Monday, June 23, 2014

Teacher Tips: Creating a Classroom Vision

Although it's only June, I thought it would be a good time to share some tips and ideas to think about over your summer vacation. For some, you are beginning your first teaching job, others may be changing grade levels, and some of you will be going from the classroom into a resource position. When I started my last teaching position, it was something I had never taught before in public school. I was hired as an Elementary ESL Resource Teacher/Specialist. In the mornings I was at the lowest performing Title I school in the district running a learning center. In the afternoons I traveled to 4 other schools to provide instruction for the most limited ESL students who were only served by a tutor. I also collaborated with the students' teachers to provide strategies on teaching them in the classroom. I taught students from Kindergarten through 6th grade sometimes with multiple grades at the same time. It was the most challenging and yet the most rewarding job I had in my 33 years of teaching.

At my morning school I had a learning center and 4 tutors to supervise, who had been there for years. When I walked into my room for the 1st time I wanted to cry. Each tutor had a desk surrounded by file cabinets with nothing on the walls. It was so cluttered there was hardly room to move. It felt like an office, which it had become, not a place for students to learn. I knew immediately that it had to change and that the tutors (3 were men) were going to be very unhappy. This was not a good way to build a new team. My QAS (Quality Assurance Specialist) said to me, "Arlene, what is your vision for your learning center?  Before you make changes, decide on your vision first and then share it with your tutors and have them help you create it." That was the best advice she could have ever given me. So here is the my tip to all of you.

Tip #1: Decide what your vision is for your classroom. 
  • What do you want it to look like, sound like, and feel like?
For me, I wanted my classroom to be like a family, where there was a lot of interaction and it felt warm-a feeling of belonging. It had to be student centered!!!!!!! There was no need for each tutor to have their own desk and file cabinet. We could all share and open up the room by adding more tables, book shelves, and centers for students. Actually, the tutors worked in other classrooms and the learning center was designed for me to teach the most limited students in small groups from 9 am to noon. I wanted lots of visuals and bright, happy colors. I wanted to hear the sounds of happy students engaging in meaning conversation. I wanted to see students helping each other and working together. Once you have a vision you can decide how to make it happen.

It took awhile to make it all happen but it was truly worth all the hard work. Although I moved rooms over six times in 9 years, I created my vision each time. It became a warm welcoming place where there was respect and kindness. Although I am retired, I still miss the students and the love that we all shared.

I hope that this tip was helpful and that you will share your classroom vision in the comments below. Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students.

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