Friday, April 29, 2016

What My Classroom is All About

On most Fridays, I share a little weekly update about life, but this week I felt my heart moving to share words about other things. So today, I'm giving you a glimpse into my life as a teacher: about the things I love about my classroom. The things I emphasize, the things I teach my kids to value. The things that make it (in my opinion) a pretty darn fun place to spend our days...even if I don't have a window.


1. Laughter

One thing I love about teaching high school kids is that they get sarcasm, and they understand humor. Boy oh boy, is it a good thing...because what good is a day without humor? My gifted kids especially have some of the funniest, strangest senses of humor, but I love them even more for it. I've found that laughter breaks down walls. It builds camaraderie, strengthens connections, and opens up even the most timid of students. It relieves stress. I laugh at myself on a daily basis, and it makes me more real to the kids. Plus it makes room 408 a pretty fun place to spend our days. I teach the kids the importance of situationally appropriate laughter, and we laugh together when crazy things happen that unite us in a happy world of giggles and grins.


2. Relationships

I'm the most relational extrovert you ever did meet. Everything within me desires to know others and to be (appropriately) known by them. I'm seriously that girl who will strike up a conversation with someone in the elevator because I can't stand the awkward silence. (Sorry, introverted friends.) But in all seriousness, I think that building positive relationships with kids and being a stable, consistent adult who is there for them is one of my very favorite parts of teaching. I am also a coach and a YoungLife leader, so it just comes naturally to me to invest in the lives of kids both in and out of the classroom. To show them that they matter and that they are valued. To meet them where they are and to challenge them, while cheering them on the entire time. So I build this environment in my classroom. We talk in groups... a lot. We write and share, pair and share, and group work our way into forced interaction that spirals into some really beautiful friendships.


3. Creativity

If you've ever planned a unit with me, you've seen my teacher brain at work. I come up with all sorts of crazy ideas that start big and broad and eventually narrow into assignment sheets and priority standards. But what I love about this outlook on planning and curriculum is that it allows me to be less of a dictator who runs the show, and more of a facilitator who gets to come alongside kids on their learning journey. From veteran interviews and solutions to the problems they face when returning home from war, to trip advisor persuasive reviews, to TED Talks, socratic seminars, and more: my classroom is all about the process of learning. It's about brainstorming, ironing things out, letting creative juices flow, and then sharing the results with a whole bunch of people. And then celebrating our success, because aren't these all what life is about?


4. Communication

I mean, what good is an English classroom with some major communication? I tell kids every day that my class matters because they have to read, write, speak, and listen their way through the entire rest of their lives. And words matter. So does our delivery of them. How are these kids supposed to successfully work through conflict, ask for a promotion, or persuade a girl to marry them if they don't know how to communicate? And thus, we communicate. We share our ideas with others. I make them present in class (meanie, I know). And you know what? They realize they can do it. They shake in their boots, but they get through it. They defend their ideas. They become writers who know how to do more than just send a grammatically incorrect text, and that matters.


5. Authenticity

I saved one of my favorites for last. An authentic classroom is incredibly important to me for a variety of reasons. First of all, high school kids can see right through you if you aren't real with them. And if I'm expecting the kids to be real and to do real work, then they need to see that I'm real with them too. I don't always sugar coat things. I hold them accountable. I give tough love when needed. I also provide them with authentic audiences. I have them write and create for more than just me. I don't assign "busy work". I challenge them to enter contests, write letters to the editor, submit their work online. And I see how it changes their work.


I help them see that I'm a person too. I don't hide the picture of my husband and I on my desktop background (above). And I answer their ridiculous questions about sorority life, wedding colors, and finding true friends in college. But you know what? I think that my authenticity helps them to be real with me. They share their lives in personal narratives. They send me emails about what's really going on and they mail me graduation invites years later. And I feel a strange urge to both laugh and cry at the same time: because they were a pain in class and I constantly had to redirect them, but my heart will still always have a soft spot for them. And I love that they remember me and what they learned in my room.

So there you have it. My classroom is all about laughter, relationships, creativity, communication, and authenticity. And if you walked by on some days, it may not look all that glamorous. But every year as I say goodbye to another class of kiddos, I feel a strange sense of sadness that I'll miss seeing them, and joy that they all got along so well and made for such a great year. And then I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

Currently,

47 comments:

  1. It's great that your classroom is about so much more than just teaching kids what's in the books! You sound like a great teacher.

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  2. This needs all the heart eyes emojis. It's exactly what I hope my classroom is, what I try to make it everyday. There's also a good chance I'll be picking your English teacher brain a good bit next year!

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    1. We're in it together, teacher friend! I am happy to share with you! Should I just the email you send me stuff from? I've got a whole google drive with you name on it!

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  3. Your students are so lucky to have a teacher like you. One of my close friends has similar way of running her classroom. Her kids love her for it!

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  4. You sound like the best teacher! I'm sure your students love you.

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  5. I never realized how much heart goes into being a great teacher. I started working at a school 3 years ago in the office. While my interaction with the kids is minimal they do tend to chip away at your cold heart in a way they only know how. My day has often been made when one of my special friends has managed to make eye contact with me or after three years of being here actually remembered my name. For them it is a HUGE milestone. It brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for being an amazing teacher!

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    1. Yes, it is so much more than you'd assume! I agree- they totally chip away at our heart! Love your heart for kids. Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

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  6. Your classroom sounds awesome! It is so important for kids to connect to someone, and if it can be a teacher that is even better! Those high school kids need that! Keep up the good work and have a great rest of the school year!

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    1. Thanks so much!! They need it for sure!

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  7. Kelsie, I can tell what a wonderful teacher you are and can completely relate to this post. With each new point, I was saying yes yes yes!! When people hear I teach high school, they're always like, ohhhh that must be rough, but I love high schoolers the most. I love that we're at the end of the year, tying things from a Virginia Woolf novel all the way back to our Old English unit and feminism. It's fun to make those connections and be creative with your planning, and it's wonderful to see you putting so much thought into your units.

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    1. Thank you, Lindsay! I love them the most too :) We should teacher chat sometime :) Cheers to you, teacher friend!

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  8. Sounds like a great classroom! I use to teach and I can't wait to get back into it someday.

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  9. I love these! My mom is a teacher and she works so hard to have authentic relationships with her students and their parents as well.

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    1. Thanks, Lauren Jane! I bet she is awesome!!

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  10. Your classroom sounds wonderful! The kids are lucky to have you as their teacher!

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  11. this is such a sweet post! i love that you were able to have a great conversation with your shortstop

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! It was a totally awesome, unexpected moment!

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  12. I think this is such a lovely post. I think your students are lucky to have you as your teacher. My son always says, there are teachers who you can see love their job and teachers who should get a different job (he's 14). I know he'd think you go in the first category.

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    1. Thank you, Wendy! I so appreciate your words :)

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  13. This is perfectly written, Kelsie! I'm a teacher turned SAHM for now but I can definitely relate! You are a wonderful teacher and your impact goes way beyond your classroom!

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    1. Thank you so much, Erin! So glad you can relate!

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  14. Such a sweet post! I love your #1-laughter truly is the best medicine! :)

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  15. Aww, I absolutely loved reading this! I'm a private educator, and teach preschoolers, and it's so much fun, although the content and conversations are a whole different ball game from teaching high schoolers! :P

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    1. Awesome! Cheers to you, teacher friend :)

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  16. Thanks so much for sharing your story Kelsie! It's nice to get a teachers perspective. It's crazy because a couple of days ago I was having a discussion with my dad about one of my teachers in high school who I had problems with. It was more because of my problem with Dyscalculia than anything else. I remember the first time I started having problems with math was all the way back in the first grade. I had a hard time understanding numbers and patterns and I tried to explain to my parents and teachers that I didn't understand it but they mistakenly assumed that I just wasn't doing the homework. Every year when I would have a new math class, I would get so much anxiety that I would dread it so much. By the time I got to high school, I was way behind and ended up failing my algebra class and having to go to summer school and I barely passed even that! In that second year of high school, I had geometry and this was the class where I ran into problems with the teacher. She just assumed that I was being lazy and not doing the work but I kept telling her I didn't understand it. Well, words were exchanged and I said something I shouldn't have out of frustration from the many years of not having help and she said some things she shouldn't have and it was this whole ordeal. Getting back to what I said earlier about me and my dad talking about my problem with that teacher, he just remarked that he wished he, the teacher and the school did more to try to help me because I still struggle with even basic math. I think it's great that you take such an interest in helping your students because that can make a whole world of difference to someone who is struggling! :)

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    1. Wow! Thanks for sharing YOUR story :) I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I think it can definitely make a huge difference to a student if a teacher is willing to help lead them!

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  17. haha! My husband says I'm the girl on the airplane everyone avoids because I strike up conversation :) Love this!

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    1. We should be friends :) I try not to be overwhelming or annoying though ha. Just the right amount of engaging and friendly! Thanks for reading!

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  18. I love love love that you're authentic in your relationships with your students. Also, I feel like we should be friends because you're an English teacher, I majored in English in college, and I want to teach eventually (one day) when I'm not admissioning students into college.

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    1. Thanks, Nina! We should totally be friends! Shoot me an email :)

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  19. Love this :) I love your comment about laughter, it really can bring people together and it is the best stress reliever and way to have fun in life.

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    1. I agree! We've got to have fun! Life's too short not to.

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  20. This is such a beautiful post. Your students are so lucky to have you. :) I can totally relate to being more of a facilitator type of educator. I think that method is one of the best ways to teach and it's not because that is my preferred method. :)

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    1. Thank you SO much! I agree! I think the kids appreciate it too!

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  21. Kelsie,you are a perfect example of why my husband and I deliberately chose to send our girls to public schools. We made that choice before we even had children and have never once regretted it...in part because our girls and our family have been blessed with gifted, skilled, trained, talented professional educators who do what we cannot. Thank you for sharing this sweet view of your home-away-from-home! Stopping by from your very own party! ;)

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    1. Oh, Elizabeth- that truly means SO much. I have a hard times sometimes as I hear people slam public schools. While there are definitely challenges in public schools, I think people don't always understand just how great they can be, and how many awesome people work at them. My co-workers are so great! Thanks so much for stopping by and for linking up!!

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  22. I think today is Teacher's Day. I nominate YOU to be teacher of the century. YOU ROCK, Kelsie. Your neighbor #68 at Holly's today.

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    1. Oh Susan, you made my whole day! Thanks so much!!

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  23. Kelsie...can I just...have YOU as my English teacher?! I already know that you are an amazing person - but this! WOW!!! As a high school student, I can assure you that you are SO on target with everything you said. Let me just say - we need way more teachers like you! Makes me wanna transfer to Liberty just to be in your class. Heehee ;) But for real. You are awesome, and are changing more students than you know. Don't ever stop!

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    1. I would LOVE having you in class, sweet girl! Thanks so so much for your kind words. Transfer to L-Town for sure!! Thanks for the encouragement :)

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  24. I love being a teacher. It is so much fun to be creative, authentic, and have laughter all around.

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