A long, long time ago, we began the process of revisiting our hopes and dreams for the school year, but we were determined to forge ahead from Here We Go, 2014.
The practice of having students articulate their hopes and dreams for the school year one of the many Responsive Classroom practices that helps children be known, feel safe and take academic risks. It leads to a positive communities, effective classroom management and learners who love to come together to learn. Ideally, these hopes and dreams become a living, breathing, evolving part of the classroom, which can continue shed benefits when revisited throughout the year.
Each year, no matter what grade I teach, we revisit these hopes and dreams in a similar ways. The challenge for me is to carefully consider the grade I teach (notice how I bounce around from preschool to middle school and most grades in between?) and the particular culture and dynamics in any given class mid-year. I was feeling the urge to try something different, as these fifth graders have come up through a program that uses Responsive Classroom school-wide. For some, this would be the seventh consecutive year of having the rock-solid foundation of hopes and dreams and class guidelines as the building blocks for social and academic risk taking in an authentic and engaging community. As a humanities teacher, there is also that tenacious voice inside nudging me to integrate technology in meaningful ways, even if it flirts with the edge of my comfort zone.
We walked through process of defining our hopes and dreams and how our guidelines, known in our 5th-8th grades as the Middle School Social Contract, which are the basis for our actions and a touch stone for many important conversations. Our fall hopes and dreams remain visible in our room all year, though in all honesty, I’m sure they are seldom looked at without a provocation. Most students recalled their hope from memory and all of us stood before our paintings and statements as we considered how far we’d come and where we want to go.
We worked through a process of self-reflection to articulate both outside of school hopes and in school hopes. Sports, music, and creative pursuits are immensely important to these older-ten and early eleven year olds. They have risen to the challenges of school, homework and sports which often collide in the after school-primetime-bedtime crunch. There was energy and enthusiasm building for this project, even as we wrapped up our research on Vikings and were rehearsing Viking Sagas to retell.
What started off as a smooth and positive experience for most of us came to a grinding halt with the Polar Vortex and Some Good Stuff. We stumbled on with our disrupted schedule, and tried, much like Suzy Gosh so aptly describes in Making Up for Lost Time to move ahead and stay on track. It was effort and laughter that ensured we got back into routines, juggled academic requirements and yes, finally finished off those revised mid-year hopes. These fifth graders fully articulated their in-school and out-of-school hopes, but I still yearned integrate technology, without risk of them giving up on my vision for this project.
Ten year olds love the satisfaction of completing assignments and seek approval from adults. They have developed work habits and a willingness to work extremely hard on longer projects. This was a true demonstration of grit and determination on many fronts, made more difficult by the disjointed winter schedule. Their written work was a shining example of persistence, guidance and motivation. Our collective persistence in learning to chunk large projects all year was paying off – we could check off each step and have just a wee celebration, followed by coaxing to do “just one more thing…”
I’d been following One Word 365 and decided this would be the icing on our cake. It was the next step to this hopes-and-dreams-rules-reflections venture that I just couldn’t quite put to bed. Our last step was to pare down those detailed hopes to one word and to represent that one word in a slide using whatever tools one could imagine. While our PC lab was available for students to create their one page, our Mac laptops were in high demand. Next bend in the road – how to produce the video. Aware that I tote my own Mac most days, an astute problem-solver said, “Hey….do you think you could do it on that?” My response was a feeble, “Umm..sure as long as one of my kids is home to help me!” After some banter and chanting “Yes you can!” we decided I’d take their words and produce the video myself. A few snow-delays later, I’d mastered the very basics of video production and shared the rough draft. Collaborative editing polished things off along with a smile and, “So how many weeks did it take?”
As the hosts of our next all-middle school meeting, these fifth graders will proudly share their one word hopes for the remainder of the year. You can get a sneak peek right here of their One Word video.