Bonus Points! presents inspiring educators with a list of 10 questions on varying educational topics and lets them choose which they want to respond to. Through this process, we uncover and demystify some of the hidden realities that happen in all classrooms and gain some wisdom from some really amazing and inspiring educators.
Anelyse George is a fifth grade teacher in Danville, California. She has a human centered classroom - one where both kids and adults can thrive and produce amazing work. She believes that classroom community is more important than anything else. She is, in short, an amazing educator.
You can follow Anelyse and her classroom adventures on Twitter at @AnelyseGeorge.
Where is your go-to place on the internet as an educator? Where do you go for inspiration or for resources or to gain perspective on your work?
Cultofpedagogy.com where, as they say, “Teacher nerds, unite!” This is by far my favorite place to glean inspiration, improve my practice, and learn about what’s going on in education.
The blog post about finding your marigold is what got me hooked to this site and coming back for more. The article is aimed at new teachers, however, I find it to be a good read every school year. Jennifer Gonzalez advice new teachers to find their marigolds. Marigolds are planted near other plants because they help surrounding plants grow, they’re known as companion plants. This beautiful metaphor is a one that we can carry through any part of our life but is especially useful when you’re trying to keep the joy in your teaching practice. You need to find people, other teachers and colleagues, that make you grow, that are positive, that can be planted alongside you through this tough work and help you thrive. The teaching world is full of “walnut trees” notorious for inhibiting growth, or in our educator world, people who are just plain 'ole negative.
Finding your marigolds will help you maintain your love for teaching, believe the work is worth it, and have the support that is so needed in this tough job. I read this article a few times a year and make sure I keep my connections with my marigolds at my own school site and the marigolds i’ve found throughout my school district.
How do you recognize students for their hard work or good decisions? How do you reward your class when they are doing well?
I fail hard at prizes and rewards. I’ve tried to do prize boxes, tickets, points and... I just can’t even. It wasn’t authentic to who I am as a person so it just didn’t work. Now, I give my students the opportunity to recognize one another via “Wonder Cards.” They fill them out whenever and submit them to a mailbox anonymously. We hand them out and recognize all these wonderful things to start our class meetings. It’s a great way to kick off our class meetings by hearing the kids recognize the wonderful things they have been seeing in our classroom community.
In addition, I let kids write positive notes to be sent home to parents (not their own). So if they had a great interaction or experience with a student who showed excellent character, I’ll let them write a note to that kid’s parents. Our classroom is an environment where we try to highlight one another. Kids love to tell me the awesome things they “caught” their fellow classmates doing. Sometimes the kids will just go fill out a Wonder Card and other times they come up to me to tell me an epic story of kindness, selflessness, or an “upstander” moment. In that case, I will have them write a letter to that student’s parents explaining what their kid did that was awesome! It means a lot to get a nice note from your kid's teacher but I think it means even more to a parent when they get a note from their child’s peer.
What is a book that every teacher should have in their read aloud library?
There’s too many to choose from. Come With Me, by Holly M. McGhee, is my current favorite. It’s about a little girl who is overwhelmed by fear and worry because of what she sees on the news and decides to make a difference to bring positivity in the world. She does this by the smallest acts such as acknowledging people as she walks down the street, helping her family out by walking the dog, and inviting others to play. The book is definitely pretty primary, but the world we live in currently feels a bit topsy turvy that I know my 5th graders gleaned some peace from this sweet story. We talk a lot in our class about what is happening around the world and they truly are filled with worry and anxiety and a sense of helplessness. They ask a lot what they can do to change the hard things they see. We talk about using the power of their voice and how to advocate for others. This book reminds us that there is no act too small to better the people and world around you.
Check out this short video of little kids reading the beginning of the book.
Tell us about a time that you failed in the classroom. What did you learn from the experience?
I failed this week actually. On Monday, I took my class to a prep period and my colleague commented that if she didn't know it was Monday, by their energy she would have thought it was Friday. I instantly took this as, “Oh my gosh, my class is out of control!” So I turned drill sergeant and tried to dial them back. We had a class discussion about their behavior and I shared with them the comment my colleague made. One of my students chimed in and said, “Would it be so bad if every day felt like a Friday? Wouldn't that mean we are happy?” Boom. A blow to my heart and soul. Out of the mouth of a babe. He was so right, I was so humbled right then and there. Our class should really feel like a Friday every day... what would be so wrong with that?!
Is there a particular album or a kind of music that you listen to while your students are at work in your classroom?
Music is huge in my classroom. I use music to start the day, to cue transitions, to end the day, and to connect with my students.
I have two rotating playlists in my classroom. One is called “Study Jams” and another called “Walk Up Songs”. The kids curate these playlists together. At the start of the year we talk a lot about our classroom culture and what we want our classroom to feel like daily, and music is a huge part of that!
“Study Jams” is reserved for their favorite background music. We have a lot of conversations about what kind of songs you can have on to keep you focused, working happy, and that you can enjoy listening to when you’re working away on a project. We play our “Study Jams” when we are working in small groups and/or doing independent work. The kids are constantly adding to this playlist. We’ve set up some ground rules and parameters (explicit songs are not permitted), and they can come up to my computer and add a song to the playlist or they can jot a song they want to add on a post-it and stick it to my computer. Team 409’s Study Jams this year has an eclectic array of music - from Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, to Smoke and Fire by Sabrina Carpenter, to Rolex by Ayo & Teo.
I love athletics and try to pull inspiration from sports and fitness into my classroom at any opportunity I can. We talk about our classroom often as being our “Home Court,” which means in our class we always have home court advantage which allows us to take risks, be vulnerable, and try our best. Having that home court advantage allows us to remember we’re all going through life and life can be hard! We need to make sure our classroom is a community where we all feel good and not judged…. here comes the sports related connection …. "Walk Up Songs!” (my good teacher friend Erin Magil inspired this idea). Walk up songs in baseball are songs the players select to have played as they walk up to the plate, they represent the person, they pump that person up, and it’s just a few seconds for them to have their moment! Our “Walk Up Songs” playlist is full of songs I play for the kids to get them pumped up when they walk up to present or share in front of the class. These songs the kids select at the beginning of the year and give a lot of thought to and as a class we never tease or judge each other's songs that pump us up. Going up to the plate (or the front of the class) can be a nerve wracking ritual. This year, some of the walk up songs on our class playlists are; Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi, The Final Countdown by Europe, and a lot of Taylor Swift...
Needless to say, the “You might like...” selection on my Spotify account is a little skewed from all the selections that 10 year olds are making on my account!
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