I am in the middle of my first military PCS move. I say middle because although I am in my new home…my husband, children, and furniture are not. I am not sure how these moves usually go but this one is not going smoothly. Husband is due home from overseas after a year away tomorrow night (AHHHHHHHH). I’m excited! Children are back in Virginia with Nana and Papa until this weekend since household goods (everything on the moving truck) is due to arrive Friday. I am currently living in a big ole house that I purchased without ever stepping inside while still in Virginia. I am on a air mattress and living out of a suitcase. There were also countless other hurdles and roadblocks along the way. This can all be discouraging and I began to question if this move was the best thing for me and my family.
I am in Georgia early, before furniture and husband, because I have a teaching job and school starts Monday. I have been busy preparing my room, meeting my co-workers, and attending pre-year training. As the pressures of getting ready for a year of school loomed, I again began to question what I was doing. I came from a divisional level position to go back to the classroom and began to worry if I would still be able to relate to the students after working primarily with teachers for the past two years. Which brings us to last night’s Open House for 6th graders at Grovetown Middle School.
After meeting 25 of the 26 students in my homeroom, countless others from my other blocks, and their parents, I am overjoyed to be at Grovetown Middle. I was able to quickly and successfully relate to each student. I had terrific conversations with their parents and eased a few jittery spirits. I have never had such a successful open house and knew when I turned out my light that I had made the best decision in accepting the position at GTMS. It made me a bit emotional knowing the potential that lay before me with this group of eager learners. It is going to be a great year and I am excited that you will be able to read along as I reflect on our journey.
Writing a letter is an art form that is no longer appreciated, in my opinion.
I tasked my 11 yr old, 5th grade son to write Thank You cards to family and friends that had given him birthday gifts. I was aware that he would not know how to address them properly, hence he would write the note and I would address the envelope. I was wrong. He did not know how to write a note either. They were basic, non-specific letters that had no names to or from anyone. I was a bit upset but then had the self-reflecting thought…this is not his fault. Was he taught how to write a letter? Has he seen many letters?
Teacher Mom began the “How to Write a Letter 101” lesson right then and there. He listened, watched, and asked questions and after a few minutes was able to correct his mistakes and complete his letters. The plan then struck me to teach my 6th graders this same skill. Anything you do when done for real is a far more enriching lesson, so I decided to find pen pals for my students in order for them to write real letters to a real person.
Here is the plan which I am sure will be tweaked and adapted as the year progresses but I have to start somewhere so therefore my plan…
- Find teachers that are willing to commit to having their students accept and write at least 3 letters to my students. I am looking for any students grades 4th-8th (since 6th is right in the middle). Students from all over the country and globe. Complete Google Form –> HERE After completion, I while contact teachers with my school address and contact information.
- Have teachers send an initial postcard from their school’s city/location to me with contact info and address. I will have students choose pen pals based on the postcard. Depending on how many I receive each student will have their own, complete in pairs, or small groups. (I am so hoping for over 100 post cards so each student will have one)
- Have students complete a minimum of 3 letters throughout the school year. Friendly introduction, persuasive, informational about location and school, fun letter with clues and puzzles to solve, or interview are some possibilities I am considering for letter types.
- Hold conferences with students to discuss and reflect on writing process for letters.
- Mystery Skype with classes in which a pen pal resides without letting the student pen pals know, until the location is guessed. (Then allow pen pals to talk f2f)
This may seem overwhelming and expensive for all those stamps but I think it can be a very rewarding and engaging project for students. Plus, it would foster national and global connections that many students do not have access to. Students need to see and hear about events and people outside their own four walls.
If this is something you think you may be interested in and are a classroom teacher of students between 4th- 8th grade please complete the Google Form. I will be sharing this with those who complete so that you can also connect with each other in order to have post card pen pals with all classes participating. Please pass this along or share with a teacher that you think would be interested in this project.
Wondering where to get postcards for initial mailing? Zazzle is a great place to purchase post cards. Wanna make your own postcard? Try Canva
It is that time of year with state testing, pep talks, Kudos and remediation. I have walked through the halls of the schools I support and wonder why the enthusiasm and support shown to the students is not shown year round. Posters line the hallways, hanging from ceilings and adorning the walls. Students are given high-fives and “job well done” when they pass their test. My hope is that this support and belief in students begins the minute a teacher receives their roster and continues till the very last day of school.
What if we as teachers made posters to show the brilliance of students every day? Imagine the atmosphere of a school that supports student growth with the same energetic high-five as the passing score? Allowing students to believe in their potential everyday and not just testing day can be powerful and much more lasting. If we spend the entire school year celebrating with our students the successes of their growth they won’t need our last minutes chimes of “you can do it” at the end. The goal is for the students to tell me as they head into state testing…”I got this”.
So, make the posters, have the chants, pep up your students, but do so EVERY day!!!