This holiday season, my daughter was finally old enough to get involved with our holiday traditions. While, at two, she still has time for to wait for some traditions, she understood kind of what Santa was when we went for pictures (still a no go on a happy solo picture), loved mixing cookie dough with me and “cutting” our cookies that were all happy faces according to her, decorating the tree by choosing the best spot for a particular ornament, “singing” in her first holiday concert and picking out a tag for the gifts to send to cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. All of it well-documented with photos and posts and calls to family.
These were the memories that swirled in my mind as I sat down in my union office on my first day of Winter Break to take a training on culturally responsive teaching offered by WEA trained Clover Park teachers. In our first session, we talked a lot about building community within the classroom and inviting your students into the common space. The importance that for our students, they have to feel like they are part of our community and welcome in that space in order to learn at their fullest capacity. The two concepts, making memories and building community, crashed into each other as we wrapped up our three-hour session and out sprung what I will come to call my new motto:
What memories will you make with your students inside your classroom, building and beyond?
Think about what your classroom would look like if that was your driving focus throughout the school year. When you sit down to reflect, which I hope you do often, ask yourself
What memories did we make today?
What memories did we make last month?
What memories will we make next?
By framing the discussion in terms of “memories”, it allows our mind to welcome in the feeling of community and family. The feeling that is vital to the work we do with our students. Lesson plans and learning targets can be fleeting, but memories last forever. How will today make a good memory for my students that endures long enough to be talked about at the 30-year class reunion, over drinks with old classmates or dinner with your family in the years to come? The year after I completed my National Boards, I was chatting with former students who were reminded that we videotaped them having a discussion. They asked to see the video. I can still remember their reaction to seeing their younger self, at this point only by a year, talking on the camera about the story and giving each other kudos over their “performance”.
After you finish making memories with your families over this holiday and get your vital rest and relaxation time in Winter Break, consider the following. Take out your next unit plan and reflect on where you can build in memories. Choose one lesson or two to revamp. Choose one lesson to document like it was the first time you were making cookies with your daughter. Choose to take a break amidst the lessons to pause and build community with your students. Consider how you can hook your students into knowing that within these classroom walls, we build memories.
This is the challenge that I am issuing myself to figure out how to make memories for our school within my library learning space!
One simple thing that I can think of to help me remember that I’m building memories with students is to remember the camera. Seriously, I document everything with my daughter (How else will we remember her Justin Bieber hair?) But, how often, did I pull my camera out to document time with my students. I snapped white board pictures or student projects sometimes. Our yearbook students could probably school us all on how to better capture our classroom memories. I may have been reluctant due to privacy posting of student images. But, picture posting doesn’t have to be external, they can exist just for you and your students. The next time someone brilliantly extends an olive branch during a discussion: snap a picture, hang it on your wall or in your class photo album, and tag its brilliance. Don’t go all paparazzi on your class like a first kid parent. But, capture the memories!
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