Being The Space

by lclarcq on March 10th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Musings, Not So Good Days

It’s a tough week here. It is the end of the trimester and sadly, even middle school students feel the stress. We are also two weeks into an eight-week stretch without a break. With 10 more students per class than I’m accustomed to, I’ve also learned that I’m absorbing more stress from them as well. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the room in the center of a house fire when the room is full. And it is about to ex/implode at any moment.

That’s not what kids deserve. And frankly, I’ve feel like I’m not what the kids deserve this week either. But I’m what they have. So I’ve been looking for a way to stay calm.

I have tried to see myself as a tennis racket this week. Weird I know, but bear with me.

The tennis racket doesn’t get to sit still during a practice or a game. Even when the other player is dealing with the ball….the racket is poised and just slightly in motion…ready to return the play.

I realized that I did not have to be the entire racket…and that I could chose, at any, or every moment, which part of the racket I could be.

Professionally, and personally, I often have to be the strings. I have to catch the boll. I have to return the ball so that the players can hit it back to me.

But this week…..I’m trying to be the spaces between the strings. The spaces don’t have to do anything. They just have to be there. They let everything go by. They let the racket move and the strings do the work when necessary.

So when the tension heated up and the ‘little things” felt like they would explode into big things I kept saying to myself…”I’m the space. I’m the space. I’m the space.” (If you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of mantras!!)

It helped me so much. There is a time to be the strings….but it was a good week to be the space. I hope it helped the kids as much as it helped me.

with love,
Laurie

No, Every Day Is Not A Winner

by lclarcq on February 15th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Not So Good Days

and I don’t seem to be able to predict them in advance.

That morning went well. It was a block day and the second block went well too. I’m not even sure that it was going so badly when I lost it. It seemed like it at the time, but looking back, it is hard to tell.

One minute I was tolerating the minor chaos of 30 students working in 10 groups of 3. Some groups were still working and some were done. Some students were passing back papers for me. I figured those still working needed about 5 more minutes and I could round everyone up and we could end the class on a focused note. And then…it all crossed over the edge. I had mis-timed things and the ones that were done were DONE and then I was DONE and well…that was that.

It was lights out, heads down on the desk and total silence. I was able to take deep breaths (although it was a little tough not to flash back to 5th grade when my teacher did the same thing to us…..and I got yelled at because I couldn’t stop giggling)

They apologized. Some quite sincerely and one who felt righteously wronged because although she admitted that she hadn’t been doing what she was supposed to the rest of the period, at the moment I got angry she was doing what she was supposed to and how dare I ask her to put her head down and be quiet? :o) The next day I apologized. (I needed a little time…) And life went on.

I wasn’t the world’s worst teacher. They weren’t the world’s worst students. And the next day went very well. Up and down. As long as we keep coming back and starting over, it’s all good.

with love,
Laurie

No Longer Strangers

by lclarcq on February 13th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Personalizing Instruction

It’s been three months. Days that sometimes seemed very long but months that have been very short. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but recently there has been a change in my room. It feels like we are no longer strangers. This is so much better. I really was worried it wouldn’t happen.

I know, maybe everyone doesn’t really work this way, but I like knowing who the kids are in my room. I know their names. I know when one has new shoes. I’m learning who is always hungry and who never has anything to write with. I know whose family can afford a trip to Cozumel this spring and who wants to hang out after school and not go home. I know who will paint their face, wear feathers and paint their nails for Rally Day. I know who stays home on Rally Day because the energy level all day before the rally is too much to handle. I know who thinks they are old enough to be in high school and who still keeps a stuffed animal in their backpack every day. I know some things I am grateful to know, and other things that punch me in the gut when I think about them.

I don’t know something about everyone. But we have gotten to know each other. It’s a wonderful thing. I really didn’t enjoy working with strangers.

Middle schoolers are both a tough and a fragile bunch. Their tears are very real and they are often started by something that is only a big deal from the perspective of a middle schooler. One thing I have remembered is that middle school isn’t always fun to remember. But, the best way to connect with my middle schoolers has been to reconnect with my middle school self.

So, she and I are no longer strangers either.

She sometimes rode her bike to school…and sometimes took the bus.
On the days she rode her bike, her hair was even more of a complete disaster than usual.
On the days she took the bus, the high school boys pinched her on the butt and snapped her bra and she was mortified….but never told anyone.

She wanted very badly to be a cheerleader but just couldn’t jump. And her glasses fell off.
She thought she was smarter than the teachers some days and smarter than the other kids most days. And so she was a smart mouth sometimes. And then she cried because it felt mean.

She doesn’t have 7th grade pictures because her family of 7 were all living in a one-bedroom apartment transition housing and there probably wasn’t enough money……even if her mom did say that it was because the pictures were too ugly. That was less scary for her mom to say, but not less hard for her daughter to hear.

She fell desperately in love for minutes at a time with boys she absolutely did not know at all and totally ignored the ones she did. Or teased them unmercifully.

She daydreamed in class EVERY SINGLE DAY, often all period long.

She felt like she had to save the world and yet had absolutely no power at all.

Every, single, thing…..was changing.
Every, single, thing…..made no sense anymore.
Every, single, thing…..was desperately frightening.

On the inside.

On the outside she was a greasy-haired, four-eyed, smart-mouthed, desperately shy, passionate, closet-romance-reading, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, got-detention-for-laughing-in-class child having to deal with womanly issues and a great big world. And most of the time she didn’t do it very well. I guess that was the point. :o)

I was everything and nothing that I wanted to be. Getting to know her again has really helped me to get to know them. Loving her, for the first time, has helped me to love them too.

with love,
Laurie

What Works For One…

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction

I have three 6th grade/Level 1 classes and like most teachers, I’d like to think that I can have one basic plan for that level. I know better, but I don’t really KNOW better!! I’m trying to get to know not only individual students better, but also the makeup of each class better. It would really help me with my planning. :o)

All three classes need a lot of work with the basics. The first class was able to arrange itself in a circle without too much fuss and I led a series of questions/directed a conversation around several of the students.

There is a boy in the class. His name is ________. He is very, very famous in Spanish class. He has a lot of friends. One of them is also in Spanish class. His name is ___________. He is very, very intelligent. ___________is another student in class. He is very athletic. He likes football. Many students in the class like football. ____________ has a football jersey. Her favorite team is __________.

and then one of the kids ran to his backpack, pulled out a Seattle Seahawks jersey and put it on!! Great class. We are still pausing (often) so they can settle down, focus, stop talking, etc….but it was progress.

We transitioned into a conversation (with pictures) about Prince Royce. They understood, they were interested, and although we are still working on behaving like a class….I was pretty happy. We watched a 3 minute video about Prince Royce in English. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBHdga54kik) I could follow with a number of questions in Spanish using the “Super Seven” verbs. (Google Dr.Terry Waltz and Super 7…tons of great stuff!). They had some questions in English about Prince Royce that were interesting to hear. Questions about what he was wearing and how he wore his hair. I was able to use their emerging Spanish to talk about Prince Royce the person and Prince Royce the singer. (and to remind myself how important it is to FIT IN in middle school!)

Then we watched a clip from La Voz Kids where Prince Royce is a judge and a young man sings one of Prince Royce’s songs and talked about that using the same basic questions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buIs7yqT5jE)

I felt pretty good about how that went!

The next class? Ummm. Different story. They could not handle a change in the seating arrangement. When I tried to start the conversation about the class, we could barely get started. The social make up of this group is a study in middle school insecurity. Everyone is trying to be cool and the socially acceptable way to be cool is to make sure that everyone in the class knows that you are cooler than they are. Cliques, sarcasm, eye-rolling, snorts…you get the idea. Lovely individuals on their own. Toxic when together.

So…..back to the drawing board. In the middle of class. Ok…twenty minutes into a 90 minute block. Desks in rows. Take out a sheet of paper. I write a sentence about Prince Royce (on the computer, projected onto the screen). The students write the sentence in Spanish. I ask individual students comprehension questions. No one else is allowed to speak. On the outside I am neutral, calm, maybe even cold. On the inside I am frustrated and fired up!!!! This is BORING. SUPER, SUPER BORING.

But….the class itself was under control. The individuals in the class could each employ self-control. The language was comprehensible.

When we transitioned to the interview they couldn’t contain their reactions. After calming the storm of remarks, followed by the smiling stare of death for 45 seconds, I had to state in English that

a) Prince Royce is an actual human being and I wouldn’t let them mock him, or anyone else, in my presence.

b) Prince Royce is a professional. He has a job. He might be told what to wear and how to cut his hair, etc. etc. It is not our job to do either of those things.

And then we went back to the video. What color is his shirt? What color are his shoes? Do the shoes cost a lot of money? Do his fans like his shoes? Using the same, one student at a time, no one else is answering, and we write the answer on the screen and they write it in their notebooks scenario.

The same material. Completely different lessons.

The hard part? Not putting my own personal label on either one. I was totally miserable during the second lesson….but truthfully…it was probably the right lesson for that group. If I had tried to keep pushing 5th period’s lesson on 7th period, it would have gotten very, very ugly.

Tomorrow I meet with the third 6th grade class. It’s the most challenging one!!!! I’ll keep you posted. Right now I know the material, but I haven’t yet nailed down the lesson plan….

with love,
Laurie

Tricky Tuesdays

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement

On Monday I can actually get pretty fired up. I haven’t seen my students for a few days and I’m excited to get going with some new things for the week.

But Tuesdays….ah…that is an entirely different day. It’s the day to dig in and make some progress. Friday seems a mile away. The kids are starting to feel pressure from other teachers and other classes. We are all a little grumpy.

Today was an eye-opener. I gave a quiz to the Level 1 students and got a very clear look at what they can, and cannot do. Let’s just say we have our work cut out for us. It feels like a a lot of pressure….and I’m an adult with a lot of experience behind me.

No one left feeling upbeat. We refocused, got serious, cleared the decks, dug in and started over. It doesn’t feel good to start over 17 weeks in.

This is where I have to really get to know my students. The more we can work together, the more we will get done. I have to work to create situations where we can successfully trust each other. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. It’s always the little things that matter.

It’s too early to see many changes, but I’m trying to lay the groundwork by doing the following:

We are making a birthday calendar and talking about birthdays. We celebrate birthdays together.

We are talking about pets. Pets are a powerful magnet for interest and caring about pets a socially aceptable way to show emotion and affection.

I’m using the school’s character ed “points” to recognize kids who are patient and supportive as well as cooperative….in addition to those who are showing improvement. My opinion doesn’t matter enough to them yet to accept genuine compliments as rewards of any kind. They need a concrete reward. (Not my thing if you know me, but it is a school-wide program with noble goals so I can live with it!! 😉 )

We have about 10 classroom jobs…and those are helping us to feel more like a team. Little by little by little by little by little.

We’ve been able to be a little silly. Five-a-day in Spanish, Sr. Wooly, one silly story. Those too will add up.

In time…it’s only Tuesday.

with love,
Laurie

At The Beginning….Baby Steps

by lclarcq on December 1st, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Creating Stories, Encouragment, Engagement, Relationships, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

If you are just starting out with TPRS, and you feel as if you are not doing enough with your students fast enough….take heart….you have an enormous advantage!!!

WE HAVE TO START SLOWLY. I put TPRS+slow into Google just for fun and discovered HUNDREDS of pieces that address how important it is to start off slowly with students who are new to language and/or new to being in a TPRS classroom.

I am choosing only one skill/concept as a goal for my students per week. The only goal I am really focusing on this week is Listening Well. I have to be honest….it’s killing me to do it. I can think of DOZENS of things that I could add to class right now that would make it more interesting, but I know that if I want them to listen WELL, I’d better stick with that.

Now, I am sneaking in opportunities for next week’s goal which is RESPOND WELL. We all know that no skill really works in isolation. But I don’t expect to see any progress in anything other than the LISTENING WELL.

I’m trying to remember to:
Point out what it looks like. (See here for more info.)
Thank students when they do it. (individually or as a group)
Be patient when they get too excited about what we are doing to only listen.
Remind them that listening and talking should not be done simultaneously.
Wait, and wait, and wait, until they are listening.
Ask any student who responds to or asks a question to wait until their peers are quiet before they speak.

It is so hard to move in baby steps when there is so much ground to cover. But this kind of teaching is about the journey not the destination. I have to be where my students are, NOT try to get them to where I want to be. It’s the only way we will ever be together.

I realized today that part of my ‘inner stress” comes from thinking that I am not in control if I meet them where they are. My perspective was skewed. I cannot change where they are right this minute. I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN CONTROL OF THAT. I can only be in control of where I am and how I interact with them. If I chose to meet them where they are, we will be together and I can help them on the journey. If I stand at the finish line, impatiently waiting for them to show up, expecting them to arrive in a place they cannot get to on their own, I am choosing stress for all of us.

The dear and brilliant Brian Barabe told me once that TPRS is like yoga…and to use the mantra “You are where you are supposed to be.” I need to remember that more often.

with love,
Laurie

Skill #1: Listening Well

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Creating Stories, Encouragment, Musings

So today I bit the bullet and decided to try to start a story in every class. I told myself (and them) that it didn’t matter how far we got with the story. I said that we would just get started. I told them that it wasn’t easy, at first, to just starting creating stories together. I told them that we would deal with the story-building skills as we went along. (and said a little prayer….)

One of the things that I have told my classes is that I work very hard so that Spanish class will be interesting and that acquiring Spanish can “feel” easy. However, none of the work I do with make any difference if the students against me rather than with me. I need this group to work with me….and they aren’t there yet. (and they sometimes look at me like I’m from another planet for wanting that!)

Over the years, many teachers have crafted a list of “behavior rules” for their classes as a way to get classes to work together. I knew that I needed to outline something similar for my new students but inside I was cringing at the idea that students with between 7 and 9 years of schooling needed “behavior rules.” I mean, I know that kids don’t always “behave” but it isn’t because they don’t know, by now, what appropriate school behavior is!!

So I tried this week to put out the expectation that every day we would be using four sets of skills. The first one is Listening Well. I didn’t want to make it too complicated (as a teacher I love doing that lol) , so I left it at this:

Listening Well means paying attention to what is said and what it means. I figured that that could cover a lot of bases!

Listening Well is Skill #1 because nothing else in acquisition happens without it…especially for Novices. I can check in with my beginners by simply asking them what I said and what it means.

In reality, Listening Well is NOT an easy skill, for anyone, in any language. We can all improve at it. (I know that I can!!)

What Listening Well looks like needed to be clarified for them.

For instance, Listening Well doesn’t happen if you are speaking at the same time. :o)
Listening Well to the teacher doesn’t happen if you are listening to a classmate. :o)
Listening Well doesn’t happen if you have earbuds in your ears. :o)

(I’m also pretty sure that I’ll be clarifying and re-clarifying those points on a regular basis!)

It is why I needed them to be able to focus on me and be silent at my signal. ( For more on signals…Check out this post!)

The idea is, I told them, that if the class can hear me, they will know when and how to add interesting pieces to the story.

And for a while in every single class, they were able to demonstrate that skill!! For the 8th graders ‘a while” was between 15 and 20 minutes. For the 6th graders it was between 10 and 15 minutes!!

I made it clear that when the skill got too difficult, we would change activities…so once I had to refocus any class for the second story I paused the story-asking and told them how we would continue next. (See the post-script at the bottom!) And then we moved on to another activity. They didn’t want to end it (yay!) but I did. I wanted to pause each story before it fell apart (or I did!).

Next post: Skill #2: Responding Well.

FYI….I still did a LOT of waiting until they were quiet, staring at whisperers (with a smile of steel), and walking over and standing next to the easily distracted!! I was not as patient with one group as I would have wanted!!!! It’s a fine line between calling a student out on behavior and publicly embarrassing him/her. In Middle School it’s even more delicate…I’m learning and re-learning!

with love,
Laurie
PS. Our progress:

8th grade class A: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem, attempted to the solve the problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down one reason in English the character will not solve the problem and tell me before class. (i.e. doesn’t have $, asked the wrong person, etc.)

8th grade classes B and C: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down where (location) the character goes to solve the problem and why. Hand in before leaving.

6th grade classes: Identified a character and setting. Given a problem: The character needs ____________. Final Activity: Write down in Spanish two things the character might need.

Starting Over

by lclarcq on November 28th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Starting The Year

Hello from California!! I managed to be retired for all of six weeks before I moved cross country and sign on for a new job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was a good one!

For the past 30+ years I have worked in small districts in rural, upstate (seriously upstate) New York. For some of those years I taught grades K-8 but the majority of them were teaching high school students. My new job is teaching 6th-8th graders in a suburban, well-populated section of Northern California!

The students had another teacher for over 10 weeks and now we are all starting over.

I had met a few times with the sixth graders and today was our second real day together. They have been out of school for two weeks between Science Camp and Thanksgiving Vacation!!! So yes…we are really, really starting over.

The 8th graders and I got started the week before Thanksgiving. So today was day 6 for us.

I forgot how much there is to accomplish at the beginning…….

These students, all of them, are brand-new to me. Our very first accomplishment will be working together. Seriously. They are used to a different set up in class and mine requires a great deal of self-control…..or at least more than they have had to use. 🙂 I know they are capable. They know they are capable. Now…I have to get them to agree to do it.

The first day I worked with them (class sizes about 30), they were sitting with friends in groups of four. I tried to speak. I tried to get their attention. No one stopped talking. Not one student.

My pulse was racing, my face was flushed, my smile was frozen and my heart was pounding. I did not know the name of one single student. For the first time in nearly 30 years I also did not know their parents, their siblings, or even their other teachers.

I don’t know how long I stood in front of the room before I tried again. It was probably seconds…it felt like hours. I was being completely ignored.

So I tried again. I used a ‘signal’ that their former teacher had used. A few students noticed and responded half-heartedly…then kept right on talking. This was not going the way I had hoped!!!

Try number three….in a slightly louder, more authoritative voice. This time more than half of the class looked at me, shifted in their seats and mumbled a response. AND….made eye contact.

This was the most crucial moment for me. It happened in all three classes. I had to maintain eye contact with the 15 or so students spread across the room. With a smile on my face, I held my ground….for maybe 15 seconds. A small girl near me whispered to me, “I think it’s working!” I tried to just keep breathing!! One by one the rest of the group settled down and then turned around….finally realizing that something was happening. When everyone was quiet I smiled at stared at them while I (painfully!) counted to 5 in my head. Then I finally introduced myself. I think that was the most challenging 30 seconds of my teaching career.

I am dead serious.

I have no history at this school. No reputation precedes me. I felt completely naked and alone in front of those kids waiting for the silence, and for their attention. My head said…wait, wait, wait it out. My heart said…this isn’t going to work…they are going to ignore you forever.

I’d like to say that after that one encounter in each class, that I was able to establish order in a heartbeat with a look. Or at least using our signal.

Um, no. The 8th graders and I have found a direction in the week we have had together…but daily reminders, and those 30 second wait times, while not nearly so heart-pounding, still happen once during every class. The 6th graders? Well….we didn’t get much done today academically. There were maybe 10 “usable” minutes out of 35. i’m still learning names, getting them into a routine, helping them adjust to transitions and working to get them to function with a new seating system (where they all face forward and don’t sit with their friends.)

BUT…in one class 5 of those 10 usable minutes were truly beautiful. Students were asked if their vacation was “excelente” or ‘terrible” or somewhere in between. Only one girl said terrible. I asked her if the reason was a secret, she said no, she wanted to share. (Thankfully the class was quiet and listening….and this, of course, is why we needed it…) She shared in a whisper to me that her aunt had cancer. I told the class in Spanish. Then I asked, in Spanish, ‘Who has a friend, or someone in their family, with cancer?” Over half of the class raised their hands. Even though these kids had only a few weeks of Spanish, I could say to her…The class is with you. They are your friends. You are not alone.

I could tell the class that in 2013 I had cancer. And we learned the word hope.

She needed that. So did I. So did I.

with love,
Laurie

Who Are They Now?

by lclarcq on April 17th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days

The following was a response to a dialogue on Ben Slavic’s blog and several folks suggested that I share it here. The conversation centered around the challenges of teaching students towards the end of the year!

Hello all,

Part of the reason that April/May are tough is that the kids that we have now are not the same students that we have in August/September. They have different interests, different skills and sometimes different friends and even family.

This is a great time of year to acknowledge that! Get to know them all over again. Reconnect.

It is also a good time to “step up the game” and introduce new activities that are more in line with their level of acquisition and maturity.

There is no standard way to outline this because each school is so very different.

If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 7th graders I might start using topics like part-time summer jobs (babysitting, lawn mowing, etc.) that kids have in this area. I might start creating stories about 8th grade and all of the advantages they will have next year. I might start to introduce any kind of real person connection to the language that their squirrellier 7th grade selves might have dismissed.

If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 9th graders I would definitely start incorporating summer jobs, summer concerts, and summer clothes…..which would lead into a story about the dress code, which will soon be a big issue for our freshmen because it is a big deal at our school I would ask about what next year’s freshmen will need to know, and create a BB, or PP or letter for the incoming freshmen.

At any level, if you haven’t started an FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) time, this is a great time to do that….if you have the materials. In my level 3 and 4/5 classes they get 20 minutes 2-3x per week to choose their own activity: read novels, children’s books, cloze activities with lyrics to songs that we have done, write a story, take a practice quiz (similar to one section of the final and check with a key), read articles that I have ripped out of People in Spanish, or whatever else I can come up with. They start each 20 minutes with a grade of 100. Every time that I see that they are NOT engaged in the activity at hand, I subtract 10 points from their grade. Even my rowdiest can keep it together for 20 minutes IF they are choosing their own activity (and are not sitting near a friend!!) I play music quietly in the background and it is a nice, well-earned change of pace.

Music, music, music, music, music. It’s a great time to have a “dance-off” like my friend MB did using “Five A Day” in your language….if you don’t teach French/Spanish, just print off the expressions, and yell them out over the voice of the video. My Spanish kids actually prefer to do the French one. 🙂 If you don’t teach language at all…any 3-5 minute dance off would really wake up your students! (Would love to teach American history and use the Hamilton soundtrack!)

The skills that are most needed are the ones that you use in your class to complete transitions and to refocus. Reteach and practice those. Allow 3 minutes here and there for just heads down and silence. Life is crazy for us all this time of year.

Hang in there!!!

with love,
Laurie

Step by Step Prep….

by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Planning, Musings, Starting The Year

Originally posted as a response in a post on Ben Slavic’s blog and posted here by request:

About 10 years ago I stopped freaking out about arranging my room for the perfect look the first day of school. I did it for the following reasons:

1. I was too burnt out to do it.

2. I was tired of putting in work to “look good” to others.

3. I was tired of the competition that takes place every September over who has the nicest bulletin boards, doors, etc. People walk around pretending to compliment each other when they are really trying to outdo each other. Over a door. Nope. Not happening.

4. I didn’t want my students to think that little elves showed up overnight to do the work that teachers do every day. I wanted them to understand that these things take time and effort and do not just magically appear when they aren’t looking.

5. It was time to let the room creation be part of the community-building aspect of the room.

6. I wanted the room to evolve with the interests and needs of the students in it. I can’t do that before they show up.

I still resist the urge every year to go hog-wild-teacher-crazy on the room decorating. (yes…..I dreamed of teaching kindergarten and this hasn’t gone away…) I fight little voices of guilt when I haven’t hung matching curtains and placed color-coordinated authentic decorations just so.

But……I have found HOURS of peace in which I can do other, more fruitful , things with my time. There was a time when I thought that it couldn’t be done, nor should it be done….but now I enjoy putting out one or two carefully chosen items in order to start the year. And now I never get angry because someone misplaced / broke a treasured item or wrote I <3 Ramon on the corner of my bulletin board. As the weeks unfold, the students decorate the bulletin boards, the door etc. They coordinate all of the colored paper and markers and scissors in a system in the room from the box in the back where I packed them up in June. (and they get mad at the kids who don't put things back right) They point out when something needs to come down and something else needs to go up. They volunteer to create a birthday calendar and follow it closely so that no one gets missed. I've come to love it this way….and I think they do too. It's not that the color-coded, coordinated, poster-plastered walls and award-winning bulletin boards were a bad thing…..but I've found so much more to enjoy….and so much less pressure…in this approach. with love, Laurie