In Monday's meeting at the administration building, Superintendent Ridder asked select teachers, "What is the first thing someone should see when entering a classroom?" According to one participant, the answer, was, "Kids." After some chuckles, I added that, upon entering a classroom, I would look for the joy of learning. I want to know that students are acknowledging their progress, and they are loving their school experiences. In education, we refer to engagement, meaning that students are fully into a lesson, learning what they are supposed to learn, collaborating with one another if needed, with no distractions.
"Now we're getting somewhere!" exclaimed Dr. Ridder.
He then proceeded to ask the group more about some 21st Century Skills. He suggested that we consistently promote behavior as our primary goal from early childhood to high school. Before hitting the academics, he postulated, we must get behavior right. He cited communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity as the crucial methods in which Joplin Schools should unify. Interestingly, Ridder wants to see these behaviors in both the children and the adults!
This outlook seems spot on. My hope is that Room 404 already leads in many ways in these areas. In last week's conferences, many parents shared that their children were talking about the lessons and activities we do in our room - some that surprised me. I hope it's obvious that extra effort has been placed on every single one of these areas in Room 404. Happily, Dr. Ridder told me, "You know what you're doing," acknowledging my veteran-teacher status.
I've written a number of times about these ideas. I've called them employability skills, and we emphasize them in Room 404 already. Poor behavior is usually not an issue in our classroom because students strive to lean forward, improve skills, and treat each other and visitors with the utmost respect. Hopefully I'll see them enlist some of these important skills when we have visitors to our room for the party, later today. If you plan on joining us, parents, don't just expect to serve treats, play games, and do crafts; I'd love for you, instead, to come expecting to shake hands and have conversations with the kids.