What Matters Right Now:
You and your students are back in school. Routines are being rehearsed. Lessons are lively as kids continue to acclimate to the classroom culture. The initial burst of energy from the first few days may be giving way to questions:
- Are my students experiencing a sense of belonging in the classroom?
- Are my lessons clear and engaging?
- Are my routines supporting students towards deeper learning or are they becoming the thing that the kids are focusing on themselves?
To navigate through the noise of your internal critic and the outside pressure facing all of us educators, it is essential to name what matters. Inevitably, days will go by without everything going according to plan and you may be left wondering. What did I do that actually made a difference?
Recently, as a staff we were asking ourselves the question, “what actually matters most” in teaching and learning right now. Here’s a few of the values we came up with and we share it with you in hopes that it encourages you to reflect on your own values.
What matters most in the classroom right now is:
We define joy as a deep sense of happiness that derives from purpose and peace more than quick fixes or frivolity. Joy happens when kids are immersed in an interactive read aloud, laughing along as a character tells a joke, or showing empathy when a character experiences hurt. Our hope is that students and teachers alike will have at least one moment throughout the school day where they experience deep joy whether in learning a new skill, in laughing at a shared experience, in singing or in silliness. What matters is a joyful classroom.
Connection is our human need to know that we are seen, valued and belong. C.S. Lewis wrote that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Of course, we want students to develop friendships in class, but also for connection to resonate in their learning experiences. We hope that classrooms are places where students see themselves reflected in books, in conversations, and in learning experiences. Connection and collaboration are deeply interrelated. We imagine spaces where kids are working together in partnership to read, discover, and create. What matters is a connected classroom.
What is learning if not the desire for new knowledge and understanding? Kids are constantly questioning the world around them and far too often classrooms are the last place they get their own questions answered. With so many mandated curriculum and restrictions to the school day, it’s no small feat for teachers to build in time for wonder and awe. Nevertheless, our hope is that the classroom is a place of questioning and deep thinking, of exploring ideas and raising questions. What matters is a curious classroom.
These values are not exhaustive. And they might not be the ones that resonate most with you right now. That’s okay. Our sincere hope is that you will take time to reflect on the values that matter most to you right now. Name them. Post them so they can be seen and experienced. And use them to reflect on how your school day went.
For our named values of Joy, Connection and Curiosity to take hold in your heart and practice, we suggest reflecting on the following questions, using them to shift your practice as needed:
- Did we experience joy as a class today? Did one student? Did I as a teacher?
- Who connected with another student today? Who connected with a lesson or experience?
- What questions were raised in class today? How were students encouraged to explore?
Teaching and learning is an amazing journey, not an ending destination. We hope a value-driven class will allow you to navigate these first weeks as school gets settled, AND have a vision for making this year one that resets the rockiness of the past few years–a year for you and your students to grow together in joy, connection and curiosity.
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