"Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges."
Contemplate, Accommodate, and Differentiate
As you cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin Country from San Francisco, and continue driving north on Highway 101, passing through the Robin Williams tunnel, controversially renamed in the late actor and comedian’s honor shortly after the Bay Area native’s death, your view will be filled with Mount Tamalpais, affectionately known as Mt. Tam for short. At the base of that mountain sits Mill Valley, a quaint town that, according to the 2010 US Census, boasts a population of 13,903 people, 13% of which are school-aged children under the age of 18.
In order to engage and support all students in learning, it is very important to create a safe space in which children feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks, both academically and socially. Teachers must focus on social-emotional growth in addition to academic development, work with fellow teachers and grade-level partners, and structure content and behavioral expectations to be developmentally appropriate for their students.
I observed a pull out, designated ELD class of third graders at San Pedro Elementary in San Rafael. San Pedro is an overflow school from the Canal neighborhood’s Bahia Vista Elementary School, and subsequently, most all of San Pedro’s students take a bus to and from school and their home in the Canal. According to the California Department of Education, the school serves 526 students from Transition Kindergarten (TK) to Fifth Grade, of which 98% are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 87.1% are English Language Learners, and 68.6% are on free or reduced lunch.
In order to create and maintain effective environments for learning, it is incredibly important to implement and maintain routines and structure so all students can feel safe within the classroom and school environment. Routines provide students clear guidelines for how to be successful, and as one teacher expressed, "routines are key" to fostering a positive learning environment. I’m a creature of habit and greatly appreciate organization, so maintaining routine in my classroom will be a welcome strategy for creating and maintaining an effective learning environment.
This year, I am splitting my student teaching fieldwork between San Pedro Elementary in San Rafael and Park Elementary in Mill Valley. These two schools, while both wonderful, are incredibly different. For starters, I attended Park for elementary school many years ago, and being back on the campus brings back a flood of memories.