Saturday, September 7, 2013

"What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?"

I observed this faculty and staff hopes and dreams display near the front entrance at Hawkins Mill Elementary in Memphis.  It creates such a welcoming and positive tone for students, families and visitors, and communicates that our positive intentions and hopes for the school year guide everything we do in school.

Many schools, including mine, using the Responsive Classroom approach ask students this question at the start of every school year. While the question may seem simple, posing it to students and asking them to share their responses can have a profound effect on the classroom. Just think about the messages inherent in the question: what you care about matters at school; your hopes and goals are taken seriously; you have a say in what we'll learn. I have enjoyed reading what the children in the grades I work with have written this first week of school. We also send home a form and ask parents to write their hopes and dreams for the school year.  Reading these responses is very enlightening.
Taking the time to articulate "hopes and dreams," sets a tone of collaboration and mutual respect. It fosters reflection and self-knowledge by prompting children to ask themselves questions such as "What’s important to me at school? What do I want to learn more about? What’s easy for me? What’s hard for me? What do I want to get better at?" Sharing hopes and dreams also creates a meaningful context for establishing classroom rules. Once hopes have been written, discussions can begin about what rules will be needed to help everyone’s hopes and dreams come true.
Some schools also have the staff write and post their hopes and dreams (see sample in picture).  We did not do this but I think it is a great idea.  Even if your school does not use the RC approach, as counselors I think taking the time to focus on what we want this school year is an exercise worth doing.  This weekend I am taking time to reflect on my hopes and dreams for this school year before I get bogged down writing SMART program goals for the year. I'd love to know what your hopes and dreams are for the school year...

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