“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a teacher, I’ve always been a Harry Wong fan. I’ve watched the videos many times about how to be an effective teacher. It gives me courage to begin this training process. Preparing my students to learn is what we do during the first weeks of school.
Teaching is what I love, but I cannot begin the lessons kids and parents are expecting immediately. One thing I’ve learned from my own children is that if we are all on the same page, things go better.
Here are five of the most important ways I like to begin my year.
1. Meet every students with a friendly handshake every day. Like wildflowers, our children stumble into class ready to blossom all over the place. A friendly smile at the door starts a new day letting them know that they are appreciated.
2. Take time to build the vision of the classroom. Even the wildest looking wildflower can show its beauty when the master artist puts it in place. Some of the so-called worst children have a deep desire to find the right person to please. Why not help them buy into a vision that gives them positive membership. Instead of keeping my expectations of students a secret, it’s just easier to tell them my vision. For example, “You will make a class newspaper! Your going to have a great time doing it, and you’ll do it in an orderly fashion. Here are some steps that real reporters use to make it all work.”
3. Develop a winning team spirit. Every wildflower is unique, but bundled together in a lovely bouquet can bring out its best. It’s very hard to develop a habit of pointing out things that are going very well. I like to start with some sort of visual reminder for myself to point out three things that are going well within the first 30 minutes of class. If I can start this way, it sets my day noticing things that are going well.
4. Find reasons for children to invest. The wildflower needs the right environment. You can’t expect wildflowers to grow if they are not being properly watered. In nature, they tend to find the right conditions for thriving, but in a classroom, the teacher has to cultivate a place where children can thrive. During the first days, the teacher can cast the vision for a place where everyone can thrive. This is not easy, but if children invest, they are likely to step up to the task. I like to do this by challenging children. If the goal is something they cannot do alone, but worthy, children seem to enjoy it.
5. Be sure that everyone knows they belong. Find a spot where the wildflower can bloom freely. Developing a sense of belonging is important. I like every student to feel that they are welcome in my classroom. Most every week, an old student will find some reason to come back and visit us. I like them to feel they belong there, even when they have moved on. After all, a family is still a family, even when they move away. The first days are a unique time to watch and be sure that each person has an important role and is not being left out.
We call them wildflowers for a reason. We didn’t plant them, but we want to harness and enjoy their beauty. In what ways do you enjoy the beauty of these wildflowers?