For the first week back to school, I always teach a lesson that will set the tone for the rest of the year. Of course, normal expectations and routines are explained first. An emphasis is put on the fun and exciting new school year. Next, I have them draw and write about a series of questions that I give them about their life. Example: How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you have any pets? I then sit with each one of them so that they can explain each paper.
Getting to know your students
During this back-to-school project, I get to know about the lives that my students have lived. This activity usually is when I find out about their cultural and socio-economic background. I have my students write and draw about their favorite things to do. Their responses give me ideas on how to make the curriculum more relevant to them individually.
I am also able to find out about their academic difficulties or sometimes about their dysfunctional home lives. I begin to develop a deep awareness of students’ challenges and needs. Using this activity enables me to assist students to a more proficient and effective school year. During this beginning lesson, most students discuss or draw about a mistake or two that they have made. I explain that it is not about the mistakes in life; it is how we learn from them. The students’ growth begins. And, each child starts to grow from the knowledge of their past.
“Back to school in my classroom we accept others’ feelings”
At the end of the week, students are allowed to share one paper. Before they share, we talk about being kind and having empathy towards others. It is essential for students to understand at the beginning of the year that in my classroom, they must learn to understand and accept the feelings of others. Having an understanding of others’ feelings displays that their opinions and lives matter to everyone. Their values, opinions, and experiences matter, as well as others’ values and opinions! This affirmation of students’ dignity helps develop a trusting relationship between students.
Setting our students up for success
In my opinion, students that have caring relationships with teachers are academically more successful and tend to have better behavior at school. Even the smallest caring gesture, like this simple project, can significantly impact our students.
This project creates a classroom culture where students feel safe to share their feelings and take chances, which will help them grow academically. I define my success by the success of my students. It is not about my teaching; it is about their learning.