Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Not Just About Changing Lives…It's About Saving Them

I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.
--Neil Galman

Over the summer I received a phone call that would change the course of both me as a professional and of the Fearless Classroom.  On the other end of the call was a voice echoing my philosophy as an educator.  But what struck to the core of me was the statement, "This is about saving these kids' lives."  Instantly, the enthusiasm I felt waning and the cynicism beginning to break down my usually optimistic walls were gone.  Yes!  Of course!  This is WHY I became a teacher in the first place!  We don't get into this profession for the easy.  We want to make a difference, to change the lives of children for the better.  We STAY because of the easy, but we COME BACK and we get EXCITED because of the challenge of reaching children, giving them unforgettable learning experiences, and creating opportunities that they may never have been given had they not been in our classrooms.  But to think of it as actually "saving lives," well, it just put it into perspective again for me.  

My new principal gave me a chance to lead a team, but I never realized the gift she was giving me.  I have four like-minded passionate educators willing to get out of their comfort zones, try anything, and who believes in the genius in all kids.  But more than that, the entire staff feels the same way.  There is a sense of freedom, collaboration, support, and a genuine shared vision for saving lives through creative and innovative learning experiences.  

On this eve before the new school year begins, I am reflecting on my goals for the year, and my gratitude for this incredible opportunity.  We begin tomorrow.  My students will find their passions, their voices, and their genius this year and the world will forever be changed because of their work.  

In preparation for the new year:
I wanted my classroom to feel like home for my students.  I wanted them to find a peaceful place in my classroom in which they can learn, communicate, explore, and make discoveries.  The results of my efforts are as follows:  
It is important that students know that they matter, that they have something unique and important to say.  My job isn't necessarily to teach them the curriculum but rather WHO they can be and HOW they can achieve their dreams THROUGH curriculum infused with experiences.  This concept and the You Matter Manifesto comes from Angela Maiers.  And if you don't know it by know, please go to her webpage and become familiar with her and her amazing work!

Part of being Fearless is knowing what BRAVERY truly means.  It isn't about walking through life without careful consideration for consequences and dangers.  It isn't about doing whatever we want without care for repercussions.  To be fearless, to be brave, is to keep going when doubt tries to stop you.  It is believing in your goals and your purpose and never letting naysayers stifle your ambitions.

In the Fearless Classroom, we must research and collaborate in order to refine our vision, our passions, and our learning.  This corner is perfectly suited for just that!

Inspired by ISTE's Bloggers Cafe, I created this collaboration and networking area for my students so that they could share ideas and learn from each other in a comfortable space.

Another aspect to my classroom is gamification. This year's game is called, Call of Duty: The Compassion Crusade.  Students are charged with missions where compassion for others and purposeful learning are necessary and expected.  They receive a game guide upon arrival the first day and our first mission is a week long effort to welcome every student on our campus with a gift and a promise that as the leaders of the campus, our 5th graders will support and encourage their younger peers.  Our motto:  We are the change.

We are making popsicle stick word pointers for the Kindergarteners.  These easy to make crafts will encourage our new friends to enjoy reading and will remind them that their 5th grade buddies are expecting genius contributions from them :D  We are writing simple inspiring phrases on the sticks such as, "You Matter!," "I'm proud of you!," and "I believe in you!"

For the first graders, we are creating bead and string abacuses.  We want to encourage our first grade friends to learn by doing and to know that sometimes we all need a little support in our learning.  When they use their abacus, we hope they know that we are supporting them as well.

For our second through fifth graders, we are creating Monster corner bookmarks! We encourage learning though research and exploration.  We hope that the monsters inspire our friends to keep reading, keep learning, and to always remain fearless!

It is our vision as a 5th grade team that 
1.  Students are inspired when they have the opportunity to discover and develop their impact on the world around them.
2.  Students become empowered when they create, collaborate, communicate, and critically think about their learning.

The Fearless Five are ready for the new year to begin.  Curiosity, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Connections, Community, and Compassion are the Great Cs of our 5th grade culture.  And I, for one, and beyond excited to witness the genius that is bound to be discovered and developed this year.

Stay Fearless because YOU MATTER and the world NEEDS your contribution!

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