Friday, June 6, 2014
Signing In to the Next Chapter
Yesterday was the last day of school for my sixth grade students. They are now, officially, considered seventh graders. While I will miss them, I am very proud of them and know they are ready for the next grade level. I look forward to watching them learn and grow over the next two years in middle school.
There is a time-honored tradition in my classroom that the students look forward to at the end of the year. It's something I came up with my first year of teaching, and I have followed through with it every year. It means as much to me as it does to my students.
I have two big boards in my classroom. One is a whiteboard at the front of the room and one is a chalkboard on the side of the room. I don't allow students to write on my boards in the classroom unless we're doing work. No one writes on my boards "(insert name) was here!" or "Luv u!" between class periods, before/after school, or during any clubs in my classroom.
Did I say no one?
Well, that isn't true. Seventh and eighth grade students are allowed to come in anytime (when class isn't in session, of course) and write on either of my boards, anywhere they like and write anything they like. Sometimes, they even draw pictures. They enjoy their 'honored status' in my classroom. I enjoy giving them that honor, as well.
Does this sound like I'm being cruel or unfair to my sixth grade students? I assure you I'm not, though it sometimes feels that way to them in the beginning. I'm actually teaching them something. I'm teaching them how to enjoy anticipation and how to truly enjoy earning their own rewards. I'm also teaching them patience and respect and honor. And, believe it or not, I'm also teaching them what it feels like to be cherished.
You see, these students have watched my former students visit my classroom from time to time and sign my boards. They see the messages they leave, and they look up to the older students. Now and then, when given the chance, the older students pass on good advice to younger ones. My former students set a good example for my present students. By the time my sixth graders are ready to sign my boards at the end of the year, we know each other very well. They have come to understand the importance of earning rewards, respect, and honor. And they certainly know how much I love and cherish them.
Do you think I'm overstating the power of this very small, daily lesson that extends over the whole school year? If so, then allow me to share with you what I experienced yesterday, and what I experience every year on "sign in" days...
The last two days of school are exam days. Only after students have completed their final exam in my classroom do I consider them seventh graders. Once everyone is done testing, I congratulate them on their accomplishments and hand them a chalk or a marker to "sign in as a seventh grader" on my boards. They get so excited and their faces beam! They know they've earned it, know it's time to move forward, and know I now expect them to be the examples that lead my next class of sixth graders.
It's a very big deal to my students.
Most of my students take this opportunity to leave me one last message, a few just want to sign their names. All of them want to know how long it will stay there. I tell them the boards will be cleaned at the end of the week for the summer, but that I always photograph everything they've written with the camera on my phone, to have it with me wherever I go, and with my 'nice' digital camera to keep on my computer.
You see, it's a very big deal to me, too,...because my students are a VERY big deal! :)