Let Creativity Rule!

I am often inspired by things I see.  It goes with the kind of learner I tend to be, too, as things make more sense when I see them in addition to hearing them.  So let’s start with a picture.  It’s what inspired this post:

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If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am a thinker.  Sometimes I think too much.  Like I-can’t-get-to-sleep-for-a-long-time-at-night-because-my-brain-won’t-turn-off kind of thinking.  Most often, though, I can use my overactive brain for good things.

I discovered this bracelet the other night in my jewelry box, after not having worn it for a while.  I actually forgot I had it.  It was a gift from a fabulous family I’ve had the pleasure of working with at school.  I was lucky enough to have taught two of their children–one of them twice!  As I looked down at the charm, I thought of how “Let Creativity Rule” could really be one of the phrases for my life.  It seems to come up in so many places for me.

In my classroom, I try to be the kind of teacher who is a facilitator and a designer, rather than a dictator or an information-dumper (yeah, I just made that up, I think).  I believe that knowledge is most powerful when you create it for yourself, and that connections kids make on their own mean much more than ones I make for them.  I see my role as an educator as the one who helps create opportunities for my learners to figure things out, to put things together, to wonder and then discover answers for themselves.  Don’t get me wrong–there are times when you have to lay it all out there, because yes, there are some things that kiddos would never just find out without guidance.  But for the most part, I want my students to be in charge of their learning.

Alongside the opportunities, comes the freedom to make choices about how that learning will happen.  There are very few things in my classroom that I have to have happen a certain way; labeling is one of the things I care deeply about, as well as coloring-coding certain things we use all the time, as a means of helping to keep things organized.  Oh, and fonts.  I love them.  I collect them in fact, and usually have one as my “go-to” font for the year.  And yes, I have been known to recreate forms and sheets that people share with me because I have to make them look a certain way.  Hey–everyone has something like that right? But outside of those couple of things, my children are free to make decisions about what and how they learn things, as well as how they demonstrate that learning.  I want my kiddos to have a variety of ways to show what they know; not everyone can best do this with pencil and paper as is typical in many classrooms.  It is common for my students to show their understanding of a concept by building with Legos, using big wooden blocks, drawing a picture, acting it out, recording themselves talking about it, writing a story (or some other kind of explanation) and yes, sometimes by taking a test.  The possibilities are endless, and one of the things I like the best is that sometimes kids come up with ideas that are even better than an option I could have given them.  The point is showing me–as well as their classmates–that they understand what they’re learning.

I appreciate creativity in my life outside of school, as well.  Part of what balances me in my work life is taking the time to “play” and do things that bring out my crafty side.  I like to sew, to design, and to build things.  While I would not say I am particularly gifted in any of those areas, it’s another way to use my brain, and I enjoy seeing the products of my handiwork (and just in case you’re interested, I think I even wrote about it a few years ago on this blog…)

The other thing I was thinking as I was looking at my hand (that sounds really funny, doesn’t it?) is how important my family is to me.  My wedding rings remind me of my fabulous hubby and our amazing kids, and how lucky I am to have them.  I don’t think I would be the teacher I am, actually, without them.  I take so much of them to school with me, and they often help me think through struggles I’m having and help me solve problems (my son is really helping me this year since he was in 1st grade last year, I run a lot of ideas by him before I try them with my Rm. 202 kiddos!).  My husband is a teacher, as well, and I know that while there is a LOT of shop talk at our house, I am so grateful to have a spouse who “gets” what I do.  We have even taught the same grade levels at times, which makes for another layer of fun as we brainstorm classroom ideas together.  I have been thinking lately how much being a mom helps me as a teacher, too.  Don’t get me wrong, you can be a GREAT teacher without being a parent, but for me, there has been another level of understanding since I’ve had kids of my own.  Oh, and now that my kids are in school, I have a much better understanding of what it means to give your baby over to the care of someone else.  I am so blessed that the families I work with let me do that every day.  Believe me–I do my best to do them proud and take good care of their little ones, as I would hope would happen for mine!

It’s funny how just seeing something can spark so many things in your brain.  What image or picture have you been inspired by lately?  What phrase would you say defines your life?  How do you let your creativity rule?  I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about it! 🙂

Welcome to Rm. 202 (2013)!

Welcome to Rm. 202!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2125 words that will begin to shape your fifth grade year. Be sure you have time to read them all carefully. You may like to have your parents sit and read with you so you can all be excited about fifth grade together.You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are about to become…

Fifth Grade and Fearless!

I am excited for the year ahead – but first, I need your help in knowing what next year is going to look like.

 

Yes, your help!

What next year holds, is, in large part up to you. I have my plans, my ideas, my goals….what about you?

I know some of you may have sneaked a peek at the letter I sent your parents, or may already know me, so this next part may be a bit of a review.  Too bad.  Keep reading anyway. 🙂  I have been teaching for 13 years and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching there long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville.  He has taught 4th and 5th grade like me, too.  Fun, right?  We have a 6YO, Riley, who will be at Robinson, too (he has Mrs. Appelbaum).  I am sure you’ll get to know him really well as we got through the year together.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 2 1/2.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, I have been teaching for 13 years, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Who Will You Be? (This is a big question – take your time to think about this!) Will you be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin fifth grade as the person we want to be.

What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry.

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU!:   You’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know you, and know you well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you tick.  Who you are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect you, and I expect you to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun.  In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love you, but I love everyone else, too!

* Mistakes:  I expect you to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for you.  I want you to struggle.  If you need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, you’ll get it.  If you need to show me what you know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  If  you need me to repeat something or explain it for you in another way, I’ll do.  If you need a big, fat challenge–watch out, you’ll get one! No, I’m not crazy, I just want you to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want you to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want you to feel the joy and success when you learn something new and it’s because you persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems.  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling about things, what you think would be the best way to learn something.  Even when you don’t agree with me, or have a plan that is completely different than mine, I want you to share it!  It’s our classroom, and often your ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with you about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, you’ll be collaborating with each other!  You will have lots of opportunities to share with your classmates, to give your ideas, ask questions, prove your reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂

I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: I found a quote I love by a guy named Tony who loves learning. “No one cares what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.” Think about that. Chew it over. We can all Google and find stuff out – but then what? After we know stuff, what we do with it = inquiry. And that is what the world cares about. Me too. You?

* Time is precious: So are you. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting your time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that you will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put your very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you. We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You’ll be blogging, using iPads and laptops (yep, you get your very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, making videos of your learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!

* Community: our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet you can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. Your mom and dad should be on that list. They are awesome. (Assignment one; email me List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.   I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?

HANG IN THERE….THE END IS NEAR!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that from last year’s class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of fifth grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about being who you want to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being Fifth Grade and Fearless!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your fifth grade brain tuned up, I would love for you to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.

I look forward to hearing from you before the end of the summer!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**