THE CREATIVE LIFE: CLASSROOM

Welcome to The Creative life! Please find classroom blogs on this page to inspire teachers and creativity! Enjoy! 

May 27, 2020 by Kathleen Brunelle

A Song to Remember

5 Things Teaching During Quarantine Reminded Me About My Students

As a high school English teacher, I am blown away by the resiliency my students muster every single day as they acclimate to our new learning platform and our new world. Of the countless student successes, one in my Shakespearean Theater class reminds me of five important student qualities that we sometimes forget in the craziness of our typical school schedules. 

1.  Students are Patient

As we all began to Zoom and Google Meet our way into our new “classrooms”, students patiently endured our technological missteps and blunders. My students were stuck in Zoom waiting rooms, encountered broken links, and manipulated multiple LMS platforms. Since they are creating a digital version of their theater production, they have also had to work with various editing programs and resubmit footage as I navigate the foreign land of film editing. They did so with supportive patience and smiles while they encouraged me from the other side of the screen because …

2. Students are Kind

Our class is a drama class. Many of my theater students, however, are amazing singers — especially my seniors. This year, we incorporated a special senior song as part of our production, and I wanted to make sure that students could perform their number digitally. As I googled my way through various choral quarantine videos, I was inspired and relieved. All I had to do was invite my students to a Zoom meeting, press record, and have them sing. Nice and easy — or so I thought.

I met with my students, they brainstormed song choices, I created a Google follow up form, and we were on our way! That’s when the emails began. One after the other, students wrote to inquire whether or not I wanted them to send me individual videos. I explained to them that I wanted everyone to be on the screen at the same time, so I did not want them to send me individual videos. They kindly agreed to do what I asked, but I started to wonder if I had been unclear. It turns out I was the once who needed instruction, which leads me to my next point …

3. Students are Teachers

As I pondered the meaning of these student emails, a final email arrived. This student informed me that I could not tape the song during a Zoom meeting because of technical issues with voices and lag time. She encouraged me to let students film themselves individually and then recreate the Zoom look and edit the voices together. At that point, I became the student. I wrote her back and asked her to explain. She responded by not only giving me written instruction, but she also included two videos. One was a tutorial and the other was a sample (which, as a visual learner, I really appreciated). This leads me to my fourth point …

4. Students are Amazing

Once my student taught me what to do, the other students sent me their footage. As I bring in each individual video, I need to listen to their voices repeatedly to make sure they are in sync throughout the song. This practice gives me the opportunity to admire their talent all over again. I am amazed by their courage to put their voices out there, their resiliency as they spend their senior year separated from their life-long friends and peers, and their spirit as they face an unknown future with hope and a new form of camaraderie. These feelings lead to my final thought …

5. Students are Unforgettable

I have been working with most of these seniors for the past four years in various classes and clubs. As I populate the Zoom grid with the faces I have come to know so well, I feel a mix of emotions. I feel sad that their senior year has been cut short, but mostly I feel privileged to have worked with such a talented and remarkable group of students. Though the quarantine has caused many challenges and disruptions to education, it has also reminded me about what is most important of all — my patient, kind, amazing, and unforgettable students. 

March 2020 by Kathleen Brunelle

Creating your Classroom

Lord of the Flies on Whiteboard

On a very busy Monday morning several weeks ago, I hurried into my classroom and began filling out my board agenda for the day. Normally I complete this task ahead of time, but such was not the case on this particular morning and so I fumbled for a green dry erase marker while I tried to think: What block is my first class? Does my objective line up for the day? Where did this class leave off? Does this assignment date work? In between student questions, morning announcements, and homeroom attendance, I raced through my objectives and agendas for all three of my separate classes that day. 

When I was done, though, I looked up at the snowflake sketch and frowned. My Type A tendency kicked into high gear. It was February 3rd — a new month. I decided to change the snowflake to a heart. I had to. I imagined what my seven-year-old daughter would say: You don’t HAVE to do anything. Are you going to die if you don’t change the snowflake? Would I die if I didn’t change the snowflake graphic? No. Does it snow in February, too? Sometimes. Yet I felt compelled to erase the snowflake and draw a heart — and not just any heart. Oh, no. A multilayered heart with pinks and reds and a purple outline. I told myself, even as I was standing on a student chair and sketching the outline, that I was crazy. I didn’t have time for such nonsense. I teach high school. Who cares if I draw a heart on the board? Well, apparently, my students.

As I hurriedly pulled my projector cart into the center of the room to begin my first lesson, I glanced at the opposite board for the first time. Something was different. I stopped and stared. Someone — with amazing handwriting — had left a message on my board. Who could have possibly used my classroom over the weekend, I wondered. And then I read the message:

Kate’s Message

Kate’s message could not have come at a better time. I was feeling so rushed and exasperated that morning, and her note made me stop to remember my role. I strive to make a difference in my student’s lives, even though most of the time I fear that I probably just annoy them. And though drawing a heart on the whiteboard might seem inconsequential, it’s not. I firmly believe that the atmosphere we set for our students either helps or hinders their learning. There are many ways to decorate your classroom for success, and paying attention to your white board is the first step.

As an English teacher, I draw and paint symbolism and scenes from the books we study to help students visualize the deeper levels of a text. Use your whiteboard. If you can’t draw, ask an artistic student to draw for you. Give them extra credit or community service. Let them paint on your classroom walls (if the school allows). Immerse your students in scenes of what they are about to study. They look, believe me. They ask questions. They make connections. Surrounded by the symbols and stories that define a subject, students become a part of what they are learning on a small but significant scale. 

You can buy professional art, and I use some professional art throughout the room, but students really love to see the work of their teachers and/or their peers. Put it up wherever you can. Make it large. Make it colorful. Make it meaningful. 

Kate has long since graduated and teaches a class of her own. As part of her class, she treats her fourth graders to amazing whiteboard art and shares it all on her instagram: @fourthgradeinroom210.

Take a look at your own white board. Ask yourself how you can use creativity to expand the reach of this important visual learning tool and change the vibe in your classroom.   

kathleenbrunelle.com

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