Yesterday afternoon, I walked my kiddos down to the gym so that they could have their pictures taken for their mock high school graduation. I asked our two 8th grade "sponsors" to come and lend a hand and be a part of the fun.
I had a couple of teachers who were nice enough to loan us a couple of caps and honor cords, and we borrowed the Jr. high graduation gowns. Our 8th graders made up some fake diplomas for the kids to hold, and it was crazed excitement in the gym. We discussed what the cords symbolized, and I gave the kids a choice if they wanted to wear them or not. It was great to hear every kid wanted to wear them, because they all planned on graduating with honors.
I've never seen a bunch of 4th graders more excited about anything. The smiles on their faces as I took their pictures were absolutely PRICELESS. As you can see in the top photo, this guy was so happy. It also helps that I'm friends with his momma, so I got permission to use the pic she posted on Facebook. You can see the genuine pride and happiness on his face, and I have to admit, I had to hold back a few tears as the pictures kept piling up on my phone.
Another amazing photo came from this little beauty...
Her dad is a teacher in the school, and he was also Butter's 6th grade teacher and is now a Jr. high teacher. I couldn't have captured more excitement and happiness in her face, could I? She was laughing about her missing teeth and how big the gown was on her. But, she was also the first kid to tell me that she couldn't wait to compare this photo to her real graduation photo. That was nice to hear.
I wish I could share all of the photos I took, because they were absolutely amazing. However, I don't have parental permission. What I am going to do, though, is print out the photos this weekend. I plan on making two copies of each photo...one to hang on the wall in the classroom, and another copy to give parents on parent/teacher conference night. I want to explain to the parents what I'm doing, and then give them a little token to show them how wonderfully their kids are doing.
I tell ya what, the increase in student performance this week has been phenomenal. The students have been engaged, focused, and motivated. They have overcome challenges, done extra work, and really set the bar high for themselves. I think the best example is with the spelling contract.
My kids really don't care for the spelling contract. It's homework, so they aren't big fans of having to do it. But, something changed when the 8th graders that came to visit us this week told my kiddos that they do a spelling contract in Jr. high. Now, I had changed the spelling contract last week. Instead of requiring the kids do 5 activities, I told them they only had to do 3. That was more doable, and less stress on them. I told them that being that I was decreasing the amount of activities, I expected more effort be put in to the activities they did have to do.
What ended up happening this week? The majority of my kids did at least 5 activities, with several of them doing more like 7 or 8 activities. And the effort was there. They didn't just rush through the activities. The spelling test scores this week were extremely high. It made me so happy that to see that my crazy idea was working. These kids were dedicated to showing more effort.
I have to be gone Monday morning, so I won't get to do the big reveal that I had planned. So, instead, I told the kids the first career we were going to be focusing on for their first week. I told them we were going to be vets, and they were all excited. I told them to find a stuffed animal to bring to school with them on Monday, and how we would be spending our week learning about some of the things vets do. Which includes a visit from a real vet.
Today, I have quite the shopping list of supplies I'm going to need. I have to print out the photos, but I also want to pick up a few items. I have decided I'm going to need to have some scrubs, and I want to buy some name tags for all of the kids to wear each week for the career we're learning about. My plan is that each Friday, I will print out new name tags that will have their name and the profession on them. Something like "Dr. John Veterinarian".
I'm also going to hunt for some small things I can use to help with the fun that each week will bring. Things like novelty police officer badges, and any other novelty items that might help us out.
I might spend a small fortune on doing this, but every penny is worth it if it produces the results I'm hoping for. I've never seen such enthusiasm or excitement in a class before, and I plan on really honing in and keeping it going as long as I can. If it works as well as I think it might, I plan on doing this each year. From day one I can instill a focus on the future, and I'm even thinking of decorating my classroom with our motto: The Future is NOW!
Well, if I plan on getting all the stuff done that I need to get done, I better get off here and start doing it.
Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!!