How should we celebrate learning?

The second question of #mschat from Dec 11, 2014 dealt with how to celebrate learning. the moderator @blocht574 started the round off with some exemplars to help the conversation with this tweet:

How should we celebrate learning? Individual, group etc?

The reality is that not every class will be the same even if the teacher is. For example, I teach 4 sections of 22-25 students and i can tell you that the dynamic and personality of each class is very different and calls for a different approach with each one. It takes a great deal of effort for teachers to figure out what will work best for each class. That being said I do have some personal constants that I try to employ for all my classes. I start them at the beginning of the year, before I’ve built a relationship with my classes, to set a tone of mutual trust and respect expectations that is consistent. I also allowed for individual and class growth and space for students to express their quirky, funny side that will add to the uniqueness of each section.

My tweet in response to @mr2gaw touched on this subject when I mentioned:

Building relationships starts with treating each class as its own entity. I have Ss rename their section # as a new country

I do this so that each section creates a sense of identity that is different from the other sections. They often come up with some very unique names and even construct their own laws, and societies based on the values that become important and relevant to them… it’s pretty cool to see.

As the responses started to filter in I noticed that most of us were on the same page. Teachers need to have a way to gauge the needs of each individual student as @cskiles80 said:

I believe it depends on the Ss. Some don’t want it group, just private, others love the group!

This is an important thing to realize for a teacher. In addition to that sentiment, many teachers wanted to be aware of when and what kind of celebration is warranted.  I mentioned in a tweet:

We should be constantly finding the little moments that warrant a celebration. It’s the little things that count most.

This goes back to my issue was with my first question of celebrations. I still need help in defining what we, as teachers, mean by a celebration. I want to celebrate learning every day by the way that I carry myself in school. Sometimes a celebration is just smiling while walking down the hallway on my way back to class after photocopying a set of handouts. Maybe I’m skipping down the hall today or humming “Yellow Submarine” (as I’ve been known to do…). These little expressions of happiness are, to me, a celebration that I like being in the building and are an expression of my enthusiasm that I want kids to also feel inspired, safe, and willing to do.

One tweet that stood out for me came from @nyrangerfan42. He has been one of the #mschat’ers that I’ve been following closely and I really like his style. He said:

I’m big on having students recognize each others individual success – build that community!

and another one of my new favorite tweeters @ezigbo_ said:

Tweet pics of great work. By students, faculty, staff, everyone

. . . which reminded me of my comment to make the learning the celebration… or vice versa and celebrate the learning. The way to do that is to pick something that resonated with you and your students. Some of the things mentioned were:

  • fist bumps
  • Stickers
  • Victory songs
  • statements of praise
  • simple nod of the head
  • wink
  • a smile
  • Wall of Fame
  • Fridge of Fame
  • Shout outs to specific students
  • Quiet congratulations to specific students that no one else gets to hear.
  • Loud congratulations for the entire class.

What was interesting is that no one mentioned a class party as a celebration. I was a little disappointed because I love them. A class party  is what I thought of  when I first started thinking about celebrations in the classroom. Was it because teachers think that class parties are a waste of time? Are they not suppose to be a culmination and celebration of effort for reaching a certain milestone?

I got the feeling that no one mentioned it because they were afraid to say that they even happen. Afraid because there is a stigma associated with them that they only happen around the holidays or end of the school year and many parents, teachers, administrators think they are nothing more than a waste of time. This negative connotation has persisted for decades. While I agree that many class parties have been a complete waste of time in the past, I want to affirm my love for them as a tool to promote the feeling of accomplishment and success for students. To the teachers who say that the learning itself should be the reward, I say yes… but cake is also nice, too.

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