This is the latest in a series of blog posts by a partnering cohort member.
By Jaclyn Kiedasch Kiedaisch - Steenrod Elementary, Ohio County Public Schools, Wheeling, WV
The most difficult understanding I have had through The Fluency Project is - it is not a project. It has taken me until today, April 1st, to realize our work with Fluency is rather a process in growth. During the first meeting I attended in July, I remember how much we discussed the importance of getting to know our students. I thought this was pretty basic and something I thought I was really good at doing. At the beginning of every year, I ask parents to write me a letter about their child. I send positive post cards. I attend baseball and softball games. I have a class FB page that allows for a two-way communication. I give out my cell phone number and make myself available at all hours of the day. My basement is overflowing with boxes of “You’re the best teacher” and “I love you” cards. Yes, these things are great, but I had more work to do on developing relationships with my students than I expected or planned.
I have been wrestling all year with finding the right “project” to implement and incorporate more fluency in my classroom. I thought building a Little Free Library would be the perfect way to incorporate community and compassion. Until I began planning this genius idea, I realized, that it was my idea. Determined to give my students a voice, I began planning a way to implement Genius Hour. Frustrated with the lack of time for implementation and concern for the management aspect of this adventure, I began to feel overwhelmed and not content with my idea again.
It was not until a conversation with a student today that I realized that I have been incorporating the most important part of our work into my classroom this year, getting to know my students. I recently began a new Monday tradition with my students called “Kiedaisch Cares”. Every Monday students write their name on a post-it note and place it privately on an anchor chart conveying how they are feeling. Depending on where students place their name, I know if they need me to check in with them privately throughout the week. When I pulled a student today to “check in”, she told me that she was okay, but she just wanted to talk with me because she never gets to one on one. Unfortunately, having twenty-four six year olds, makes it difficult to find time to have these important individual conversations. Yet, these conversations are the most important. Our students want to talk to us and most importantly, they want us to listen.
At the beginning of my work in The Fluency Project, I thought I was going to get to know my students in the beginning of the year and then move onto the “next step”. Contrary to that, I have spent my entire year getting to really know my students and building a safe and trusting learning environment. I have implemented many new strategies and routines that allow for student choice and voice because of the conversations I have had with my students. I have learned what they need through them. Eventually, I know I will be ready to incorporate many more aspects of fluency now that I know my students.