I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Monday, May 4, 2009

more structure...

One of my first educational mentors once told me that he thought a very important aspect of teaching was becoming a "professional child watcher." Now, his language was most likely far more eloquent than mine (it usually was), but it still rings true on a very regular basis.

I've mentioned before how deeply my class this year has challenged me, how the children have taught me so many things and reminded me of others.

Their behavior over the past couple of weeks has made me sit back and reevaluate some of the things I've usually thought. When my students and I build our classroom community together throughout the year, I always think backwards. I envision where I want them to be, what I want the different learning and social times of the day to look like, what I want it to sound like -- I enlist this insight from the children as well.

Then I move from the goal back toward the beginning. I think: what structure do I need to put into place now that will enable us to get to our goal? I think about the structure that needs to be there to guide us all, structure that can be taken away as children take on more responsibility, more independence.

What I don't think I've envisioned so well is that the same thing is just as important for the end of the year. As we head into the last six weeks of school, it brings up emotions and insecurities and excitement for all of us. My principal describes the end of the year fidgetiness and snippiness as: "a family that's been on vacation together for too long."

Maybe what I've been missing in my evaluation and planning is the sense that structure within the classroom needs to be fluid, it needs to be able to ebb and flow as needed. Right now my class is showing me that they need more structure -- not in every area, certainly, but that they need just a bit more from me.

And if they're doing me the privilege of showing it to me... well, who am I not to oblige?

[NOTE: I would be remiss if I didn't point out this great post by Chip Wood where he mentions the very same thing, though with many more concrete suggestions. I do so adore learning from other educators. ]


Ms. Swamp said...

Yes, definitely more structure makes sense at different times. I find every year that I get to points where I think, "Hmmm, time to be a September teacher again." And actually, that means more structure, but it also means more friendly reminders of the expectations, more positive reinforcement -- all the things we do in September to build the foundations.

kirsten said...

Swampy --

Yes, I totally agree. And really, a good bit of September teaching is really just good teaching: reinforcing language, being clear and explicit, inviting student input, so why wouldn't we do that throughout the year instead of just September?

Have you read The Power of Our Words? It's such a great reference tool for teacher language.

[also, I have to email you about June! I've been remiss!]