Monday, 8 September 2014

"Worst Monday Start Ever...Again"

So today I was greeted by one of my dear students at about 8:45am as I was wandering out to the playground. I simply smiled and said good morning and asked how he was doing today. 

"Ms. Mac, this is the worst start to Monday morning ever...again! Last week it was a bad start to the morning before I got to school and today is too." 

My response to the student, "Well I certainly hope we can change that before our Monday time together is over. We did last week once we got into class. Don't you remember we did our inquiry investigations and place value rap? What will make it better today?"

As he rubbed his head and thought very intensely about his answer he responded, "Ya... you're right. We had fun that day. But today is going to be different I can feel it. I don't know what will make it better. Well... you're going to say no. I know you're going to say no if I say this. It's not going to happen." 

Curious of what I was 'so sure to say no to' was as I have basically jumped on board every idea a student has suggested this year (something I'm trying to do more of - letting the students guide the learning), I said, " Give it a try - what would make your day better?"

"Free time?"

I took a second and thought to myself for a second and said, "Yes!" 

I'm pretty sure my student just looked at me in disbelief. He had asked for free time and I had agreed to it. It was clear it was not a common thing for him. "We will make sure you have a designated time for free time if that's what will make your day better." 

To be honest, I had the best Monday morning of the year with my students. Maybe it was coming off the EdTech Team Singapore Summit conference this weekend or maybe it was me just savouring every moment with my kids but to me, it was a great morning too. 

First thing, I ditched my chair and we just sat in a circle talking. It was a different vibe being on the same level as them as we discussed our weekends in connection to our learning from the past week. Last year I would always ask my kids about their weekends and hear all kinds of wild tales but this year by just changing the question slightly, I feel my students are enhancing the connections they make from in class learning to everyday experience. 

Then I literally gathered every book from our classroom and put them in the middle of our circle (with some help from the students of course). I received a few looks of being a bit crazy as I completely disassembled our class library. 

"We need to figure out a better way to sort the books. I was going off what we used last year but I think you all could find a better system that works for you." 

I have never seen kids so excited to sort books! I turned my back for a second to grab my camera and by the time I turned back, each child had a pile of books trying to figure out which one went together. I saw students creating lists of categories on the board, scratching out ones that could be combined and renaming others. Students began questioning which category a book would fall into - it was non-fiction but could go into science and habitats - which was better? Or why a book would fall under poetry if it was written as a picture book with a storyline. The discussions were amazing, the teamwork and collaboration was so evident and me... I was standing on the sidelines. I kind of just stood there watching for a few minutes before I jumped back into action and started to join in the fun asking questions to challenge their thinking. Don't get me wrong, there were a few kiddos that would wander into another mind space and need to be redirected back with specific jobs they could achieve but for the most part they were running themselves.  A successful class library was created. Is it the way I would sort them? Not completely but that doesn't matter. The fact they were able to do that together was most important. And of course when I asked what they thought of their new library, "It's much better our way Ms. Mac" was all I needed to hear for a chuckle. 

Our next challenge - how to get the books out of the classroom and into homes. We decided as a class by brainstorming and combining our ideas on how we would make our book sign out procedures most effective. Each student created a page in a book for their individual sign in/out log but then we also had a wish list page so students could wish to receive books others already had out. Seemed simple enough but let's see how this works in practice. 

Then the good stuff, presents! Over the summer a friend and I had created some book bags for the back of chairs. Students are going to use these to store up to 5 books they want to read at any one time. This will give them no excuse when it's time to read. My kids were so excited by their presents. 
" Did you really make them just for us?" they questioned as their little eyes looked up at me. 

My favourite email of my day (one from a student doing their writing homework for the week) said, 
"Today was really fun. I really like to read. I have one question did you make the present you gave us? I really like the idea because I'm a bit lazy so  I don't need to walk to get a book now." Laughter again - my kids crack me up constantly. 

Now that little boy who had 'the worst Monday morning start...again" was doing some independent reading and I said to him he was free to do whatever he wanted until break (about 10 minutes) as I had promised that time. To my shock, he just shook his head. 

"Actually Ms Mac, I think I'd just like to keep reading."

"You sure? This can be your free time and you really can do anything."

"Ms. Mac, I was hoping when I woke up we would get to read today, so I just want to do this."

Speechless. It's incredible how often my students do that to me these days. By the end of the day, I had done nothing different in my classroom for this one student as he chose to do what we had already decided to do. But yet, he thanked me as he ran off at night. Sometimes it's not the academics that make the difference it's your attitudes towards the students. Showing the slightest bit of compassion towards them can make a bad day turn upsidedown. 

I can't wait until next Monday morning at 8:45am...wondering what my next worst start to a Monday morning challenge will look like next. 

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