A Manifesto for My 2012-13 Classroom
When I was first told I needed to create a manifesto for my 2012-13 classroom, I couldn’t help but be a bit intimidated by the task. Being a very literal learner, the first step I took was looking up the word manifesto in the dictionary—online dictionary, truth be told, but dictionary nonetheless.
man·i·fes·to/ˌmanəˈfestō/: Noun: A public declaration of policy and aims, esp. one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
Hmm. My mind started swirling with political cartoons, commercials, and speeches that inundate our every move around election time. What would my proclamation for my classroom be? If I were creating the standards, not the state, not my district, but my creation—what would my classroom look like? Imagine being able to completely incorporate your goals, your intentions into your workplace. What would you do? Talk about a colossal responsibility. For two days I pondered over and over what my manifesto should include—I was terrified of leaving out something important. I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat in my comfy spot, and began to hit the keys. No more thinking. It was time to just imagine, to create. My manifesto—perhaps my classroom-topia in the making.
Here’s my vision, my declaration…
Every child, every child, should have the opportunity to fall in love with reading and writing. My 2012-13 classroom needs to be indicative of this need, this desire, this human condition so-to-speak. In order to fall in love, the stage needs to be set—from the furniture to the lighting. It’s important. When I think about my favorite moments reading I was: 1) curled up under my blankets with my flashlight (not happening at school), 2) in-between the stacks at the library, chillaxing on the floor, feet up or in criss-cross, or 3) cozy on a beanbag at my friend’s house. I never fell in love with a book sitting in my desk at school. I’ve written many things over the course of my life: poems that were cranked out in a way that only 13-year-old anger can provide, short stories that made my friends laugh in the middle of class, paper after paper that was needed for school. When I think about my favorite moments writing I was: 1) sitting in a coffee shop, computer plugged in, hot coffee flowing, 2) sitting on the floor, teaming with a group—all of us integrating different ideas, skills, styles to get the perfect piece created, or 3) crisscross on the couch, pillow in lap, coffee within reach, laptop on pillow, with nothing but the sound of the dishwasher humming in the background (which is what is happening right now).
First and foremost, the environment of my classroom must reflect the atmosphere in which a true reader and writer functions. The environment sets the tone, the mood, the place where I want kids to fall in love with reading and writing.
Every child, every child, should know they are bona fide, valuable contributors to a bigger picture. My 2012-13 classroom needs to embrace the stories, the ideas, and the insight that is inside each of us. The sense of community needs to be real, and present every day—not just for a lesson, not just for the unit, or for the moment. There’s nothing more frustrating then when I see a child holding back because they think their response won’t be good enough—or when the more out-going kids in the classroom drown the quieter voices out. Listening will become a skill that is valued. And not just hearing someone’s mouth moving, but truly listening to each other—offering feedback, advice, and direction for one another.
Secondly, students in my classroom must see themselves as viable contributors to the success of our classroom. A contributor will take form in many different ways—sometimes in participation, sometimes in listening, sometimes in adding to the class collection of work. Each role of the contributor is imperative in this classroom.
Every child, every child, needs to have buy-in. My 2012-13 classroom will allow students and myself to take risks in our writing and through our discussions. Students will take ownership of their learning process. Expectations will still be high and goals attainable. I want my students to feel challenged and I want to feel challenged by my students. I want students to be there, not for a grade, but rather for the experience of learning, of growing, of discovering.
Thirdly, students in my classroom must have buy-in when they walk through the door. Risks will be taken, systems will be challenged, and students will be there to learn—not just for the grade.
Every child, every child, should have the opportunity to discover versus memorizing the information a teacher gave them. The classroom environment will include guiding students, questioning (inquiry model), and empowering students to learn and grow. The curriculum should move and flow with the class—not adhering to the traditional strict curriculum. Students will also be facilitators, not just me. Students and I will write together, read together, and take risks together. The classroom may be noisy, it may be messy—and that will be okay (alright, maybe not immediately, but I will learn to adjust).
Fourthly, students will become empowered and not enabled in this classroom setting. Everyone will have an opportunity to be the expert, to be the facilitator and lead others into new discovery.
Every child, every child, will learn the importance of reflection. Students need to have the opportunity to evaluate self—and take that time on a regular basis. Reflection should take place in many different avenues—whether through discussions, private journaling, small group, whole group—whatever the means, reflection should be a part of a regular classroom routine. The best learning can happen through reflection and the understanding of where one was and where one is headed.
Lastly, students will reflect and evaluate their own personal, academic, and social growth. They’ll understand how reading and writing empowers them to grow in whatever avenue they decide to choose.
And as I finished my manifesto, I realized how doable each of these objectives truly is. They’ve made me excited about getting into my classroom for next year, even though this year still has not finished. I don’t feel the usual “Is it summer yet?” feeling that has hit about this time for the last nine years. I’m invigorated, renewed, and energized as I head into my summer—thinking about the things I need to do to turn this manifesto into something more…into reality.
The good news is—I know I can. Here’s to the 2012-13 School Year! I can’t wait to meet you.
Meredith is a mom, sister, wife, friend, teacher, critic, Starbucks junkie, writer, coach, and a million other things. She enjoys writing about the good, scary, funny, sad, exciting and all those other truths that too many people are afraid to write about. You can find her blog at http://merelovesthepack.blogspot.com or on Twitter: @FmTheSidelines.