A New School Year

Great teachers empathize with children, respect them, and believes that each one has something special that can be built upon. ~ Ann Lieberman

Tomorrow I begin another school year.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I love meeting my new students.  No matter who sits in front of me, I enjoy getting to know them.  When I tell people that I teach 7th grade English, they often make anguished faces or ominous sounds.  They think that middle school kids are like some unfamiliar beasts or space aliens.  What do they know?

Middle school kids are just like little kids only in bigger bodies.  They want to be loved and accepted.  They want to please and be successful.  They just have a couple of obstacles in the way – hormones and peer pressure.

I didn’t really enjoy grades 6-7-8.  Believe it or not – I was a NERD!  I spent most of my time reading Nancy Drew mysteries.  My parents were pretty strict, so I wasn’t allowed to do some of the things the other girls were doing.  I played intramural basketball, but I am not athlete.  I wore glasses sans makeup so my eyes looked kind of beady, and the long straight hair of the 70’s did nothing for my then long slender face.  I was never one of the “cool kids” or one of the students that teachers paid any extra attention.  I was a goody-goody and hardly ever got into any trouble which made me almost invisible in class.  I was smart and got good grades, but that wasn’t something you talked about with other kids.  In 7th and 8th grade I had to go to speech class (very new at that time) to correct a lisp.  I hated going out to speech – well until 8th grade when the captain of the basketball team had to go too.  I had a terrible crush on him!

When my students come through the door tomorrow and every day this year, I want them to know that I care about who they are not just what grades they earn.  I don’t want them to feel the way I did in middle school.  I survived, but thriving, not surviving should be the goal of education!

Haunted House Build – Take 2

 

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Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. ~ Helen Keller

The haunted house build is complete, and it was a huge success!  The kids were engaged each day of the build without much redirection needed from me. (Well you always have a few!) The students presented their houses to the class yesterday and explained why they design certain features in their homes.  One house even had a witch who “flew” down from the roof on straws and landed seated in a chair.  So cool!

The kids are finishing up their personal reflections about the process and the product.  I can’t wait until Thursday to read them.  This makes me want to find a way to use Project Based Learning more often in my ELA classroom.  I am just not sure how or what to do next?  I will keep thinking though.

Please take a look at my iMovie documentation of the process.

 

 

Haunted Mansions

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We just need to make that building come alive.  Together, we can figure this out. ~Sue Black

Today my ELA classes began a two-week adventure.  They started their Haunted Mansion STREAM build.  Each group of students received a Halloween Character and a box of various items.  They are working in teams to design and build a mansion by following the engineering process while documenting their process in writing.  

The room was buzzing with energy and ideas.  They perused my “shop” and looked at what they might “buy” with the Haunted House “cash” that they have earned over the past couple of weeks. Students will have another class period on Thursday to finalize their plans, then the actual build begins on Monday. What a joy it was to listen to the kids interact with each other. This is a lesson in creativity, cooperation, and collaboration. I will check in again next week and let you know how the process is going.  You can follow us on Twitter @RitaDiCarne.

 

Labor Day

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“To find joy in work is to find the fountain of youth.” –Pearl S. Buck

Going back to school has always been exciting for me as a student and as a teacher.  I get to start over the way the rest of the world does on New Year’s Day.  I make resolutions and have new plans to complement my tried and true ones.  Each year I reflect on my past work, like on New Year’s Eve, and decide how I can be better than the year before.

Being a teacher is not easy.  It is a daunting task set before me each day of each school year.  I am charged with teaching students what they “need to know” while nurturing their sense of wonder. I want to encourage them to love learning while still having to “grade” their best efforts.

I want my students to rejoice in their successes and learn from their mistakes.  I want them to understand that perfection is a futile goal for it is in the mistakes where the learning takes place. Most of all I want each and every one of my students to know that they are not their test scores.  They are each unique with their own special voice and ideas that will make a mark on this world some day.