Heather Anderson, Interventionist and Instructional Coach at Juniper Elementary, Bend, Oregon, 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year
The beginning of the year is always an exciting time. New students, new hopes, new dreams. Building relationships is a key component to the new school year and essential to student success. I believe that taking time in the beginning of the year to connect and get to know each child helps build a strong relationship for the rest of the year. Whether it is discussing favorite sports, sharing camping stories or joining in a game of make-believe on the playground, our connections and relationships are what students remember and how students bond with their new teacher.
Positivity is essential in building relationships. No matter what, I believe in the importance of greeting students with a smile, every day. Looking for the best in each child helps promote a positive classroom environment. Teachers who are happy and enjoy our jobs are able to motivate children. The kids see that we care about them with the smiles on our faces and cheerful attitudes in the classroom.
The beginning of the year means setting up my classroom with functional procedures and routines that are helpful for students to thrive. Explicitly teaching each routine and providing opportunities to practice helps students know what to expect and reduces anxiety about a new grade level.
School-wide or benchmark assessments are used in the beginning of the year to determine what students know and in what areas students need additional support. It is important that assessments are meaningful to instruction and support instructional practice decisions that occur in the classroom setting. It is also essential to remember that these assessments can be challenging for students and that the data is meaningful to help provide support during instruction at a later date. I find that taking small chunks of time with built-in breaks and celebrating each step of the way helps kids to learn perseverance and complete assessments.
Beginning of the year assessments help teachers know where students are and how to best meet the needs of each child in the classroom. These assessments are a useful tool when making decisions about instruction and determining strengths and weaknesses of each child. They are also impactful to determine if a child needs additional support in a reading or math intervention. The assessments then help the interventionist determine what supports are necessary and help meet the individual needs of each child.
My principal, Dan Wolnick says, “Keep it simple and focus on growth.” This quote is a theme at my school. It is easy to become overwhelmed as a teacher. There are too many things to do and too little time. However, if we are intentional in our instruction, intentional in our assessment and focus on growth of students, we then up opportunities to celebrate students so they grow and thrive in our classrooms. Taking time to celebrate growth, even small successes during the year, encourages a culture of positivity and teaches perseverance.
Overall, positivity and intentional teaching help provide our students with the impactful and equitable instruction in the elementary classroom. Being advocates for children in everyday life, whether in the classroom, creating education policy or outside of the classroom, we help each child succeed. To me, teaching is best job in the world. We have the ability to empower, motivate and help children succeed. We have the power to use positivity and dedication to impact each child in the future!