The first weeks of school seem “easy” to some teachers. In their rooms, students seem to follow the rules and do what is expected. It is sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon” period, when everything is sweet and wonderful.
I don’t usually experience that, and maybe many language teachers do not. Our expectations are different than the expectations of other teachers. Our rooms are set up differently than the rooms of other teachers. Our relationships with students are often different than those of other teachers. For those reasons, it is extremely important to set the boundaries. What are the parameters of behavior? What is acceptable? What isn’t?
Because I teach using TPRS® (thank you Bryce Hedstrom for this!) my students are going to be in a highly-participatory, interactive classroom. This is new for many of them and it takes some time for us to work it out!! So for me, the first few weeks are very, very important and my brain is highly alert for ways to time, orchestrate and/or take advantage of the first and best opportunities to share HOW this class will work. Once we get things rolling, then I relax a little bit!
For the last decade or so, I have started students with the following statement (or something very similar!_:
The purpose of communication is to put a picture into the mind, and/or heart, of another person.
It is not a quote; it’s one of my belief statements….in the classroom and in life. I use it to “anchor” the classroom.
What do I mean by “anchor”?
Well, teaching can sometimes feel as if you are out on the high seas in the middle of a hurricane. It’s hard, with all that is going on and all that is required, to keep upright and to keep going in the right direction. Sometimes you need an anchor to keep you from blasting off in the wrong direction without meaning to.
So I use all or parts of this statement to come back to over and over again.
It is an introduction to the concept of visualization. I want students to visualize what they hear and read.
It is a reminder that clarity is important. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
It is a reminder that words have power. We should use them wisely.
It is commitment to not only communicate with the minds, but also the hearts, of everyone in the class.
But most of all, it gives me the starting point for checking for understanding? Is the meaning (the picture) clear?
I ask students to create a poster (8″x10″ minimum) with that statement. They keep them in the front of their folders and I post copies of many of them around the room. As always….students blow me away with their work!! (Check out samples from some of this year’s 6th graders above and below!)