When we develop such a tightly-knit community in our classroom or in our school, we begin to realize that we are all in this together, that we should be there for each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, so to speak. We realize that we are not only responsible for learning from our own mistakes, but that our mistakes may be beneficial for others to learn from, as well. We understand that we can catch each other's falls, that we can guard one another from disaster, and that we can encourage each other through our applause and our positive demeanor.
In the past few days, I've written about the seriousness of our expectations. I've written about the importance of learning the details involved in giving and receiving respect - something our world desperately needs in the 21st Century. As we go through our "Boot Camp" and as we learn to "aggressively" address visitors to our classroom, we must also learn to balance those stringent and strict essential expectations with compassion, passion, gentleness, peace, and joy. I realize I can be full of platitudes sometimes, but there you go; that's the passion I have for my career. Every year, even after 25 of them, I envision the next year as being the perfect one. At the same time, I fully realize how hard it can be to direct students onto a positive pathway, keep them there, and hopefully propel them forward in such a way that they will not veer from it.
While I emphasize those expectations and manners, at the same time I present lessons in new and innovative ways. I tell my students that this year will not be like the rest, that my methods can be different - interesting, off-the-wall, and even experimental at times. I present information to them in creative ways, hopefully instilling creativity in my students along the way. I take advantage of our technology and integrate all the subjects into single, focused units. Students do not expect to open textbooks and answer questions at the end of each chapter. They should not expect straight lectures. Instead, I let them discover their own objectives and develop their own skills whenever possible. They work cooperatively with their peers.
And they are allowed to talk and laugh, as long as things don't get out of control. We sing and dance. We high five and fist bump. We tease and play. And in the middle of it all, ideally, my fourth graders blossom and prosper, socially and academically.