Early in my teaching career, I adopted the “Celebrate Life” ceremony from another colleague.
For the few first minutes of every class, students and I would add parts of life we celebrated that day: an A on a math test, a new nephew born, tacos for lunch.
It didn’t matter how big or mundane it was. In fact, the more mundane, the better. (Not to say that tacos are mundane.)
At the first parent-teacher conference after we started celebrating life, a mother leaned over and said, “There’s one thing my sons just love about your class.”
I braced myself. Would it be a book we were reading? The group activities? The upcoming Renaissance Faire?
She continued, “You do it at the beginning of class every day? There’s a list you make of the good things going on. They just love it.”
OK, I was disappointed that the highlight of the class wasn’t connected to the learning or my teaching methods or anything connected to language arts. But, I decided, that’s great. And as the conferences went on, more parents gave positive feedback about it.
Eventually, a year or so later, I gave up the practice. Because standards. Because presenters and consultants stressed that we only had 50 minutes, so we’d better make those minutes count. Because I had to squeeze in reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary into my curriculum.
So I cut Celebrate Life.
More than ten years have passed since then, and I’ve grown as a teacher. I’ve learned teaching is not about standards, or content, or AYP.
Teaching is about relationships.
Conversations build relationships, and one of the best practices that helped me know my students better: Celebrate Life.
Next school year, I’m bringing it back, but I’m innovating it, too. Inspired by the #shiftthis Twitter chat and the Miss5th Whiteboard Genius Pinterest board, curated by @LibbiAnn [whom you should probably follow on Twitter], I’m planning to transform one of my bulletin boards into a whiteboard for students to write their daily celebrations.
While some days we’ll simply celebrate life’s great and mundanely great events, I love the idea of guided responses, too. Like this one that prompts students into Random Acts of Kindness:
Or this one, that asks students to share their talents:
And this one could easily be content related…or not! Love this play on Jeopardy!
Creating a “Celebrate Life” board is such a simple way to build relationships with students and a classroom culture. Plus, doing on the white board has these other benefits:
- Students reluctant to speak up can still comfortably share
- Students can add to the list throughout class if something new comes to mind
- Reviewing the board can be a great way to spend the last 1–2 minutes of class so they leave your room with a positive mindset
- On the other hand, if students are wound up coming into the room, the Celebrate Life board can provide a way to share their thoughts so they can focus on their learning later.