Be the change, being a teacher, Student-centered

I Am the Quiet

image from icanread

I never used to be quiet.  My classroom was filled with noise from the moment the students arrived until they left.  Whether it was me lecturing, me giving out directions, me keeping them on track, or even a soundtrack of music to keep them motivated, we just didn’t do quiet.  We were loud, we were active, and there was always chatter.

One night, as I yelled at my husband to turn off his music so that I could concentrate on writing, it finally dawned on me.  Perhaps my students didn’t need more noise, perhaps they needed more quiet.  Perhaps I needed to stop talking, perhaps I needed to stop playing the music.  Perhaps I needed to embrace the quiet and let it speak for itself.  Perhaps I needed to be quiet so my students could start speaking.

Now, we are quiet when we need to be.  During reading, you will hear hushed conversations, during writing it is almost silent.  I keep my discussions short.  I try to pull my voice out of the conversation so that my students can figure it out among themselves.  When a child faces me with a problem I sit quietly and think with them, trying to come up with a solution.  When a child is the most unruly and angry, my lower voice and quiet words often diffuse the situation better than any punishment ever could.

Sure there are words, but the quiet now emphasizes them.  No longer do I feel the need to constantly yell over the noise (unless we are doing science!).  No longer do I feel the need to bark out orders.  Sure there are instructions being given, but there is also quiet so they can figure it out.  Quiet so they can think.  Quiet so they can just be.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

building community, classroom setup, new teacher, new year

Some Ways To Show My Students They Matter

This year we start the first day of school with a first day of school.  And while there will be no orientation day, no meet and greet, I still want them to feel that excitement of a new year, a new room, a new group of kids, and definitely a new teacher.   I want them to know that I am so happy to teach them, because I am!  So I have been thinking of little ways I can show them how much they matter, feel free to add more in the comments.

  • The welcome letter – I spend a lot of time crafting this letter because I want them to get to know me a little bit, get excited about the great things we will explore, and for them to feel welcomed.  I change it every year, but here is last year’s letter as an example.  (Don’t mind the atrocious picture quality, I had to compress the file).
  • The book bins – Every student will have a book bin waiting for them with books carefully selected from last year’s students.  On each book is a post-it note explaining why the book was chosen and how much they loved it.  I hope this makes my new students excited about reading.

    Student created book bins with selected books
    Student created book bins with selected books
  • The letters from former students – each student also has a handwritten letter from my old students giving them tips on 5th grade, insider information about “surviving” their new teacher, and things they can look forward to.  I love the care my old students take to welcome the new students even though they are not at the school anymore.  (And I keep these letters every year after the new students have read them).
  • Pencils with messages – these don’t show up for a few weeks as I get to know them but I love leaving small messages on number 2 pencils.  Why buy them pre-printed when you can write exactly what you want with a sharpie?

    messages on pencils from last year
    messages on pencils from last year
  • Purchasing their favorite picture books – I have been on a picture book binge this summer – they are just so absolutely fantastic.  So what better way than to expand my library then by asking my students what their favorite picture book is and then surprise reading it aloud for them at some point?  I cannot wait to make this a reality, even if it means spending more of my own money on books.
  • The precepts – we finished last year sharing “Wonder” and I asked my students to write precepts for how to love 5th grade.  They did and these will be welcoming my new students in the hallway leading to our room.
  • The family picture – Someone smart (and if it was you please let me know so I can give you credit) wrote about how they would have students bring in a family picture to leave in the classroom all year.  I love this idea!  So I will ask every child to bring in a special picture (or photocopy of one) and then we will make a display out of all of them for the whole year.  I want the students to feel this is is their room as much as mine right from the beginning.

I am sure as summer winds down there will be more ideas, but for now I am excited about these.  What will you be doing?