Happy Classroom Community

Beth Maloney Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Love, Social Issues

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Having my daughter in fifth-grade last year changed the way I look at my classroom.  Her school day started in my partner teacher’s homeroom for math and science and her afternoons were spent in my room for Reading, Writing, and Social Studies.

First day of school photo booth

First day of school photo booth

At the end of my daughter’s fourth-grade year, we explained her options for fifth-grade.  The choices were to go to a different team of fifth-grade teachers, both of whom she has known since her birth and adores, or she could come to my partner (one of her favorite people on the planet) and me.  She chose us, and truthfully, I was thrilled with the opportunity to have her as a student.  These experience with my daughter last year were truly wonderful.  I believe the success of having your own child as a student depends very much on the student/child, the teacher/parent, and the context.  I enjoyed spending time with her in a different environment, learning about who she is as a student, and how she interacts with her peers.  The year was special for both of us.

Colonial Fair

Colonial Fair

I knew I would miss having my daughter in class as I prepared for school this year.  I realized I did some things differently last year while she was my student.  I used an especially critical eye on every action I took and every resource I found or created.  Most importantly, I worked hard to build a learning community in which my daughter and her peers could thrive.  Cornelius Minor says teachers are “…architects that carefully consider how the experiences we design work optimally for the people we serve” (2019, p. 137).  As I reflect on the lessons last year taught me, I realize I’ve become an incredibly careful architect of the classroom community.

Having a direct line of communication with my daughter every day gave me a student’s perspective that I had not seen before.  It didn’t hurt that she is extremely candid and empathetic in nature.  When I would ask her what she thought of a particular lesson, she’d tell me about how someone in class who had questions because they were distracted by something that happened at lunch recess.  When I would try to gauge how the class was getting along, she’d tell me about fights that she had heard were happening over social media.  When I would ask how students were enjoying a unit, she would tell me that one of her friends was worried about missing a lesson when she was sick and needed help catching up.  Through her eyes, I realized over and over again that if the community of learners isn’t functioning, learning is derailed.

I’m living the motto “the community is the curriculum” (Corimer, as quoted in Shareski, 2017, p. 38) these first days of the school year with my new crop of fifth-graders.  I have all new science content to master and plan for, along with science and social studies standards that are new to me this year.  It could be tempting to put my time and efforts into content lessons right away.  But I know the importance of intentionally creating community in the first days of school and then maintaining that community throughout the year.

Spirit Day

Spirit Day

As Jeff Charbonneau, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, says, “Relationships then content. Both matter. So does the order” (as quoted in Shareski, 2017, p. 6).  I am focusing on the relationships in my classroom.  The content will follow.

May we all teach this year like we’re teaching our own children.

 

 

I am in my twentieth year of teaching and enjoy every minute of my time in the classroom. I have taught kindergarten, third grade, and currently teach fifth-grade science and social studies in Surprise, Arizona. I am an enthusiastic public school advocate. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a Candidate Support Provider for the Arizona K12 Center, where I coach and mentor other teachers undergoing the rigorous National Board certification. I am the past president and co-founder of the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network and president and founder of the Arizona Chapter of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. I am honored to be Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and appreciate having the opportunity to represent the teachers of Arizona. I love talking with and learning from other teachers around the world. I strongly believe that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students.

Comments 5

  1. Austine Etcheverry

    This brings such a great perspective to the educational world. So many times it has been seen as a negative to teach your own children and so I hope this helps people see the value in planning, preparing and educating like it is your own child in front of you.

  2. Elizabeth Schley

    I absolutely loved this. How often are we so focused on the content and curriculum that we forget we teach children? Children (yes, even at the high school) who have so many things happening in their lives. I want to be more aware of this in the current and future school years.

  3. Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for this blog. Reading this reminded me of how long it took for me to be ready to let me youngest daughter attend my school as a student. I knew I would have mom boundary issues when she was very young, so she needed to stay in her own trusted space until I was ready. She transitioned over around 4th year when she was independent enough to fully stand her own and this allowed me to wear my parent had only when I needed to.

  4. Donnie Dicus

    What a powerful resource having your child in the classroom! The feedback that received from her was powerful! What a way to learn more about what is happening in your classroom. It is almost like having a little Nancy Drew doing some detective/spy work and filling you in. I am glad that you had this opportunity.

  5. Nicole Wolff

    Thank you for writing this! Many years ago, my oldest was in my class. It definitely shaped the way I think about teaching. With all planning and decision making, I still ask myself, “what would I want for my child?” It was a powerful experience that still has impact on my practice. But, I wouldn’t do it again. :)

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