I teach in a diverse Chicago neighborhood on the city's northwest side. Our students come from dozens of countries, including Korea, Somalia, Bosnia, Myanmar, India, the Philippines, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Ecuador. More than half of them speak another language at home; most (94%) are living in poverty. Their families are hardworking and humble, striving to provide a better future for their children. Parents know that education is the first step towards that future.
My students are thoughtful, inquisitive, and forward-thinking.
They laugh easily and are willing to work hard. As I look to the start of the next school year, I am fortunate to have already interacted with a majority of my new second graders through last year's reading buddy program. They are open to learning and excited to become better readers and writers. A major component of today's learning is social-emotional (SEL). For students living in poverty or experiencing other trauma (single-parent or co-parenting households, unstable immigration status, homeless or near homelessness, etc.), social-emotional learning can provide students with the understanding that they are not alone in their experiences. It can also give them tools to cope with the feelings that come with those experiences.
I changed classrooms 4 years ago and was not allowed to take the beautiful rug (just purchased that year) to my new room. The existing rug in the new space was old and flat, with a dulled color and a dried out backing so crumbly that the floor looked like the sandy beach at the end of every day.
A dingy rug may not seem like a big deal, but primary classrooms use the rug as a major learning tool.
We sit together on the rug every day during morning meeting and mini-lessons. Students work on the rug while the teacher sees small groups at her table; they buddy read and independently read on the rug; we sit here to listen to stories, discuss our work, and reflect each day.
A colorful and comfortable rug is far more enjoyable than a dusty and itchy one. Students will be more motivated and more engaged in learning activities while treated to a cozy seat. The classroom environment is influenced by visual surroundings, and this rug will be a major player in that dynamic.
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