Before the first day of school, many teachers spend hours upon hours setting up their classrooms to look colorful, neat, and all that good stuff. Laminating, stapling, name tags, posters, welcome signs, moving furniture, and so on and so on.
Many teachers spend hours planning routines, planning the first week’s activities, and so on.
But what does this all mean? Why do we do it? What would happen if the teacher did a minimal amount and the kids did it all? It’s my understanding that this is part of the philosophy of the PYP and my philosophy certainly has students doing most of this setting up and preparing for the year ahead. I mean, this is our classroom after all. Let’s create our learning space together.
It’s been almost a week and a half, and I have done relatively little compared to what an apparent majority of teachers do. My students have spent hours creating, organizing, and discussing. They have come up with our classroom agreements with minimal guidance from me. They have defined 9 “jobs” and created “job cards” to post on our board. They have organized our class library and other materials. They have taken notes on how other classrooms are organized and discussed what things they think our class should adopt. They have devised a system whereby every student chooses where to “store” his/her materials for the day (in his/her desk, in a “cubby”, or in his/her backpack). They decided that they wanted a sign on our door that tells people where we are (in class, in PE, in the auditorium, etc.). They also decided they’d like a whiteboard outside the class with each day’s special classes written on it so they don’t have to check the schedule. They also agreed that the first person upstairs in the morning would write the day’s classes if I forget.
I am actually considering taking down any of the minimal things I had posted on the wall prior to day 1 so that the students can recreate it in their own way.
The students have taken charge, I have guided them, and we have created a great community where everyone feels like he/she belongs. This is my first goal as an educator, and I’m happy to say that, at this point in the year, I feel like I’ve met that goal (well, WE have since I couldn’t have done it without the kids, of course!).