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Back to School Brainstorm

This is may be the oddest back to school season my family has ever had. We are about to move from Sanford, NC to Fort Lee, VA, and for the first time my life I will not be a student or teacher or teacher support staff in public education. We'll see how long that lasts... I may end up subbing and looking for teaching jobs by December, or I may continue to focus on spending time with our little one, leading with Tinkergarten, and exploring becoming a family childcare provider. As I (most likely briefly) step out of public education and walk through stores in full back-to-school mode, I'm having a hard time not stocking up on supplies (in fact, I recently bought a good stash of blank books, which I've already used in training with new teachers and with HG). Additionally, helping lead the past two weeks of professional development has gotten me VERY excited about a few things I would try bringing to my classroom this year (and that will likely inform things I do with HG). What I LOVE about working with new teachers is that they bring some of the most current research from the entire nation (and globe) to the forefront - it's on us mid- and advanced-career status teachers to help them figure out how to implement their ideas! So, here are the things I'd be playing with if I had a classroom this year:

A trick for laying out the beginning of your year! Sort colorful sticky note tabs :)

  • More intentional, mindful brain breaks: I was VERY excited about Cosmic Kids brain breaks, yet I was excited to learn that the PreK teachers I work with can only use screens for 10 min a day - so they need loads of these practices in their pockets, and not on their YouTube playlists. AND, all of our students can benefit from mindfulness, brain breaks, and less screen time (but there are also great tools on screens if that'll get you trying mindfulness). I'm super excited that my home district is using Learning to BREATHE at least two schools.

  • The Forty Book Challenge: This sounds like a well-planned out (yet simple), well-researched, well-tested version of these crazy book clubs I tried to run one year in my AVID classes. I love the lack of showy incentives and the focus on choosing the "right" book for each student rather than scores and levels. caregivers etc. Read an important post about how to not implement this challenge in a way that harms love for reading here (and CELEBRATE what your kiddos read!!!).

  • More time outdoors and more time playing: I love that the NC PreKs subscribe to the "There's no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothes" ideology. I don't really understand why there is a huge gap between the emphasis on developmentally appropriate activities in PreK and then the complete disregard for them at the elementary level, but I'm excited that at least our little ones are getting good time outdoors and lots of time to learn through play. Hopefully this spreads. If I was in my formal classroom, I would set the goal of getting outside once a week at least. In the past, I've gone on weathering, erosion, and deposition walks, practiced taking field notes outside, and played games about porosity and permeability in a field - but I could definitely push myself to do more! Read about our nature classroom and talking during play from Tinkergarten's amazing blog, More than Mudpies.

  • More self-regulated learning: I've been listening to podcasts on all things educational. Morphing an old project, and concepts from unschooling, self-regulated learning, and Montessori, I would overhaul a project I used to do and how I grade. I would expand an old Fridays only long-term genius hour project. I would play more with mastery grading. I think my scale would be, "will attempt before the grading period is up"; "in progress", "mastered", "mastered and explored beyond", "attempted and will revisit". How this would go into a grade book would require some playing with spreadsheets... and some really honest conversations with students and guardians. (Read about a bunch of methods for self-regulated learning here!)

  • Implementing ideas from conscious discipline: I have to be really honest, baby doll circle seemed really creepy at first. Then, I saw my little one snuggling her rabbit more and more while continuing to get more reports of fussy moments in daycare. And, the letter that caregivers send home to parents about baby doll circle time was the sweetest thing I read and almost made me cry. I also love how conscious discipline approaches conflict resolution AND assertive behavior for adults and children!

My boss led this session, and I can't agree more. Classrooms are for learning, not screaming.
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