grades, no homework, rewards

I Need to Let Go, But Not of Everything

With the babies arriving any day now according to the doctor I have been mentally preparing to let go of my classroom, at least for the first two months of school.  This task is proving much harder than I ever envisioned.  Don’t get me wrong, trying to mentally prepare for twins is strenuous, but letting go of how I set up my room and community, yikes.

Those first two months are vital, ask any teacher and they will tell you just how much they matter, and yet I have to forget about that.  I have to trust my sub, who by the way is brilliant, but still…how will they know how fantastic 5th grade will be?  How will they know what my expectations are?  How will they know the kind of classroom I envision?  I swallow my fears and focus on the positive; the babies, the new life awaiting all of us and I realize I have had to let go.  I have had to let go of how the curriculum is taught, how their day to day lives will be, how the sub will treat them and build community with them.  I have to let go.

Yet, there are three things I cannot let go of, 3 things that I refuse to lose control over, as I reiterate to my sub just how important these are.

  1. Limited homework.
  2. No rewards/no punishment.
  3. No grades.

Is there more, well of course, but these 3 things are deal breakers, pillars of my philosophy, the things that cannot be sacrificed whoever is teaching.  And I need the students and parents to know that from day one, not day 40 as I venture into the room.  I need the parents to feel comfortable with the why behind these decisions and I need the students to know what is expected of them.  I need them to know that they set the rules, that we work together, not that learning will be forced with a carrot and stick method.  I need them them to know that work will be at school and they should see very little outside work if they spend their time wisely.  I need to get them ready to set goals, think about their learning and take control of it.  So those 3 things, those I am not letting go of.

4 thoughts on “I Need to Let Go, But Not of Everything”

  1. One thing that really helped me on my maternity leave was thinking about my return as the start of the school year. Their time with the sub was out of my control in my situation, so I treated my first day back as our first day of school. It was hard but worth it.

  2. Dear Pernille – thank you for your blog – I've recently started reading your posts.Good luck with the maternity – I'm a bloke so can't quite empathise, but I have 4 sons. I think that you are spot-on wanting to establish your key tenets for your return. Having read back a bit I think I understand your key reasons for your standards.I have to ask though – and I'm sorry if this isn't the place – would you want all teachers to hold the same tenets? I mean, at what point do we teach our children that the world – indeed evolution – works on carrots, sticks, overtime and 'assessment'? And how do we prepare our children to cope with that?I hope this doesn't seem negative – it's something I'm wrestling with as an educator.Thanks again for the thought-provoking articles.Chris

  3. Chris, No apologies necessary, wonderful comment in fact. That is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, the what am I setting my students up for in this little year and yet at some point I have to say that yes I wish all teachers held these same tenets. Yet they don't and my 5th graders come to me already knowing that, I am the one that sticks out and is someone they need to get used to. They already know how school works, they have already been rewarded, punished and tested to pieces (unfortunately I have to test them as well), so I am the exception. The odd duck. So I prepare my students to stand up and face whatever comes their way, I teach them that sometimes a classroom or a job or a situation may not be to their liking but they must still succeed and rise above. I think presenting them with a different way to do school helps them tremendously in their preparation and in their life.A bit rambling, sorry, I hope this makes sense.Pernille

  4. Pernille – Thank you for taking the time to respond – it made perfect sense!On reflection, I can see that whatever we do, we aren't in danger of creating a bubble whereby children don't recognise the harsher 'transactional realities' of life. What, in effect, you are doing is creating a whole new space within them for perceiving how they can function within the world – how they can interact and grow differently in their relationship with it.Eventually, they will inevitably end up returning to traditional demands and expectations, but perhaps with a capacity to transcend these that they didn't have before.Thanks again – please keep up your blogging as much as maternity permits!

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