Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Believe It to Achieve It!

I woke up today with a sore throat. Of course I had not been feeling great, but it wasn’t until I acknowledged it fully that the cold symptoms hit in earnest!  It had me reflecting on self-fulfilling prophecies, or that whole “believe it to achieve it” idea. 

Celina and I took on the job of teaching a multiage class this school year.  Initially it met with a lot of static, parents and teachers were unsure of how curriculum goals would be met, how class sizes would be affected, how children would be selected, etc.  How would we teach 3 different grades in one classroom?  Would the fifth graders be ready for middle school?  Yet through it all, Celina and I kept looking at each other and saying, “We can do this!”

That belief has led to the biggest shift in our perspective on teaching and learning.  Much of that shift centers around students first, standards second, curriculum third.  Recognizing that we would have three different ages within one room, we began to look at the community wide needs of our group.  How could we best meet their needs?  How could we create a student-led environment that would promote students actively seeking their own new learning?  What things would need to be in place in terms of skills for all students to be successful?  Our past teaching experience quickly made it clear, that basing decisions solely on the set curriculum for a certain grade level completely ignores the reality of the students within the room.  They may be a third, fourth or fifth grader in age, but be reading at a second grade level or doing math at an eighth grade level. 

From this awareness we developed our SLC (see Celina’s post below) that centered on respect, retention, responsibility, resources and reality.  We support our students every day in recognizing that if they believe it, they can achieve it.  Our classroom mantra is building blocks of learning, that we all progress at our own rate and that having all the blocks makes the learning more concrete and the tower of knowledge stronger.  The Backpack of Strategies became those skills that students need to be successful in school and in life as well.  Thinking skills became our umbrella filter across our entire curriculum in an effort to make connections for our students.  Now, the research we are reading about 21st century skills is also adding to the mix. 
 Using these guiding principles, students are flourishing within our classroom.  We are seeing students interact, in all different age configurations, with the goals of sharing what they know and learning from each other.

Believe it to achieve it.  Thank you Celina for believing right along with me! Because even now in reflection I am made aware that we are already beyond what we thought it would be like and just imagine where we are going as we continue to believe!  ~ Ann

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