Like Roz and Sangeeta, I have returned to the classroom after working for seven years in a number of board and faculty professional learning positions. I found the work I did outside the classroom rewarding. I was privileged to be a guest in 100s of teachers’ classrooms where I was inspired and motivated by the creative, purposeful learning opportunities these teachers planned for their students. As I planned for my return to the classroom, I couldn’t wait to put many of these new strategies and routines in place. I wanted to dive right in and start everything right away!
In the later part of our first week back at school, I received an email from a new teacher I taught in pre-service. She was excited to let me know about her new teaching position and to share her long range planning ideas with me. At the end of her email, this former student wrote, “ I remember what you always told us, go slow, go deep.” Well, did I feel foolish! I was just “schooled” by my own principles! My enthusiasm clouded my thinking. If I want my students to truly grasp the strategies and routines I want to put in place, I needed to slow down and delve deep into a few skills and strategies rather than skim the surface of many.
Also, it is important that we first consider our students. We need to discover their strengths, and how they feel about themselves as learners. Only then can we align the best strategies with the right kind of learner. I have used many of the strategies and activities in Heart and Art to help build community in our classroom and learn about the individual learners in our class. I provided students with opportunities to share their feelings and ideas through oral activities, the arts and written responses. One of my favorite activities was the goals and strengths t-chart that Jim shared in the Heart and Art book. After modeling my own t-chart that included my personal, social and academic goals and strengths, and my personal beliefs about “life”, I had the students complete their own t-chart. Once completed, students then shared their t-charts with each other. The students learned that they have similar skills that needed work such as being tidier at home! They also discovered that they all cherish their family and that friendship is important. I learned that all of my grade 3 students want to be successful at school and want to be accepted by their peers.
I have to thank Rose for her email. Daily 5, literature circles, and all the other great programming ideas will be established in time, but for now, I will continue to go slow to grow, and remember that depth is better than breadth.