Monday, August 20, 2012

The Learning Landscape: Fertile Ground for Growing

Today I will meet my new class of second graders, and we will begin our teaching and learning journey together for the 2012-2013 school year.  I have to say a special thank you to my new principal, Betsy Bell, and my colleagues at Cherokee Bend for inviting me to be a part of such a special place....and for supporting me in every way possible as I prepared over the summer for this school year to begin. Words don't do my excitement justice!  I'd also like to thank my friends and colleagues across Birmingham and across the nation and world for being my giant professional learning community.  My life and my teaching are enriched and strengthened by all of you every single day.  Happy New School Year to you all!

Below you'll find pictures of my new classroom.  After the initial classroom setup, I couldn't just be satisfied and walk away.  I was constantly thinking about how this space would support the learners in my care. Somehow, I managed to spend all summer stopping by to add the perfect book, to re-arrange the furniture (I only re-arranged four times), check the color scheme, make lists for the Office Depot and Dollar Store trips, and make sure my beliefs about teaching and learning were evident the minute anyone entered the classroom.  This is what I want:
1.  I want this classroom to build on each child's intrinsic motivation.  I can't motivate my students to want to read, write, problem solve, talk, think, learn....but I can create an environment that invites and encourages those kinds of behaviors.

2.  I want this classroom to be one where the students do the thinking and problem solving.  They are the ones who should be doing the hard work.  It is my job to make our room a place where I facilitate their talk and their thinking and learning.  My job is to "put myself out of a job."

3.  I want this classroom to support student academic AND social growth.  If the room could talk, it would say, "Come....join me on the cozy rug to have conversation."  or "Let's problem solve together at the table or listen in on the writing conference Miss Corgill is having."  or "Welcome to OUR room.  It's a place that  recognizes that the head and the heart are in one body and that every person in this room is valued and important."

4.  I want this classroom be filled with accessible materials and to be a place where students can apprentice themselves to the authors and scientists and mathematicians that line the shelves of the classroom.  I want it to be a place where each child says, "I can do that!  I can be that!  I can solve that!"

5.  Finally, I want this room to be a place that honors our school wide norms.  Each day, we will inhabit this space and think in this space and learn in this space because:  It's a place where we can and will be safe.  It's a place where we can and will value ourself and others.  And finally, it's a place where we all can and will do our best.

It is my hope that this classroom brings happiness to the learners that will grow here this year.  A very happy teacher will be waiting at the door!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 10 for 10........ on the 13th: Ten Picture Books For Building Classroom Community

I totally missed it. It was the third annual Picture Book 10 for 10 Event(#pb10for10) hosted by my amazing teaching and blogging friends, Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek. I look forward to this day every year, reading everyone's list, being introduced to new blogging friends and new books, and then making my own book wish list....and participating in this event myself. On time. On AUGUST 10th. I missed it..... But never fear....the day on the calendar cannot stop me! In total Ann Marie fashion, I am breaking the rules and posting my list, not just at the very last minute, but three days late! I'm excited to have the opportunity to teach second grade at Cherokee Bend Elementary this year, and I've been thinking lots about those cute little faces that will enter the door on August 20th. I've also been thinking about the picture books I'll share with these children in the first weeks of school. My list this year consists of some new and some old favorites to help build classroom community (in no particular order).
1. I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand 

2. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

3. Being Friends by Karen Beaumont

4. The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

5. Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski

6. How To Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson

7. Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

8. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage To Be Who You Are by Maris Dismondy

9. Some Helpful Tips For a Better World and a Happier Life by Rebecca Doughty

10. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts