Friday was not a great teaching day. It was one of those days where you shut your classroom door with a bag full of work and a heart full of worry. How do you shift the energy from negative to positive? How do you help students care more about each other, their learning, our classroom?
On Sunday night, I turned back to a book that made a deep impact on me as a teacher. Paul Solarz's Learn Like a Pirate is about creating a student-centered, student-run classroom. I need to reread it, cover to cover, but only had time to flip through it. That was enough to help me come up with some new ideas for Monday.
On Monday, I added 3 new jobs to our list: Morning Meeting Leader, Afternoon Meeting Leader and Maintenance Director. We've been having a Morning Meeting all year, but I've facilitated it- called students to the carpet, started the greetings, called on the quote person to share, and facilitated calling on students who've signed up to share. It dawned on me that the students could really do all of that, and perhaps offering more leadership and ownership would help. I also thought it might be interesting for students to see how hard it is to get the others to listen!
The next changes were to add an Afternoon Meeting. Dismissal has been feeling chaotic and stressful instead of a calm review of our day. At the Afternoon Meeting, we talked about celebrations from the day and then goals for tomorrow. I selected one goal for us to work on- saying hello and goodbye to each other (and me). I noticed this morning students walked right by me as I said hello and at the end of the day, when I say goodbye as they walk to their buses, sometimes they just ignore me. Tomorrow, the Afternoon Meeting Leader will facilitate the discussion and select a goal for us to work on as a class.
The Maintenance Director reminded everyone to pick up their garbage and books from the floor. So much better than my blood pressure rising as I ask students for the umpteenth time to throw our their scraps or pick up their books.
The day felt better. All our problems weren't solved, but turning over some of the work to the students made me feel better. It's important for them to take on leadership roles and they are capable of doing so much more than I ever thought. When students are empowered to take on more responsibilities, the hope is that they will be more invested in the classroom and more engaged in the learning.
How much ownership do you give students? How do you reset your classroom when things start to feel negative?