Welcome to the beginning of the school year! I can’t wait to see the 4th graders again, and I am excited to meet our new 3rd graders.
Third and fourth grades are years full of growth and learning, where a child can move easily between a sense of fantasy and wonder and the passion to fight for what is right. In our classroom, we come together to build relationships with each other and develop our community as we explore academically. For our bigger areas of focus, we start from our interests and what is happening in the world, and move from there into learning and action. Our classroom may become messy, our discussions may become animated, and our paths may not be linear, but we believe in nurturing agency. You can see this in our protest posters and hear it in our songs, you can read it in our stories and feel it in our plays.
At the same time, our core skills require a certain amount of routine and repetition. We read, write, and do math every day. Most days, we learn in math groups at our challenge level, so everyone can work closer to their own path. On the other days, everyone will work together to do math explorations. Similarly, at different times of the year we may be doing book groups or working on a book together as a whole class. All of the time we write: to analyze and synthesize, to judge and persuade; to digest and internalize, to construct and extend. And all the time, we are talking out our ideas together: What are we curious about? What are we reading? What are we making? How do things work? What is important? What isn’t important? Who is suffering? Who is being treated unfairly? How can we help? What are our friends doing? How can we be a better friend? Is there a different way to solve the problem? What have we discovered? What else do we want to know? How can we make this work in the best way possible for everyone involved?
Finally, every day, we work on three things: kindness, mindfulness and discipline. Kindness has to be practiced, talked about and modeled. Last year we began with the book Wonder, which led to discussions throughout the year about difference and understanding and caring for each other. Augie and his friends modeled these ideas. During our mindfulness practice, in addition to focusing on breathing and finding our anchor, we also would often meditate on the ways people were treating each other. Finally, maintaining the discipline to keep working hard in an environment like Ann Arbor Open where we are given so much freedom and choice may be one of the most difficult challenges in our school. Are we using our time wisely? Are we connecting and helping and debating, or are we distracting? Are we staying on track to finish our task in a reasonable amount of time? We work on these skills every day.
I love the rhythm of school. Every fall, magic in our class happens when we come together and make the world anew.
Tom Gibb-Randall firstname.lastname@example.org