There was a hint of fall in the air this week. The blazing, hot summer is fast becoming a distant memory, and we are all firmly rooted in the new school year. It’s hard to believe it’s only been three weeks, because as I walked through the school today, I was delighted to see engaged and eager students feeling completely at home in their new classrooms. These three weeks set the tone for the whole year.
Catherine Cook School teachers begin the year by asking their students for their hopes and dreams. I learned that some students want to get good at cursive; others want to be better friends. Some want to conquer fractions or get better at drawing. Each class talks about the kind of community they need in order for everyone to have a chance to achieve their hopes and dreams. These conversations take time, but establishing the ground rules right from the start gives everyone a stake in making the classroom a stimulating, inspiring place to learn where children feel safe taking risks.
What I learned (actually was reminded of) today was that teachers want to know, understand and sincerely care for each of their students. They are intentional about getting to know their students and letting their students get to know them. As an administrator, I want to make those same authentic connections with my teachers and colleagues. This community is at its best when we all feel stimulated, inspired and safe taking risks.
Today I continued my education in communication: I have a new student from Mexico in my fourth grade reading/language arts class. A common language is just one method of communication that we have to make our ideas known to each other. I used gestures, facial expressions, body language, and bad Spanish, to make the rules of my class known to my new pupil. I had no trouble giving him his supplies, a peer to translate and help him along, and a computer program to work on some basic English skills. With the rest of the class, I was midway into a biography research project.
I realized that most of my class, whose English is pretty good, were having trouble grasping the assignment of demonstrating how a person showed courage during their lifetime.
Gestures and computers do not help here. Language is the only way I have to convey higher-level ideas. I was having an easier time with Angel from Mexico than with his English-speaking peers. I am thinking of another way to re-teach the assignment tomorrow.