As much as this year has been trying, there have no doubt been some diamonds in the rough. One of those diamonds has been my flexibility in popping in and out of virtual classes, and my reduced office drop-ins have allowed me to spend more quality time with classroom lessons! I have had so much fun with my most recent lesson related to diversity that I decided to make a Loom of it so that others could use it as well.
I wanted to find a way to connect a little extra with the kids, because I am not getting my usual hallway time with them. I felt like sharing more of my own personal experiences might be the best way to go! One of the biggest influences in my life has been my Aunt Chatsy. She was a fierce force, and advocated for herself on a daily basis because she lived with Spastic Cerebral Palsy. My buddy taught me so much about how we treat others and how we can live our lives to the fullest, and I have always wished my students could have met my Aunt Chatsy to also be inspired.
After losing Chatsy a couple of years ago, I have come to a place where sharing her message with others is very therapeutic. It has been such an amazing journey to hear my students call her Aunt Chatsy when they ask questions, and to hear their amazingly empathetic ideas on how to treat others with disabilities. In an effort to get Aunt Chatsy’s message out to even more kids, I created a lesson and Loom that you can show your classes as well! Feel free to share!
I recently completed my first lesson of the year. Most of this consisted of Guidance info, school info, graduation requirements, academy information and opportunities, etc. But I also wanted to add a little something for students to think about throughout the year. Classroom instruction is definitely not my strongest point to begin with, but I also realized last year that I went the whole year without explaining the grading scale to my students. In some school systems this may not be necessary, but in mine, where students in 5th grade go by standard-based grading (Developing Proficiency, Proficient, etc) to performance based grading (A, B, C, D, etc), it was total dud move! I had spent all year chasing those kids around wondering why they were so easily accepting Cs! I felt like when I accuse one of my kids for losing something of mine and I make them look all over for it…only to find it was in some hidden place I had put it. Except for there was no way to secretly drop this information somewhere and act like it had been there all along to cover myself (not that I do that at home…).
So, I knew I needed a message. I was also excited that I would have the same group as the one last year- my first experiencing looping with my kids. I had introduced this group of kids to some mindfulness stuff last year, and I decided to keep going with it. Who knew middle school kids would love breathing so much?! I start with basic 4×4 breathing, and then through the year added some simple stretching. I am not sure what direction I will go in this year, but I decided to add this slide to start things off-
Then, I landed what turned out to be a really great message! I love it when that happens…because believe me when I say I have had some flatter than flat lessons in my day. I wanted them to think about perspective in a new way. I figured that concept could be easily tied to something they were way knowledgeable about- selfies. I used some selfies from my family that my own kids had taken.
I asked them to tell me what they noticed about the pictures- what was something they had in common. After a few guesses, they came to describe how they all looked like something was happening that was not. At this point, realizing it was working, I could have drooled on myself I was so excited. But I played it cool, as per usual.
I asked them how the pictures would look different if they were taken from different angles, distances, with different subjects, etc. Once they said that the photos would look completely different, I knew I was on my way and I switched to the plan. I told them we were going to try it out.
I put myself at the front of the room, and the teacher directly across from me in the back. Then I asked someone from class to stand with each of us, and had two more students on each side of the room opposite of each other. Next I stood next to the student by me, and had them move my fingers to where if I made a pinching motion, it looked like I was pinching the head of the teacher. Giggles ensued and we did it a couple of more times. I had the student with me describe what it looked like, then I asked the other students standing and sitting (they all said it looked like I was pinching the air, and a couple said I just looked crazy- both of which were and are accurate). I told them that the student with me would get candy, but no one else did because they were wrong. The rest is pure magic and goes something like this:
Them- What?! That’s not fair!
Me- Why not?! He/she was the only one that got it right. He/she described what I saw!
Them- But! But! That’s not our fault, they were standing there with your perspective!
And I just stood there, with a somewhat sinister surprised happy face. The “ooooooohhhhhs…” came without me even having to say it. I was almost on the floor I could not contain myself. Still cool though.
For the second one, I whispered in the student’s ear that was by me “Mrs./Mr. So-and-so is the best teacher ever!” But I made a snippy, grossed out face. I asked the kids if they thought what I said was positive or negative and they all said negative. When I told them what I’d said, I asked why they thought that, and they all said that it was because they could only see my face. Again with the “oooohhhsss”. Middle school educators, I know you know exactly where my inspiration would come from for this…because now when I hear “he/she is always talking trash about me” I start to twitch. I finished the discussion with this-
I asked the students to keep this lesson in mind throughout the year as they battle relationships, situations, developments, and decisions. I told them to think about the perspectives of others and really try and consider this. To think about how there own perspectives might look different from a different angle. To be willing to discuss the difference in perspectives in situations where people are to seeing eye to eye. And for added measure, I asked them to keep in mind the perspective of the teachers; who get up in front of the class every day. I asked them what they might think if they are in front of 30 people and two of them are snickering or talking- what would they think if it were them out there. And when the kids respond, “if that were me, I would think they were talking about me” I drop the mic and walk out.
(Really, I don’t. I promise to do a solid conclusion to bring things in)