Why My Students Love School

There are many ways to measure our success as teachers. In public schools today, some argue teachers should be measured by the test scores of their students. Others look at the “A-F Grades” assigned by our state to individual schools to measure success. Still others look at things like ACT scores and college acceptance rates. While all these measures might provide some insight into what is happening inside classrooms, I think the answer to a simple question might provide the most important clue. What do students say when we ask them, “Do you love school?”

My students love our school and our classroom, and while I have not conducted a formal academic study of this, I have my own ways of knowing this as well as explaining why it’s true.

 

My students would rather be at school than at home. Home changes frequently for my students. Sometimes it’s a shelter, sometimes it’s a motel room. Sometimes it’s a couch or bed at a friend’s house, and sometimes it’s a car. Our school provides stability and predictability for students. Our school is safe and it’s clean. Our schedules are predictable. Students know when they are going to eat, and that they are going to be able to eat good food. All of these things matter tremendously, and are a big part of the reasons my students love our school. At home, we want everything to be perfect especially in our bedroom. That’s why I want to recommend LAFurniture, they offer different kind of Modern Bedroom – Modern Contemporary Bedroom Set, Italian Platform Bed, Queen Bed, Lacquer Bed.

Students love learning in my classroom for other reasons beyond these, however. They know they have regular opportunities to have control over their own learning. Students generally have opportunities to choose how and where they want to learn. We “ditched our desks” this year, and have a variety of different learning centers around our classroom. Students can choose to learn with iPads, on computers, sitting on stools at a low table, sitting at a kitchen table, sitting on the floor on carpet squares, or in our reading nook. (The reading nook is a designed “no technology zone,” btw, not for punitive reasons, but because they are encouraged to explore the variety of fiction and non-fiction printed books we have in our classroom.) They also can choose a traditional student desk, since  we still have three of them in the room. Most of the time, however, students choose other spaces to learn.

Thanks to our morning meetings and the intentional relationship building in which we’re constantly engaged, my students feel safe sharing intimate aspects of their lives with me and with other students in our class. They share these things with the knowledge they will not be ridiculed or judged for them, because other students live in similar circumstances and because our classroom culture is open, accepting, kind, and loving. This is absolutely vital, and is something I work hard to cultivate and develop all year long. As children move in and out of our classroom, because of their mobile and unpredictable lives, this is a continuing challenge as we add new members to our classroom community.

Students love our classroom and our school because they have opportunities to play. Many of my students have never had opportunities to play and to learn like we have in our class. Again because of their mobile lives, many of them do not have spaces to store or keep toys at home. They frequently move, and sometimes have little more than the clothes they wear to school.  The importance of clothes has been driven home particularly strongly for me this year, because of one of the families we’ve had, and conversations I’ve had with both the parent and the students. Our school provides clothing for our students, and this is so important.

My students love playing with educational toys and tools they haven’t been exposed to or had a chance to use before at home or school. We have science and engineering tools in our class. We have “Maker Time” when students build and create, sometimes with recycled materials like cardboard, sometimes with commercial products. These include Dash and Dots, Little Bits, Legos, and other construction tools. We can learn so much when we play, and my students love these opportunities which our classroom and school provides regularly.

My students love our school and classroom because they are able to learn at their individual levels of developmental readiness. I don’t force my students to sit through lessons or work on assignments which are beyond their abilities. So many of my students come to school “behind” their peers in their grade level. At our school, we don’t force students to feel “stupid” because they are not at the same level as their peers. We use a variety of diagnostic and  adaptive tools to measure student learning levels. These include Lexia Core 5, Dreambox, and the WRAT test. We are continuing to seek more tools like these, which allow us as teachers to truly differentiate learning for our students. While students wouldn’t describe their experiences with all these fancy educational words, they would be able to explain it to you. They are challenged and supported in their learning, and are not “made to feel stupid” by their teacher or their curriculum.

Because of organizations like Oklahoma A+ Schools, of which our school is a part, integrating music, art, and drama is an important part of classroom learning for my students every week. Students are encouraged to express themselves and learn in a variety of ways. This allows my students to not only pursue their interests, but also further explore and develop their unique gifts and talents within our classroom.

 

Students love learning in my classroom because “doing your best” is really important, and it’s something we expect. It’s OK to learn at your level. If students miss something, they are able to go back and try again. Our assessments are performance-based. We don’t assign typical and traditional grades and tests, which sometimes make students feel pressured, stressed, inadequate, and even like failures.

I love my school and our classroom, and I know my students do too. That’s something in which I take a great deal of pride. If we can help our students feel safe at school and love learning, we have succeeded. I’m very thankful that my school and those who support us make these kinds of classroom learning experiences possible every day.

Room108 Podcast 22: Meet Our PT Staff

Students interview the Positive Tomorrows staff, and ask the question, “What are you grateful for?” Inspired by the Storycorps project. This is the twenty-first episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. This podcast episode on Opinion
  2. The Storycorps Project
  3. VIDEO: Great Thanksgiving Listen from StoryCorps & Google
  4. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  5. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  6. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  7. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer
Mr Max’s Promotion by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

 

Room108 Podcast 21: Things We Are Grateful For

Our character word for this week has been Gratitude. We have spent time being thankful for the good things in our lives. In this podcast students talked about thinks they are grateful for. We also created a paper slide video, using the song “Grateful” by emptyhandsmusic. This is the twenty-first episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. This podcast episode on Opinion
  2. Mrs. Fryer’s Class Is Grateful For It All (a “paper slide” quick edit video)
  3. Song “Grateful” by emptyhandsmusic
  4. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  5. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  6. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  7. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer
Star Wars Visit by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

Good News, Bad News at Opening Meeting

One of the best things we have built into our daily morning meeting schedule this year is “Good News, Bad News.”  Morning Meeting is run by our student of the week. The meeting is divided into different sections. After saying our school creed, we have “Good News, Bad News.” This is an opportunity for students to share something about what is going on in their lives. For students living in deep poverty, as my students do, it can often be a very emotional and “heavy” time of sharing. It can be an eye opening window into the lives my students live on a daily basis. In the course of this year, I have dealt with the violence of a mother being stabbed, a father being shot during a robbery, and a student who witnessed his dog being killed by another dog, On the positive side, we have learned about the joys of families finding stable/permanent housing, birthday celebrations, moms graduating from the “Bridge to Life” program, moms getting their GEDs, and children being reunited with their parents after incarceration.

I have found that the open conversations which result from “Good News, Bad News,” have helped some children realize and understand “they are not not alone” in their life experiences, and that they can be open and honest with their feelings. This allows for us to talk about how our school is a safe place, both physically and emotionally, for them to share their lives with others. These discussions help students learn and practice active listening, as well as develop empathy for others. This is tremendously important. While this is not something on a standardized test or a graph of academic skills, these conversations are helping my students develop many of the most important attitudes and abilities which they can take with them on their journey through life.

Exploring the Great Outdoors in Oklahoma

Some of my favorite field trips for my students have involved being outdoors and introducing them to learning in nature. A few weeks ago we went to the Lake Arcadia Education Conservation Area, and had an opportunity to teach our kids how to fish. This was the first time some of my students had ever been fishing. One student’s mother told me this had been her son’s lifelong dream: To go fishing. He didn’t end up catching a fish that day, but his brother did.

Fishing Trip by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

Our “character word” for that week had been patience. Fishing proved to be a great activity to discuss patience and to practice patience, having to wait for exciting things! We learned about digital photography during the field trip thanks to a grant through the Udall Foundation “Parks in Focus” program, and students each had opportunities to take their own photos.

OKC Good put together a wonderful, four minute video about our field trip and our school. Check it out!

I posted 13 photos from our field trip to a new Flickr album. I love outdoor education! I wish all students at every school had opportunities to learn and just experience nature the way our students can at Positive Tomorrows.

Fishing Trip by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

One of the best things about outdoor field trips like this is that students can repeat similar experiences with their families for little or no cost. Of course transportation is always an issue, but unlike activities which require an admission fee, enjoying our local parks and natural areas are affordable outings for everyone.

Fishing Trip by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

Room108 Podcast 20: We’re Studying Spiders!

Today we started studying about spiders! Students discovered some really fun facts. Give a listen to our podcast and you can learn with us. Also check out the storyboard about spiders I created with PBS Learning Media videos and resources. This is the twentieth episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. My PBS Learning Media Storyboard on Spiders
  2. This podcast episode on Opinion
  3. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  4. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  5. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  6. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer

Room108 Podcast 19: Skating with the Oklahoma City Blazers

Positive Tomorrows students celebrate the end of our first quarter skating with the Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey Team at Arctic Edge in Edmond, Oklahoma. This is the nineteenth episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. This podcast episode on Opinion
  2. Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey Team
  3. Arctic Edge Ice Rink in Edmond, Oklahoma
  4. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  5. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  6. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  7. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer
Ice Skating by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

Room108 Podcast 18: Questions we have about ocean life

Our class is studying coral reefs and my students have some questions about ocean life and would like to reach out to experts for answers. This is the eighteenth episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. This podcast episode on Opinion
  2. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  3. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  4. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  5. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer

Room108 Podcast 17: What did you blog about today?

Today we posted our first blog posts! We are excited to get your comments. Visit our webpage and read today’s posts. This is the seventeenth episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. Our Class Blog on WriteAbout.com
  2. This podcast episode on Opinion
  3. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  4. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  5. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  6. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer
Fishing Trip by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

Room108 Podcast 16: How did you show honesty or integrity today?

Our character words for this week are honesty and integrity. In this episode of our classroom radio show, students talk about how they have recently shown honesty and integrity . This is the sixteenth episode of our classroom podcast, created using the free Opinion app on my iPhone.  I teach third and fourth grade students at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City.

Open/Subscribe in your podcast app

Shownotes:

  1. This podcast episode on Opinion
  2. Our radio show homepage on Opinion
  3. Our Classroom Website (on Google Sites)
  4. Our Classroom YouTube Channel
  5. Follow me on Twitter:  @sfryer
First Week by shellyfryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  shellyfryer 

I'm passionate about helping kids love learning