Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Books You Have To Read if You Teach
My good friend Anne just lent me her copies of The Morning Meeting Book and the First Six Weeks of School. Then another beach buddy of mine, Julie, told me all of her teachers were asked to read it this summer. Anne teaches in Dearborn, Michigan while Julie teaches at an exclusive private school in the San Diego area. I have had these texts on my list of books I want for the last two years. And I teach in Holland, Michigan. I just love when I connect with other teachers through books. It's more than just connecting on a conversation level. When teachers are able to have conversations with texts they read, there is much more depth to understanding how that professional teaches and learns. So first, I would like to celebrate these wonderful, amazing people I get to spend my summers with. These casual conversations we have on the beach fill me with excitement and energize me for another year of this amazing organic processs we call school. Of course my partner teacher, Amy, was right on board when I suggested we get these texts. Within 24 hours she and I were sighing with relief, knowing we had the security of all the important elements of a building a living classroom inside these books.
I do want to take some time to talk a bit about these titles. The Morning Meeting Book was the first text that caught my eye. This text suggests using the beginning of each school day to meet and recognize each other as individuals. Students sit in a circle facing each other to share personal greetings. Some teachers may think this needs to be done as they are coming in. But , I will argue that children need this time to be regulated by an adult so that all children are valued equally and independently. I don't think there needs to be a sharing time every day. But the oral component of the morning meeting includes a lot of basic listening and speaking opportunities that are not occuring at home for a variety of reasons. After doing a simplified version for a year with my second graders, I felt like the rewards of using this format stretched far beyond into other content area times during the day. The Morning Meeting text provides some structure and fun. There are clear expectations layed out, songs to sing together and games to play. Throughout the text are different meeting formats and activities for different grade levels. With all of the present focus in education on eliminating bullying in the forefront of policies and legislation, the morning meeting concept presented by these authors would schedule a daily time for addressing concerns and building self-esteem.
The First Six Weeks of School contains practical and realistic schedules for beginning of the school year activities. I like the way it includes cooperative building games into the beginning days. After spending the summer months in a day-care environment, camp group or at home with siblings and neighborhood children, kids need time to transition back into the structure of school in a playful way. It makes school more enjoyable for everyone when we are able to laugh and play together, bond as a group and then move into deeper learning experiences. In the book these activities are very carefully scaffolded. Surely, I'm not suggesting to follow everything to the letter. Excellent educators are constantly tweaking their procedures to reach new and better heights. There can never be one right way to do things in an organic classroom.
I'm thrilled to discover all of the texts in this series. Even though there will be time I will need to spend on getting materials ready for the new group, it makes me feel so secure knowing that the meaty part of those critical first weeks is already organized for me.