Friday, July 4, 2008

Putting It All Together....

So, we've got 1) looking for the positive in each kid and 2) owning responsibility for the classroom climate and weather. Doesn't that cover it all?

It's a good beginning....

One of the things I wished I'd given more thought to in my early days of teaching is my philosophy about kids. I spent a lot of time on lesson plans, classroom activities, newsletters home to parents (pre-email days!), record-keeping and collecting tzedakah.

I spent almost no time thinking about kids: how I felt about them, what I expected from them, how to build relationships with them, what kind of a community I wanted my classroom to be. In those days, I thought that all I was responsible for teaching was content.

Boy, was I wrong!

Content is an important part of Judaic education, to be sure. But it's not the be-all and the end-all. To quote Abraham Joshua Heschel: “We have to have more than textbooks, we need text-people.”

What I do now, when I begin a class, is deliberately remind myself how I think about kids. Here's what I've finally come up with, after all these years:
  • I like kids
  • I expect kids will be kids, not little grown ups
  • I don't think kids get up in the morning and think, "Oh, boy, I get to see Morah Mary today. I wonder how many ways I can push her buttons?"
  • I think kids learn different ways.
  • I think kids show you what they've learned in different ways.
  • I think kids want the grownups in their lives to like them.
  • I think kids want, need and deserve respect.
  • I think kids want to be heard.
  • I think (often) that kids have as much to teach me as I have to teach them...and sometimes more!

What other core beliefs do I have regarding kids?

  • To quote Rick Lavoie, "A kid would rather look bad than dumb."
  • There's no wrong answer when I ask, "What do you think?"
  • Sometimes the answer I get that I'm not expecting is much more insightful than the answer I thought I should get.
  • A kid might not remember what I taught, but s/he will remember how they felt in my class.
  • I need to remember at all times that I'm the grownup in the room -- and need to model "grownup behavior."

And, ultimately: a classroom needs to be a safe place for everyone - students, madrichim /aides, and teachers.

I've decided I want to be one of Heschel's text people.

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