Learning to just BE

This year I moved up to teaching fifth grade after a seven year run in second.  I'd taught fifth before, but earlier in my career when I knew absolutely nothing when it came to teaching and I was horrible at classroom management.  I did not have good feelings about my abilities when it came to fifth grade.

Turns out, my time with the littles was good for me, and I'm doing fine with the management piece. I actually have found myself laughing a lot, and having deeper conversations than I am used to at school.  Not that I don't miss my deuces- there was something all together healing for my soul to be with seven year olds.  However, it turns out that dealing with the double digits ain't half bad.

I still have some reservations after 8 days back in upper elementary- but they are mostly about standardized testing, and not to the kids.  I was concerned at first about the level of girl drama that would be present.  The peer pressure culture.  The, I'm thinking this way because I want that other person to like me, sort of issues.  I've lucked out this year, I believe, in that half of my class is made up of kids I taught in second grade three years ago- and they already know "Momma Meek don't play".  The others have willingly joined the herd on the path to good behavior.

My group was apparently involved in some highly dramatic pitfalls in their fourth grade year, and are hopeful for a fresh start in their fifth year free of that sort of turbulence.  And I'm going to milk that for all it's worth while I can.

I have had some trepidation over my teaching style and preferences as well- and how they would fit with an older group. Over the summer I was getting a bit panicky about the arts and crafts.  The Meek Moose loves her some arts and crafts!  I especially love self portraits, like these projects I collect on my pinterest art boards:

Click here to go to my Self-Portraits Board on Pinterest to see these and many more projects!

And then one day on Facebook I ran across this Kindergarten project and I started to feel really really bad about going to fifth grade.  Jealous of primary years art.  That's what I was. Sad, really. "I want to make name art!"  I'm pretty sure I lamented this loudly enough for my eleven year old to tell me I was being over-dramatic.

Click here to go to the original article on Teacher Gazette

But then a teaching buddy told me she was sure I'd figure out a way to make it work for my big kids. And I did! It's still a work in progress- but it's inspired by this pin I've had for a bit about a brave girl art project:

Click here to go to the original post by Brave Girls Club

I don't see why it has to only be about girls- but I also know that not every ten or eleven year old is going to want to construct themselves as a paper collage.  Earlier this week though, one of the boys starting asking about writing in box letters, and I noticed many of them were playing around with stylized handwriting.  So I started thinking about merging those two ideas together.

The first step of the project was to talk about how we can describe ourselves using the initial statements "I AM" and "BE".  I asked them to create small groups of no more than four, divide a big piece of paper in half and then start listing anything they could think of to complete the sentences.  We looked through the lens of "What positive qualities do I know I have right now?"  And "What positive qualities do I want to strive to be all this year?"

To get the wheels turning a bit, we also listened to my favorite Will.i.am/Sesame Street song:

After listing out the words we heard in the song, we started talking about other ways to finish those sentences.  There was a level of goofiness when a gentleman suggested "I am Batman" - but I was able to counter that with asking him to tell me what characteristics Batman had that made him a favorite superhero.  He was able to supply "strong" as a trait and we were back on track.

I was pleased that most of the groups were quite serious in their discussions of what to add to their lists, and excited to try to think of as many things as they could.

When time was up, I asked them to have a brief one minutes discussion of which ONE trait would they pick from each side to share with the entire class.  I was curious to see if they would repeat any choice made in another group.  I actually banked on that they would have repeats, but again, surprised but what they had going on.

Turned out- no one had any repeats of what they picked to share.  And very few of them had even added the same word to their own lists in the first place.  Lots of unique thinking, which will make for a dynamic year to be sure.

I was impressed by a group that came up with "I am faithful".  I believe by their description that they are meaning faithful in the sense of overall loyalty and commitment.  Pretty heavy stuff.  I also liked the group that suggested "Be Inspired".

Our next step is to turn it into name art.  We will cute different colored circles out of our favorite colors of paper and write in "I am ..." and "Be..." as we choose to describe ourselves.  I'll then have them create their names in the stylized boxed or bubble letters they've been drawing lately, and have them decorate the letters however they see fit, as a representation of themselves.

I am imagining that the final product will look slightly like this, only made out of construction paper and markers (and glitter, as I had three girls ask me today why I didn't have any):

Enjoy this year with your students.  Investigate who they are and who you are and how everybody should just be, because they are who they are.

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