The first week of this new school year was very different than those of past years as this year I have an extra set of eyes on me. Room 5 have welcomed our fabulous student teacher who will be with us on and off throughout the year as she works towards her final teaching practicum. I have been teaching for over two decades now... shocking when you put a time frame on it! In my mind it seems like only yesterday that I was starting my first class as a beginning teacher, as we were called back then. Over the years experience has taught me what works and what doesn't in the first week of school. The learning I plan for that first week is instinctive and is done in such a way that not only do the students get to know each other and their teacher, but I also get to know what make my learners tick. In saying that I have never had to justify the purpose behind why I do things the way I do. I am sure walking through the door of the classroom as a student teacher on the first day must be a daunting challenge, but in saying that think about this from the perspective of the classroom teacher. Everything you do and say is being observed and analysed. Luckily as 'teachers' we clicked straight away which I'm sure not only put her at ease but also allowed me to breathe out!
So why do I do the things the way I do? It's simple really. To begin laying the foundations needed to build the collaborative learning environment needed to help grow the seeds of knowledge. Everything serves a triple purpose. Its about working smarter.
Purpose 1: To build the collaborative group working skills that allow the students to practise the thinking, sharing, negotiating and decision making skills they need to function successfully as one group as we unpack the skills and values that will help them make the important connections to their learning.
Purpose 2: To use the evidence of this thinking and create wall displays that reflect personal connections to the learning environment. I don't fill the walls alone when the students have left for the day we incorporate this into the lesson so that the ethos of shared decision making is encouraged. I have found by getting the students involved in creating the displays they are genuinely able to talk about what is on the walls and why it is there. An added bonus is that everyone takes ownership of the environment.
Purpose 3: To create a digital record of our learning that is shared on our individual blogs. In the past this would have been done in books as we practised ruling the pages, writing the date and the learning intention and reminding people (who most probably hadn't picked up a pen/pencil for the last six weeks) to write neatly. Sadly the audience for this task would have been limited to the author and myself. Parents and caregivers would only know what we had been learning if they worded their questions about the day cleverly enough to get beyond the typical responses of 'Nothing!' Being a 1:1 digital learning environment means the students and their parents/caregivers are able to access their learning or the record of their learning anytime and anywhere.
The buy in from the students has been amazing. I found myself almost apologising to my class on Thursday afternoon for not doing any art. I was in the middle of praising them for their contributions this week and explaining why it had been so important to establish routines and collaborative working skills when one of the students put up her hand and said, "Its ok Miss, look at our room, it looks great. We did heaps of work and we all practised those skills you were talking about." My heart melted to see the foundations of the very important student/teacher connections were being laid.