proud of the space that’s been shaped by over a decade of students and their needs, that it reflects what they are comfortable with, and what they (and I) need:

I celebrate the way my kids came together for the ever-popular Marshmallow Challenge, our first exercise in collaboration.  It was a noisy, sticky, glorious mess, but we learned so much about each other.  Best of all, we learned that working together takes compromise and communication – and I celebrate that.

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The first days of the school year always bring the search for a One Little Word to serve as a guide for the months ahead.  I loved the way my kids sifted thoughtfully through likely words, and tried to figure out what theirs might be.  They learned a little about themselves in the process, and they learned a little about each other, too.  We began the search for what is important to our sixth grade selves, which is something to celebrate, too.

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Perhaps the only content based activity that we engaged in was setting up the foundation for our reading workshop: the purpose of reading in our lives.  Great discussions and insight came about through two simple questions: why do we read? how can books change us?  We realized that every one of us in our room feels that reading matters, and that is cause for celebration.

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Friday concluded with gathering together to decorate our writer’s notebooks.  I am always moved by the pictures my kids choose to bring in, these reflect  what and who they hold dear.  I loved listening in as they explained their pictures to each other, even as they were placing them just so and making sure their notebooks were “cool”.  They were, of course, practicing story telling, rehearsing the ways in which they will choose to write as the year goes on.  They seemed to already know that their stories mattered, and that there would be a receptive and supportive audience – two important things for every writer to know, and I celebrate that.

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13 thoughts on “Celebrate this week: Community comes first

  1. That first week is the important one, I agree, and while I loved every bit, was always happy that it was over & we started well. I love that you do the marshmallow challenge. Those kinds of activities encompass the beginnings of collaboration, but give you the teacher such good insight into the students. Congrats on a great week, Tara. Now have a weekend of R & R!

  2. Loved peeking into your classroom. Would love to see your class gathered in that small rug area. How do you decide who gets the chairs? And the colorful bins on top of the bookcases…how will they be used? So excited to hear of your first week. And to see the decorating of the writer’s notebooks. Here’s to a fruitful year of learning for the students and teacher in room 202!

    • The chairs represent our first journey as a community in so many ways – it’s about being considerate and making sure everyone gets a turn to sit there in the course of each day. By Friday, my kiddos were doing just that – so, score one for room 202! The bins on the bookshelves are just magazine holders, which we use for all the notebooks we have – each kid gets one. This ensures that each kid also has what they need for class!

  3. Your thoughtful attention to your students and the importance of building a working, collaborative community is exemplary. I can’t believe in just one week they don’t fight over those chairs. Really?

  4. Tara, this is such a good post as I get a peek into your classroom at the beginning of the year. You gave me much food for thought as I plan my first regional meeting with ELA admins around Long Island and also for our first NYEDChat. I like to explain to teachers and admins the power of Twitter as a channel to learn and apply ideas.

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