Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sweat the Small Stuff

On my kitchen counter, I have a day to day calendar entitled "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."  I tear off each day just before I leave my apartment to head into work.  The short quotes and daily guidance help me to start the day on a positive note, and to remember the big picture (preparing children for their futures) when dealing with the occasional annoyances and frustrations that can sometimes come with being in education. Ironically, and perhaps to the disappointment of the author of my daily calendar, I've found that to keep my focus on the big picture, I find myself paying special attention to, or I guess you could say "sweating," the small stuff.  Sometimes, keeping the big picture in mind is not about the amazing lessons we plan or the projects we assign. Sometimes, it's about paying attention to the small stuff.

The Welcome Wagon
At the beginning of each class period, and as often as possible, I like to station myself outside of my classroom, and try to greet as many of my students as I can.  Even though this can most definitely be categorized as a small part of my day, in my opinion, it makes a big difference.  It opens the lines of communication, and contributes to a classroom culture where students feel welcome and comfortable entering their learning environment.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
We all know that displaying student work makes children feel proud of what they've accomplished in our own classrooms. However, I don't think displaying student work needs to be limited to work created for my class.  In fact, putting students on display doesn't have to be done in the form of work at all.  I like to hang up pictures of students' proud or silly moments...

I also love to hang up masterpieces they've created in art class...

It's important to me that my students know that room F10 belongs just as much (if not more) to them as it does to me, and this is one way to make them feel this importance. 

Words of Wisdom
As an English teacher, it's no shocker that I value the power of words (Exhibit A, this blogging habit I can't seem to shake!) I love having meaningful words displayed everywhere, and I mean everywhere, in my classroom.  When students have a moment or two where they tune out, as much as I'd  like to believe this never happens, I'd prefer that their eyes land on something that inspires them, rather than the piece of leftover lunch that has crusted over on their t-shirt.  

If their eyes wander to the clock, they see this...

If they become intrigued by something on my desk, their eyes may land on this...

If they are scanning stage right, they may land upon this...

And if they are glancing towards the left hand side of the room, they will see this...

The words of wisdom in my classroom aren't just for my students.  They also help me stay focused on what's important. Though it is our intention for our students to come first in every choice we make as teachers, we are human, and sometimes we may momentarily lose sight of this because of whatever is going on in our lives outside of the classroom or with the adults in the building.  As a constant reminder, I've provided some words of wisdom, just for me, to help me stay focused on my mission as an educator...

These words of wisdom, though a small touch, help me to stay focused on the big picture, and not to get wrapped up in whatever distractions may present themselves. 

The Smile File

We all know what it's like to feel defeated as a teacher. We know what it's like to be sure we are fighting an uphill and underappreciated battle.  We've all received that parent email (you know what I'm talking about; the one that makes you feel as though you're the worst teacher in America.)  We've all made mistakes as educators. We've all had bad days.  At the risk of being dubbed a pack rat, I will admit that I save every single piece of positive feedback I receive, from emails to thank you cards to hand written notes from students (literally everything) and put it in a photo album type booklet.  I like to pull this out when I'm feeling particularly like already been chewed gum stuck to the bottom of a very old shoe. It's a small thing that helps me remember the big picture.

I also like to keep a book of the hilarious things that the kids say, because there's no possible way I'd be able to remember them all.  I try to write these one liners down soon after they are delivered, and I relive those moments when I'm having a bad day, or when the kids and I just aren't on the same page.

When looking at the big picture, a successful classroom may be described by discussing the make up of the lessons we teach, the 21st century skills we integrate, and the expectations we set.  Believe me, all of these things are absolutely vital, and are the basic fabric of a flourishing learning environment. However, in my opinion, it's sweating the small stuff that takes a classroom from its basic fabric to one that is colorful, meaningful, and memorable.


1 comment:

  1. You are such a great writer Jenna (and no surprise there). But I love reading your posts, even though I am pretty far removed from teaching middle school! I still find this motivating! :)