In the beginning…

I’m trying this March Slice of Life Challenge again.  Oddly, I’m more apprehensive about it this year than last.  Maybe last year I was naive. This year I know how spent I was by the end of last March.  I think part of my nervousness is that I know how hard it has been for me to even achieve the once-a-week challenge recently.  Well, it hasn’t just been hard. The truth is, I’ve failed. I’ve made something like eight blog entries since the beginning of the year…the school year.   

But I’m determined to get back into a routine, and perhaps the month-long challenge will be like the defibrillator, the big jolt to get me back into writing mode.

Clear!

I’m sitting with my class.  I’m toward one end of an oval next to the easel (we don’t fit in a circle in my room this year, so several students have insisted that I not say “Circle up,” but instead say “Oval up”).  We’re trying to write our class charter. It’s September, and I don’t know the students well. Part of me wonders whether when I ask, “How do you want to feel in class this year?” my fifth graders will roll their eyes or give the aggressively audible yawn.  I don’t enjoy those responses, but I know that the same question asked a few decades ago (scores ago?) might have drawn that response from me. Equally frustrating might be the bland responses.

“How do you want to feel in class this year?”

“Good.”

“Mmm hmm, can you elaborate a little?”

“Nice.”

In short, as I open my mouth to begin the discussion, I am prepared for the worst.  I know this is not a healthy posture for a teacher. I know I should always expect wisdom, creativity, or originality, but this is me.  I default to what I dread. Still, I ask the question.

“How would you like to feel in class this year?”

“Respected,” one student offers.

“Appreciated,” another adds.

“Worthy,” a third suggests.

“Included.”

“Safe.”

“Valued.”

Later, when we’ve accumulated  an impressive list of at least 20 words that are way better than the “good” or “nice,” that I had feared, I ask a harder question. “If we had to narrow this list down to five words, which of these do you think need to be on our list?” And the fun begins. Again, I have a fear that the kids will just insist on their own words, maybe pouting or sulking if their words don’t make the cut.  Wrong again, oh fearful one.

“I think respected and appreciated are kind of the same.  If you appreciate someone, then you must respect them.”

“Yeah,” another student counters, “that’s true, but just because you respect someone, that doesn’t mean you actually appreciate them. I think they’re different.”

Later still, a student adds, “I don’t really agree with having ‘successful’ as one of our words.  I mean, we can’t always be successful. Look at that sign.” He points to a quote I have on my wall and reads it.  “ ‘I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work.’ See, a lot of times we won’t be successful, but that doesn’t mean we’re failing.  I don’t think we need to feel successful all the time in this class.”

So, one pleasant thing about expecting the worst is that sometimes out of the gloom comes the wonder.  I realized at that moment that this charter might take a while, but that the conversation would make it worthwhile.  

My anti-success student didn’t win his argument in September, but in December, when we revisited our words to revise them, he “succeeded” in convincing the class to replace “successful” with “accomplished.”  “Sometimes,” he said, you can lose a game in the finals, but you still feel ‘accomplished.’” The class concurred. In the beginning was the word…but then we revised.

Charter

14 thoughts on “In the beginning…

  1. “I realized at that moment that this charter might take a while, but that the conversation would make it worthwhile.” This line embodies that ur it’s all about the process, the journey! Love that you embraced that with your class! Great glimpse into a classroom that I don’t get into! Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What thoughtful and reflective students! I. too, was more nervous the second year. In two weeks, this challenge will feel like the dumbest and most difficult thing ever. In four you will feel accomplished!

    Like

  3. I love this story–and you’ve got a fantastic final line. So much great thinking that your students are doing here. I have also struggles to slice regularly on Tuesdays, but for some reason, I find it easier to slice every day in March. The community helps and just the dailiness of it. We’ll make it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. He’s back!!! I enjoyed this glimpse into the making of a charter. I enjoyed the thoughtful debate, that you captured so well. This makes it feel like the kids really owned this process, the first step towards building their community- their hive.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am feeling the same way about doing the challenge this year. I love hearing about how you build your contract with your students–I do something similar, but I like your spin. I think I’m going to do some revising for next year. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. welcome back! Your fans in the stands are here to support you. You have great insight and I can’t wait to read all about it. I LOVE this part, sometimes out of the gloom comes the wonder. Isn’t it the truth?!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How easily many of us can relate to that feeling of necessarily diving into something in class with quasi-skeptical children, half-dreading it and fully knowing it needs to be done. You’ve captured this moment so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a wonderful post! I’ve been quite nervous about participating in the challenge this year as well, and it’s my fifth year! I love how you segued from that intro into your small moment. So clever! I also appreciate the beautifully structured view into your classroom and into your thoughts and concerns. And what an ending! Fabulous slice!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I hope your doubts about the March SOLC will have the same outcome as the one you’ve described in your post. I think you might even feel accomplished (if not all out successful) on March 31. We should really have a celebration event!

    Liked by 1 person

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