The weeks leading up to the opening of school are my favorite. I’d spend hours in my classroom adding new books and magazines to the library. I’d stack readers’ notebooks on shelves and place students’ writing folders in plastic crates. I’d meet new teachers and chat with friends.
Each year, before students arrived, I’d reflect on the past year and challenge myself to make changes that supported students. During the first two weeks of school, when I spent time getting to know students and establishing workshop routines, I would share my reflections with them. I wanted them to weigh in on these changes, suggest ways to improve them and offer new ideas.
One year I told eighth-grade students that I wanted to set up a quiet place where students could read and work undisturbed; a corner space for collaboration; a table for student-to-student conferences. When I shared my ideas, they liked them, but they suggested something I hadn’t thought of—an idea that showed me the importance of collecting feedback from students. They encouraged me to keep the quiet place, but to be open to changing the setup of the room based on what they were doing. With their help, I shifted from a static classroom to one that changed based on what students were doing.
As you start the school year, I invite you to consider whether your classroom reflects how students learn. You might think about shifts in room arrangement, the kinds of feedback you offer students, and they, in turn, offer you. In addition, consider inviting students to create guidelines for independent and group work. Shifts are challenging, but with the support of your principal and students, you can initiate changes that positively impact students’ learning. I encourage you to embrace change and develop a student-centered approach to learning.
Wishing you an exciting and productive school year!