Even though we are halfway through the school year, the start of 2017 is the perfect opportunity for a fresh perspective on my classroom. Just like I did with my home over break, I plan to reorganize my room and purge any resources that I no longer need. If I haven’t used it yet at this point in the year, chances are I don’t actually need it and it should go. Of course, I don’t want to throw out anything that could be useful to someone else, so I will give them away to a teacher, tutor, or student that will put them to good use. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A freshly cleaned classroom is a terrific landscape for exciting new projects.
By January, the routines and activities that we have in place can become dull and redundant to students, so this is a prime time to shake things up and try something different. I have always been interested in the idea of passion projects, and while I worry that third graders might be too young for it, I also remind myself to never underestimate the power of my students. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way I envision, I’ll never know what can be improved if I don’t try it, and there will be many lessons for all of us to learn as we go through the initiatory process. I will start by helping the kids identify problems they are affected by and brainstorming ways to solve them. No limits either, because I want them to aim high and see where it takes us. I plan to integrate technology, encourage kids to blog about their challenges and successes, and incorporate other pieces of our curriculum to model a project-based learning environment, which has been a goal of mine for a long time.
Setting new goals is another traditional part of the New Year, and that shouldn’t be limited to our personal lives, so I have been thinking about professional goals that I would like to reach in 2017. Since teacher leadership is a personal passion of mine, my list of things to do includes submitting applications for the plethora of opportunities that now exist. Most run on a calendar year so the deadlines are usually sometime in January. And, I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with summer professional development opportunities, too! I would be remiss if I didn’t plug the U.S. Department of Education’s School Ambassador Fellowship which is now open for applications until January 23rd. This Fellowship has stretched my thinking and taught me so much about policy and the importance of teacher voice, so I encourage you all to apply for a life changing experience!
While some may humbug New Year resolutions, I believe that it is always a good idea to reflect and improve, especially when it comes to how we engage with our students. I encourage you to take a few minutes and set some small goals for your classroom, too! Happy New Year!
Melody Arabo teaches third grade at Keith Elementary School in West Bloomfield, MI and is a 2016-2017 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship.