This is Ella on her first day of preschool. Her mom sent me this picture to show me how excited she was! If you take a good look, Ella's face shows us her excitement and enthusiasm. It looks as if she's about to burst with glee at arriving in this new place. This is priceless and I hope she continues to wear this emotion each and every first day of school.
So it got me thinking... what makes Ella so excited about her first day of school? I didn't have the opportunity to ask her, but I'm guessing that the idea of a community of peers, with opportunities to play, interact and learn seems pretty appealing. I can imagine the smile on her face as her teacher and classmates sit in a circle learning about new things, each other and the world around them. I can imagine that she will make life-long friends and establish a foundation for what school will be like for her in the years to come. I did ask her mom if she still likes school and her response was, "Ella LOVES school!"
So now I ask two other questions.
~How can we keep kids like Ella this enthusiastic about school?
~Or better yet, how can we turn students who aren't this positive about school around so that they really want to be with us in the classroom?
I don't have all of the answers, but as I think about Ella's enthusiasm, a few things come to mind.
1. Build Community- Establish a sense of community and belonging in each and every classroom and in all teaching opportunities. Not only will students feel safe to learn, but also, safe to make mistakes. Community seems to be well-established in younger grades. I believe it is as equally important in all grade levels and something that is pushed aside to easily. Building rapport with students has been my greatest tool in helping to foster student success.
2. Play- I believe that there is a correlation about students attitudes towards school and the reduction of recces! By the time students get to middle school, they are not allowed to play or be kids. Some of my most memorable moments with my students have been in times of play. Now, that doesn't mean that having fun can't be educational! But, I try to play learning games each week and encourage students to develop social and academic skills. They need to know that not all learning comes in only pencil and paper format.
3. Celebrate the Small Stuff- Show genuine excitement when acknowledging student gains or successes of any kind. Too often, students are celebrated for the little things and don't feel good enough. Celebrating can mean anything from a writer's celebration that shares all student work to a private, 1-minute conversation with a student praising them for a job well done. Too often we don't stop to appreciate what a student CAN do. It's grabbing these opportunities that helps students continue to move forward. It's PMA at it's best!
Can anyone think of any other ideas that might help to encourage enthusiasm in students in all grade levels? What else can Ella teach us about what makes kids love about school? :)