The week before I started my new job, I attended a three-day training called Capturing Kids' Hearts. The premise is simple:
"If you have a child's heart, you have his head."
I admit that at first I figured it would be three days of "Oh, God, do I really need this?!" But I was pleasantly surprised. The program, thoroughly adopted by my school district, is excellent. It calls for treating children like human beings. A novel thought, eh?
Some of the pieces of the program that my school is very big on using are creating social contracts with students, so we all agree on how everyone--teacher, student, class visitors--behaves in the classroom. Another component is personally greeting each student at the door with a handshake.
But the best parts are the Good Things, and Affirmations.
We use this model in our staff meetings, so today, we started with Good Things--it can be as simple as "my daughter is coming to visit this weekend!" We clap for our colleague who shared, and we feel happy for them. It starts a meeting off on a friendly foot.
And we use affirmations every time someone presents in a meeting, because it's very true that everyone--young, old, in between--needs to be affirmed once in a while.
Today, our staff meeting centered around the elementary grades presenting their new Units of Inquiry (we are in International Baccalaureate candidate school, and the learning style of I.B. centers around the idea of inquiry and a world-view approach to learning) for the others. It's a great way to share what is going on in the school, to get ideas for improving each unit, and for affirming the hard work of all teachers.
Today, I asked my boss if I could share. It's not expected of me, because I am an electives teacher, but because what I do backs up the themes of the units of inquiry, I wanted to show my new colleagues that I am doing my best to support what they are teaching while still addressing the music standards.
It's funny--I can stand in front of a room full of middle school students and act like a clown with no problem whatsoever, but presenting a lesson I put time into to my colleagues was so nerve-wracking!
But I soldiered through. I showed everyone my 2nd Grade lesson for the week. They've been learning about maps in social studies--that's the central idea of their current unit--so I started by talking about maps a bit and asking them, "Did you know we can make maps for music?"
I played Kangaroo from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" while showing them a listening map that some clever soul made and posted on the internet for me to shamelessly steal. Then I told them we would be travelling to the West Indies, and showed a video of steel drum music. We learned the song "Tingalayo," and used the Boomwhackers to play the associated chords for the song.
Everyone seemed to love it, but the best part were the following affirmations I received after:
1. "I like your world music approach. It's very I.B."
2. "Our kids get so excited when you walk in the room." This was accompanied by a lot of head nods and "Oh yes" and "Uh-huh" all over the room.
It felt great to be acknowledged as someone who is contributing to the education of these students, even though I only see most of them once a week. I was blushing as I gathered my laptop up and returned to my seat.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed that I'm hugely passionate about what I do. I am a teacher. I am an artist. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to mix these two callings into a career, and after the last six years, believe me, I don't take this new opportunity for granted.
So I've jumped into this with all of my energy and all of the love I have for the arts, because that is the only way I know how to do this. To see it pay off, not only in the appreciation I received today from my colleagues, but in my students' excitement for their weekly VAPA session, is a humbling and beautiful feeling.