When I walked into my classroom after being gone all summer I realized that the whole seating arrangement needed to be changed. All the desks were facing front with the emphasis on the teacher. I realized I needed the focus to be more on the students. Seating arrangement was a challenge with 31 desks.
I started to think about all the things I wanted to change in my class. I came to the conclusion that what I am attempting is a change of habit in myself. The habit of how I teach and help my students. Habits are hard to change as we all know. It’s like when I started meditating. At first I could not sit down for a 3 hour meditation right away. I had to start small with 5-10 minutes and build from there. After some consideration I’ve decided to not just go in and change everything and cause myself a lot of stress. I’m going to start small with the things that push my teaching in the direction I want to go, with the things that feel expansive and joyful to me. Challenging is ok but not stressful because then I know my joy level goes down.
Considering this, I decided to focus on having an “expansive” and “experiential” classroom. Expansive in every sense of the word but mainly focusing on the Progressive Development of each individual in the classroom. That not only includes students but also the teacher, me. I know that if I’m “light” I can teach and help my students more. My own personal daily meditation practice is and will be my main energy source and boy am I going to need it! By experiential I of course mean getting the students experiencing more. This year, I want to keep a good balance of book work and personal experiences for my students.
Some of the EFL inspired activities of this first week:
- With this in mind I started the first day greeting students at the door, shaking their hand, and introducing myself. Looking each student directly in the eyes from the beginning told me many things about their energy as they came into the room. I did this with the 31 students in the morning class who are with me, as their advisory teacher (like a homeroom teacher) for three periods the first month of school. I also shook hands with the 31 students in my afternoon class that are with me 5th and 6th period. It was lovely to see many sparkling, bright eyes curiously looking back at me.
- Besides all the getting acquainted and school introduction activities I introduced my classes to the concept of “Personal Excellence”. I asked them what they thought it meant and what kind of qualities this included. We brainstormed a list of qualities first in small groups and then as a whole class. We ended up with a list of words that they got to pick from. They picked one word to take home and decorate for our Personal Excellence bulletin board for next week. (For a journaling activity they can pick three qualities that they want to work on in themselves this school year.)
- At the end of the day they wrote three things they liked about their day on a sticky note and on their way out they stick them on the bulletin board.
- I asked each student to write me a friendly letter telling me about themselves. This is an old idea with a new twist. I now have them focus on the positive things in their life. This helps me to get to know the important things in their life and helps me start to identify their Tools of Maturity.
- We started having a class discussion about feelings this week. I told the students that it is important to check in with themselves so they are aware of how they are feeling. That way, they are not going blindly through their day, reacting to life without knowing what is really going on with them. Together, we came up with a feeling chart complete with a smiley face feeling guide and one of the artistic students agreed to make a poster for the class over the weekend. In looking at what was available on the web I also ran across this helpful web site. http://www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com/feeling_charts.htm
- One of my high priorities as I am getting to know my students in these early days is to identify the leaders in the class. Who do the students pick as leaders, who steps up to the job of being a leader, and where on the Progressive Development scale are these leaders. From four days of being around them I have already identified two girls (very light) and one boy (ego active light). It’s also interesting to see when a student I’ve identified as “heavy” all of a sudden lightens up at the mention of Egyptian pyramids or stone age tools of all things.
One last comment about this week. I had an impromptu talk with my principal. He came in to say welcome back and ended up sitting down for a very enthusiastic chat about having an “expansive and experiential” classroom. He understood what I am trying to do and supports it. Yes!