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Putting Philosophy First

By Carrie Hagen

I wasn’t sure how I would do it.  After taking a two-year leave from teaching high school English, I would be returning to the classroom.

I had ushered students through the starts of twelve school years, but this year’s opening felt new to me.  I walked through the inservice days with the usual to-do list: organize classroom, dust off posters and props, make seating charts, print class lists, assemble papers to photocopy, grab books from the bookroom, consider opening day activities.  I had madly juggled these tasks in past years, but this time around, I hesitated.  Read more

Building Community

By Wendy Hopf

One hundred energetic sixth graders greet me each day, and I need to be ready. As an English Language Arts teacher the actions I take in September and October are critical for setting the tone for a successful school year. In a nutshell, my practices reflect my beliefs:

”We are a community of learners who respect each other’s space, time, and learning and accept each other’s ideas. We trust that Ms. Hopf will guide us, but we are expected to work hard throughout the class period. We support each other, have fun while learning, and gain the rewards of learning for its own sake.”

To create the habits and attitudes I am striving for there are four practices I follow. Read more

Day One

By Jen Ward

New tenth graders file into my room, unsure of where to sit, trying to find a friendly face in our World Literatures English class.  Summer is over. School is back in session.  And on our first day of class, I stand outside the classroom door, greeting students and handing them a syllabus as they walk into the room.  This is what they expect.  They expect to sit down, whisper quietly about the new kid in class and what they did over their summer break while their teacher stands at the front and lectures over classroom rules, grading policies, and class projects.  So when the bell rings for class to start, and I tell them to put their syllabus away, they look genuinely confused.

As their teacher, I want to see my high school students connecting, collaborating, writing, and revising.  And that needs to start on day one. Read more

Building Community in a Bigger Space – The Library

By Chris Kehan

For the past four years, setting up my classroom has been different than it was for the previous nineteen years.  Having taught in the regular education classroom for those nineteen years, I made the leap into library media specialist.  While I still see myself as a classroom teacher, my classroom just grew in size and so did my number of students.  Creating a space where students, teachers, and parents feel welcome and safe to take risks is extremely important for librarians.  Most libraries are situated in the center of the school; hence it’s the hub of activity.  “Entrance through our doors admits one to infinite worlds, magical kingdoms, and the treasure trove of knowledge created by our world’s best thinkers, artists, and scientists.” (Grimes, 2006) Read more

Physical Environments are Important for a Good Beginning

By Lynne Dorfman

The organization of your classroom sets the stage for learning. It should reflect your personal beliefs and values as an educator.Debbie Miller says, “Classroom environments are organic – they grow as we do. The best of them reflect the hearts and souls of those who inhabit them. They’re never really finished. They’re never really ‘done’.”  Debbie devotes the first section of her book, Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs Aligning Practice, Taking Action, to setting up the physical classroom environment and creating an energizing culture through the kind of interactions we value and nurture with our students. She suggests inviting a trusted colleague or two into your classroom in early September and asking him or her to tell you what the classroom environment reveals about your own personal beliefs as an educator. Read more

Classroom Environment – The Emotional Side

By Janice Ewing

Along with the thinking and care that we give to setting up the physical environment of our classrooms, most teachers are concerned with establishing a safe and productive climate for learning as well. As a new school year begins, it seems like a natural time to reflect upon the emotional spaces that we’re striving to create and sustain. With that in mind, I turned to a few mentors for inspiration.

Donald Graves, in The Energy to Teach, says: “You, the teacher, are the most important condition in the room.” Read more