So many times we have this idea that a published piece of writing is a completely perfect and finished piece. Or for that matter, a math test is the finished piece of learning or a running record, whatever it may be.
Over the weekend I read a quote from Leonardo da Vinci,
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
I just love this quote so much and I believe that we need to start shifting to this mindset in the classroom. We understand that learning can be placed on a continuum where there is always room for improvement and always more to learn no matter where you fall. Why should any work that students finish be considered complete? Its ok if they spelled a word wrong or missed punctuation in their final draft. Now you know what to focus on next. It is ok if while they’re reading they are reading choppily or so fast you can’t keep up. That should inform your next teaching moves. It is ok if in math class they add 7+8 to be 14. Now you know what they are missing.
There is value in mistakes. There is value in not having everything tied up perfectly with a bow.
Too often in education, we want to package learning or growth or finished pieces up into a perfect little package but that just isn’t the way learning works. Learning is never finished… and hopefully not abandoned either.
Happy Sunday! What do you have planned for the week ahead? How will you try to value all the imperfect little pieces of your learning environment?
Have you ever sat down and written your teaching philosophy? Do you know what your goals as an educator are in the classroom?
The most important skills we can give our students are the sort of skills that transfer outside the walls of our classrooms. Skills like knowing how to enter into a conversation. Noticing when someone isn’t having a great day and asking if you can do anything to help them. Knowing how to disagree with someone respectfully. Being able to work together with a wide variety of people. An understanding of making a compromise. Knowing how to listen to ideas and think critically about them. These are the skills that sometimes get left behind in the race to cover content. Kids won’t remember all the content you taught them but these sort of skills will stick with them for a lifetime.
My greatest goal in the first-grade classroom is independence. I don’t do things for students that they are capable of themselves. They need to problem solve situations before an adult will help them. Creating this independence sets them up for success when they are no longer in my classroom. When they are free to learn on their own time I know they can still achieve great things.
What are your thoughts on this quote? I’d love to hear them!
*While cleaning out my blog’s draft folder I found this gem from last year. Flexible seating doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be expensive!
Imagine that you are on your way to a professional development session. You walk in, see your teacher bestie and go to sit down. As soon as you reach her table she shakes her head and says, “we have to sit in assigned seats.” As you turn to find out where to sit you have a sinking feeling and want to be there even less than before. You find the table only to see that it has the hard metal folding chairs and not the ones with the slight cushion, forget it! The simple act of choosing where to sit and what to sit on is important to us as adults. It is also important to our students yet we rarely give them this choice.
Creating a space in which students have options in their seating can be tricky. A lot of schools don’t have extra money to buy new chairs and tables. Many teachers don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to the furniture in their classroom. Teachers also don’t want to spend even more money out of pocket on seating. Here are a few options when you don’t have any options.
Consider Your Options
1. Take the names off of the desks. You have desks (or tables) and you have chairs. One way to create flexible seating is to remove the names from desks and chairs. Find somewhere in the room for student “stuff” to go. I gave each student a drawer in the cubbies we already had. We put our math journals in one bin and our reading in another. Students were then allowed to choose the desk they sat in. It wasn’t much but it was a choice. I arranged the desks so that some were alone, some were in partners and some were in groups. Students loved being able to choose where to go.
2. Consider the furniture you do have. This year I looked around my classroom and sort of inventoried the furniture. I had my desk, two comfy chairs, four tables, 25 chairs and two carpets. I saw immediately that I could take the legs off of one of the tables, lower it to the floor and put a carpet underneath it. I could also keep one of my scooped tables and attempt to trade the others.
3. Listen in. I was in a friend’s classroom and she was getting rid of her teacher desk. I heard and asked if I could put it in my room. Listen to the teachers around you! Sometimes teachers rearrange. Sometimes they get rid of things that you have had your eyes on. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for things if you notice fellow teachers getting rid of them. Don’t be afraid to offer a swap if you see something you want. My second year teaching I swapped a round table for a rectangle table. It made a world of difference in my classroom.
4. Snoop around! I noticed that we had a ton of desks in our elementary commons area. I asked if I could swap some of my tables for some desks. My principal approved it, six desks came into my classroom and two tables went out. Desks give you many options. I decided to keep three at a normal height and raised three up to become standing desks.
Within a few weeks, I had transformed my space into something new. I didn’t spend a single penny. The best part is that my kids love the new space! Other teachers are taking notice too! You can use the things that are available to you to create flexible seating. It might not be the beautiful dream you wished up while on Pinterest late at night but it will be functional.
Donors Choose- Now that I am no longer a teacher in the US, I can’t use Donor’s Choose. If you are a teacher in the United States, Donor’s Choose is a wonderful option for you. Two years ago I wrote a Donors Choose grant for Hokki Stools. These are wonderful! My students loved those stools. When they wiggled while they worked, they worked longer and harder. I highly recommend writing a donor’s choose grant for something. Hokki Stools, or wiggle seats or exercise balls are all excellent choices.