There are many, many aspects of my job that I absolutely LOVE and I have to say that closing the computer, putting down the phone, and postponing emails to spend time in the classroom has to be my all time favorite part! Last year, I shadowed a 5th grade student and was able to get a completely new perspective to teaching, learning, and the experiences we create for our students. Given the success & insight gained, I decided to do it again this year!
Selfie with my buddy for the day!
Today I shadowed Brayden, a 3rd grade student in Mrs. Kelly-Brewster’s classroom and the experience was just as valuable! Brayden is such a sweetie and I was thrilled to be seated right next to him. I also had my own cubby for the day which made me feel very welcomed.
The day began by listening to what is typically the morning announcements I give over the intercom. New learning… the class saying the pledge over the intercom is faster than the actual class full of students. Also, the announcement comes over the speaker very LOUD and clear. I may have to keep my voice level in check for future announcements… or not. Along with the pleasant welcome, I was thrilled to see a daily schedule and found it so helpful to be ready for learning.
The benefits of taking the time at the start of the year to develop clear expectations, classroom routines, the understanding of procedures, and developing norms that students own is amazing. Today was the 22nd day of school and this class has it going on! We are often eager to dive into the curriculum and get to the deep, rigorous content but there is a lot to be said for building a solid and strong classroom community. Our students are on a 175 day journey and it is important that members feel welcomed, that they have a connection to others, and that they are valued.
Schools and classrooms are where children spend a significant amount of time each week, and teachers have an opportunity to help their students make the most of that time together by developing a classroom community each and every day. Brayden valued that his classroom climate was positive, respectful, and calm. I did too! What was so impressive was that students were playing such a huge role in the functioning of the classroom. Students took attendance, recorded the lunch count, and set up materials for activities. They enjoyed being involved and active participants in their classroom. It really felt like THEIR classroom.
I attended music class and was able to participate in the singing of various patriotic songs as well as a group stick activity that served as a way to learn the beats of the Star Spangled Banner. The students were excited, engaged, and very participatory. Ms. Doak balanced the 45 minute block of time with full class involvement, direct teaching, modeling, use of technology, and the hands-on activity. The class flew by and Brayden (and I) were not ready to stop. Creative arts are clearly an important part of the day for learning, engagement, and activity.
Brayden and his classmates are learning about the brain and how to develop a positive mindset. Their current essential question is, “How does your brain get stronger?” Mrs. Kelly-Brewster facilitated a very impressive fishbowl activity! The students were presented with a scenario and they were prompted to think about feedback they would give the student in the scenario. Volunteers were welcome to enter the center of the circle and share with each other the advice they would give the student in the scenario while others watched, listened, and thought of potential feedback to add. Wowzer! The students are reaching outside their comfort zone to take risks. Clearly their basic needs such as their sense of safety, are met.
● Never give up!
● Ask a classmate or an adult for help getting started.
● Try… even if you make a mistake, that’s ok.
● You are not alone and there are other students feeling the same way.
● Mistakes lead to new learning.
● You are not there yet, but with hard work you can do it.
Students who feel safe in their classroom environment will be able to develop skills and become more resilient. Brayden and his peers volunteered to lead their group in a project, challenged themselves to more rigorous tasks, and participated frequently to respond to a question from Mrs. Kelly-Brewster.
Brayden, who appears quiet and shy, was excited about learning and willing to participate because he felt included in his classroom community. He enjoyed working with his partner during math- me! and especially liked the times Mrs. Kelly-Brewster offered choice and turn & talk with your group opportunities.
There is no doubt that fostering a sense of community is hard work but my experience today as a 3rd grader was evidence that it is well worth the effort. Nurturing the positive learning environment happens on a daily basis at Great Falls and we should be very proud of our community!
Lunch time was such a fun chance to be social with my 3rd grade friends!
My Top 5 Reminders from A Day in the Life of a 3rd Grader
⭐Students want a feeling of ownership of THEIR classroom.
⭐Creative arts experiences are just as important to our students as academic experiences.
⭐Providing student choice increases student engagement.
⭐When students feel safe, they will take academic risks AND when students feel connected in their learning environment, behavior issues decrease.
⭐My greatest reminder of the day!
"Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be." Rita Pierson
💙Special thank you to Brayden, Mrs. Kelly-Brewster, and the entire amazing group of 3rd graders!