Last year, I decided to leave my middle school of 6 years and try my hand at high school. I got a couple of different job offers and decided to go with the one with which I had more of a connection. Actually, it’s more than a connection… I will be teaching Chemistry in the very classroom I took it in when I was in High School! Yes, I am returning “home” to give back to the very community in which I grew up! I must admit that it was strange walking into that classroom again, but this time as the teacher. I have so many wonderful science memories from my high school years and I am so excited to create fun memories for my new students on which to look back. Now, onto the tour of my new classroom!
This year, I was lucky enough to be sent to the NSTA conference in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, I attended various workshops on Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy. I was most intrigued in the Physics-based car crash project and decided to implement it. Below is my account of how things went with my students and this project:
Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
I think many of us have fond memories of our classrooms from our elementary years. The special reading nooks, the fancy floor rugs upon which we would sit as we happily listened to stories or discussed our classroom plans for the day during morning “meetings”, the colorful and thoughtful decor that conveyed a sense of creativity in our teacher as well as their personality. These days, it is very easy to look online and find so many wonderful ideas for primary classrooms, but it can be more difficult to find the same level of excitement for decorating a secondary classroom. Why is this? Why do secondary teachers not get as excited about their classroom “theme” or decor? Perhaps we feel that our students will not appreciate it. Maybe we are afraid that they will roll their eyes or poke-fun at our attempt? Although this may be true on the outside, I honestly feel that they do appreciate it– even if they don’t express it to you directly. Here are my ideas for things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom (some are more focused on fun and some are more focused on practicality):
Mistakes are a very, very important part of the learning process. However, I notice more and more that my students are afraid to make any kind of mistake. It appears to me that they are fearful of looking foolish in front of their peers (and even me, if we are working one-on-one). We know that teenagers can be extremely self conscious and do not want to ‘lose face’ in front of others. However, I find it valuable to teach them that there is no shame in being wrong or in making errors. In fact, I try to instill in them that these ‘faults’ are valuable and should be celebrated in the classroom.
Everyone likes to play games. Games make things fun! Games help to pass the time! Games allow us to turn an otherwise dull task into something exciting! A lot of it might also be the competition. How else do you explain why spelling words with little wooden tiles can be so entertaining?? If you asked me to do that by myself as an assignment or task: no-thank-you! If you asked me whether or not I could do it better then someone else: challenge accepted!
I have found that incorporating play into everyday routines in my classroom has allowed my students to enjoy tasks and participate more in things that they normally would not. It has also created buy-in when it otherwise would be very difficult to achieve. The following are ways in which I have incorporated play and competition into my classroom: