Making Your Classroom Your Own

In case you missed my post last week on Blog Swap Sunday, here it is.  Thank you to Misty Poland for making the swap!
Hi, I am Amy the teacher/blogger behind Teaching in Blue Jeans. First, before you judge me let me say that I do NOT get to teach in blue jeans everyday. I wish I did, but not so much. But I do love me some blue jeans. One day as I was thinking about my beloved blue jeans I started thinking about why I loved them so much: they are comfortable, oh so comfortable; I can dress them up or down which means they are versatile; and most importantly I just feel like myself in them. When I wear blue jeans I find that I am more willing to try something new or take a risk, more likely to have fun and be silly, more likely to focus and work hard (probably because I am not tugging at hose or thinking about my aching feet (but shoes - that's another blog post entirely)). Somehow in my brain I went from thinking about all the reasons I love blue jeans to concluding that "the blue jean feeling" is exactly how I want my classroom to be. I want me students to be comfortable and feel like themselves. I want them to be willing to work hard, try something new, take risks, have fun and be silly. So there you have it - my Blue Jean Mentality and the idea behind Teaching in Blue Jeans!

Today I want to talk to you about making your classroom your own.  I absolutely love the fact that there is soooooo much information available to us through the internet and technology in general.  I also love the world of teacher blogs and all the collaboration that goes on.  But, at least for me sometimes it comes with a big but, I have to be careful not to try and be someone else or do what someone else is doing just because.  For me, it can be so easy to see it on someone's blog, on Pinterest or on You Tube and immediately feel like I NEED to be doing it.  But unfortunately when that happens, I don't feel like we are being the best teachers we can be.

Now don't get me wrong, I use lots of ideas from the internet.  Before I explain my How To - let me give you a How Not To example.  Last summer as I was preparing for my first year of teaching kindergarten I was a crazy reading lady trying to get as much information as possible.  I stumbled upon the Whole Brain Teaching concept and started digging more.  I was so excited to find some great primary level videos on You Tube of teachers using WBT in their classroom.  This is great for me because I am very visual.  I loved it, did more reading, tried to learn more, then school started.  I couldn't wait to share it with my kids.  But what I found was that I was trying to "be" just like the videos I have seen.  For me it felt unnatural and a little forced.  I realized that I was breaking my one of my cardinal rules - Make it Mine!  Did I chunk WBT in the trash can - no way!  This was good stuff but I tweaked it and made it mine.  I realized that I didn't have to use the same type and amount of voice inflection and the same over the top movements to keep my students just as engaged as the class on You Tube.  In fact I felt as if I were performing for my students and I knew that was not an act I could keep up for 180 days!

So how do I make it mine?  Well, first and foremost I go with my gut!  I feel like my gut instincts are usually pretty good.  I have learned to trust myself and go for it.  Sometimes it seems crazy and sometimes much less fanfare and excitement than I had planned.  But going with my gut also means I must be flexible.  Sometimes my gut changes an activity right in the middle of the lesson.  I have to say that those have been some of my best activities and some of my best days teaching!  You know yourself better than anyone - trust yourself!

Second, I am a researcher.  I like to blame this on law school - but I actually see roots of it back to childhood.  By researcher I mean that I like to find everything I can on a subject matter.  Now sometimes this is constrained by time, but I do what I can.  This is where the world of teacher blogs and Pinterest come in so handy!  However, what I do with all that information is how I make it mine.  My motto here is don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I tuck away those nuggets of information that work for me, make sense, or that I just really like.  If I disagree with something or don't like an activity, I don't just "throw out" everything.  What ends up happening for me, is more of inspiration from the internet.  I quite often take ideas from two or three different places and use them together to create an activity that works for me and more importantly works for my kiddos. (Do I ever find an activity and print it off and use it my room, absolutely!)  I also love to share and plan with my amazing team of teachers, but I don't always do the same things just because.  What works for one set of kids might not work for another.  Do we teach the same concepts - absolutely!  Do we all do identical activities - nope.  I love that I work for an administration that supports this too!

Here's an example of this in action:

I knew we would be learning about the parts of a sentence.  I started "researching ideas" and I found this one.

But in my head, I just kept coming back to the idea of Building Sentences using a construction theme.  So I created a lesson on my interactive whiteboard.

However, I still was thinking about the super cute Sentence Boy.  So I turned that into these cute construction workers.

So that is kind of how my brain works when I am planning.  Instead of throwing out the cute craftivity or changing my gut instinct to go with a building theme, I just merged them and made a few changes.  This was a great lesson and we referred back to our construction workers all year!

Last, I stay true to myself and let my love of teaching drive me.  There are some AMAZING teachers out there.  Sometimes I find myself thinking - if only I was like Deedee Wills or Deanna Jump.  Well - to be honest, I don't even know Deedee or Deanna (although I did meet both of them this summer at the I Teach K conference).  I don't know what they are like or how they teach.  But I do have my "vision" of them.  I am really good at putting together my "vision" of what others are like - and for some reason they are usually close to perfect.  That's a lot to live up to!  Then I have to step back and remind myself that I am not someone else.  I am Amy Biddison and I just have to be me.  I believe that our kiddos are smart and they know if your fake or if your real.  When it comes down to it, they just want a teacher who loves them, believes in them, and pushes them to be the best they can be.  So this year, relieve yourself of the pressure of living up to what you think someone else is, and just be yourself!  This just might get framed in my classroom as my daily reminder.

When I do all of these things together, I end up being the teacher I want to be and a classroom that fits me - and my class!  Thanks for listening and I hope you already know and do all that stuff and that I am the only one who struggles with this. 

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