Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Off to a Good Start

I would have to say that this school year has started pretty well. Comparatively, it is better than even my best weeks last year. And I mean that on multiple levels. 1) For my personal health. 2) For my social life. 3) For my professional life. 4) But mostly, for my students. For their mental, academic, and social lives.

We started the year off by mostly doing ground rules, expectations, and activities to build a healthy classroom culture. After the repeated disasters that I faced last year, I desperately wanted to set up an environment that would help them counteract their negative behaviors and keep them on track to learn. THEY made a list of real reasons why school is important to them. THEY set high academic goals (with my guidance, of course) in each subject. THEY decided that this year, they would work hard and learn a lot. I could hardly believe how much they got into these foundational steps of creating the academic energy of my room.

Last year, it was not uncommon for me to spend an entire class period (or day) trying to get my students to even look at me, let alone to learn something. This year, we were off and running by the end of the first week. They had a great level of engagement, even in the boring class rules stuff. And then, we decided to make a Class Motto. The school has a motto this year of: “Be Prepared.” So, I thought we might as well try to make a motto for my classroom, to motivate them and redirect them when their tempted to act out or give up. I brought in a few posters and inspirational quotes for them to choose from, and I gave them the opportunity to create one themselves. Meanwhile, I gave a little mini-lesson on the discrimination against deaf people in the U.S. I talked about how for a while, deaf people were punished for using their hands to sign and were only expected to lip-read and speak. I talked about how if a deaf person did not develop the ability to speak, they were labeled with the term “deaf and dumb.” Almost immediately, they protested the injustice of that label and….decided that the class motto would be “Deaf…NOT dumb.” It was a pretty powerful moment for them. They were pretty riled up about it. They will still occasionally point up to the class motto sign and comment on how they’re not dumb. It’s nice to finally see that enthusiasm in them.

In other news, I’m coaching volleyball again. This year I am the JV coach at my current school. Varsity, JV, and C team are all undefeated in their regular season games thus far. It’s been nice to hear people get excited about how much the girls have improved since last year (when I was coaching at a different school).

While things still aren’t ideal for the educational equity of my students, it’s nice to see how much improvement they’ve made in the year since I’ve been here. Here’s to continuing on the path that we are on.

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